WASHINGTON (CN) — President Donald Trump on Monday announced plans to nominate a California state court judge to a seat on the federal bench.
Tapped for a spot on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, Judge James Arguelles has served on the Sacramento County Superior Court since 2010, having spent time before that as a partner at the Sacramento white-collar criminal defense firm Stevens, O’Connell and Jacobs. He has also worked as a federal prosecutor and at the law firm Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher.
In addition to his duties on the state court bench, Arguelles also serves as a military judge for the Army Reserve. Out of law school, he clerked for Judge Marilyn Huff on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. Huff was appointed by President George H. W. Bush.
If confirmed, Arguelles would fill one of the final three remaining vacancies on California federal courts that does not have a nominee. There are currently 17 vacancies on federal courts in the Golden State, by far the most in the country, as Trump has struggled to fill seats in the state with two Democratic senators who both sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Matthew Jacobs, who worked with Arguelles both as a prosecutor and at Stevens, O’Connell and Jacobs, said Arguelles has the intellect and practical judgment to make him a good candidate for the federal bench. Arguelles would be a fitting candidate for a president of either party and “will just call balls or strikes,” Jacobs said, recalling Chief Justice John Roberts’ famous promise at his confirmation hearing.
“He was a lawyer’s lawyer, he’ll be a judge’s judge,” Jacobs, who now serves as general counsel at the California Public Employees’ Retirement system, said in an interview.
A spokesman for California Senator Dianne Feinstein, who serves as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, declined to comment on the nomination, citing Feinstein’s practice of generally not commenting on nominees before their hearings.
A spokeswoman for Senator Kamala Harris, also a California Democrat who sits on the committee, did not immediately return a request for comment on Arguelles’ nomination.
A graduate of Harvard Law School, Arguelles also has degrees from the U.S. Naval Academy and the Army War College.
Arguelles presided over the murder trial of Tanner Wood, a teen who pleaded guilty in 2018 to killing his 13-year-old sister when he was 14. In 2018, Arguelles ruled Wood would be tried as an adult, but a 2019 decision from a California appeals court found a newly enacted law required the trial to be shifted to juvenile court.
Harris, who was then serving as California’s attorney general, was involved in the investigation of the case, as Wood’s father worked as a senior prosecutor in Placer County.