(CN) – The 9th Circuit swore in its first Alaskan woman as a judge Wednesday with the induction of Judge Morgan Brenda Christen.
Christen, 50, fills a vacancy Judge Andrew Kleinfeld created by taking seniority status in 2010.
Prior to this appointment, Christen served as a justice on the Alaska Supreme Court since 2009.
She had been appointed to the position by then-Gov. Sarah Palin, despite opposition from pro-life advocacy groups. The Juneau Empire reported that Christen served on a Planned Parenthood board in the 1990s, but the organization did not begin performing abortions in Alaska until 2003.
Christen had been the presiding judge of the state’s Third Judicial District since 2005, which joined after four years with the Alaska Superior Court.
She became a judge after working at the Anchorage law firm of Preston Thorgrimson Ellis & Holman (now K&L Gates LLP) between 1987 and 2001.
A Washington native, Christen received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington and graduated from Golden Gate University School of Law in 1986. She clerked for Alaska Superior Court Judge Brian Shortell in 1986.
The 9th Circuit hears appeals of cases decided by executive branch agencies and federal trial courts in nine western states and two Pacific Island jurisdictions.
The court normally meets monthly in Seattle, San Francisco and Pasadena, Calif.; every other month in Portland, Ore.; three times per year in Honolulu, Hawaii; and twice a year in Anchorage, Alaska.
The court is authorized to have 29 judgeships and currently has two vacancies. Judges of the federal appellate courts and federal district courts are appointed under Article III of the Constitution. They are nominated by the President, confirmed by the Senate and serve lifetime appointments upon good behavior.
Christen’s husband, James Torgerson, and their daughter made remarks at the ceremony Wedneday, which was attended by 600, according to media reports.
MSNBC reported that Christen plants to commute from the San Francisco courthose from Anchorage.