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Monday, May 20, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Two Federal Judges Confirmed in NorCal

(CN) - Federal courts in the Northern District of California are just one short of a full bench of 14, after the Senate on Tuesday confirmed two of President Obama's nominees.

San Mateo County Superior Court Presiding Judge Beth Labson Freeman was confirmed by 91-7 vote, and San Francisco attorney James Donato by vote of 90-5.

The seat to be occupied by Judge Freeman has been vacant for two years and five months, Donato's just for six months.

Freeman, 60, was appointed to the Superior Court bench in 2000 by Gov. Gray Davis. Before that she was deputy county counsel for San Mateo County for 17 years, and in private practice for four. She got her Bachelor's degree in economics from UC-Berkeley in 1976 and her law degree from Harvard Law School in 1979.

Donato, 53, has been in private practice since 1990 with several firms, including Cooley LLP, Morrison & Foerster, and most recently with Shearman & Sterling in San Francisco. He has focused on antitrust and class action litigation. He was a deputy city attorney for San Francisco from 1993 to 1996. He received his B.A. in history from UC-Berkeley in 1983, a master's in history from Harvard in 1984, and his J.D. in 1988 from Stanford Law School, where he edited the Stanford Law Review.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California had 6,854 new case filings in fiscal year 2013 - 571 for each U.S. District Judge then on staff.

Ninety-five vacancies remain on federal courts: 79 in U.S. District Courts and 16 on U.S. Courts of Appeal. A total of 58 appointments are pending, according to the United States Courts website, checked this morning.

Republicans have repeatedly blocked and stalled Obama's judicial nominations, though there are 37 vacant seats for which no nominations are pending.

Environmental lawyer Glenn Sugameli pointed out, however, that "32 of these vacancies without nominees are in states with one or two Republican senators whose 'blue slips' are required for a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing under Chairman Patrick Leahy's policy."

"Senators' incredibly slow judicial-nominating commissions have still not submitted any potential nominees to the White House for nine Pennsylvania vacancies, nine Texas vacancies and three Kentucky vacancies," added Sugameli, who heads a judicial nominations project called the Judging the Environment.

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