Where We Stand: Assessing Vacancies and Nominations in the Federal Judiciary – The West

We are in the August recess, a little more than six months into the Biden Presidency. When President Biden came to office on January 20, 2021, there were 52 current and future vacancies in the federal judiciary. Since that time, an additional 73 vacancies have opened and nine nominees have been confirmed, leaving 116 vacancies pending (including future vacancies). There are currently 26 more judicial nominees pending, meaning that 22% of vacancies have nominees. In comparison, by the August recess of 2017, President Trump had nominees pending for around 20% of vacancies. Given the lull during the recess, now is a good time to look at the landscape of federal judicial nominations: vacancies open; nominations pending; prospective openings. We finish with the states of the West.

Ninth Circuit

Court of Appeals

In terms of the number of judges on the court, the geographic area covered, and the population served, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is the largest in the country. The whopping twenty-nine judgeship court has been the target of many attempts to break it up, ostensibly due to its liberal leanings. Whatever its previous leanings (the Ninth was never as liberal as critics alleged), the current court is fairly evenly divided between liberals and conservatives. The court currently has ten judges appointed by President Trump, nine Clinton appointees, seven Obama appointees, and three Bush appointees. While the court is currently full, four Clinton appointees, Susan Graber, Marsha Berzon, Richard Paez, and William Fletcher, have announced their intention to move to senior status upon confirmation of successors. Only Graber’s seat has a nominee, labor lawyer Jennifer Sung.

Additional vacancies are likely as eight other judges on the court are eligible for senior status: Clinton appointees Sidney Runyan Thomas, Margaret McKeown, Kim McLane Wardlaw, Ronald Gould, and Johnnie Rawlinson; and Bush appointees Consuelo Callahan, Milan Dale Smith, and Sandra Segal Ikuta. Additionally, Obama appointee Andrew Hurwitz will also become eligible for senior status next July. The most likely of these judges to take senior status is Chief Judge Thomas, who may make the move once he concludes his term as Chief on December 1. Of the Bush appointees, the moderate Smith, who will be eighty next year, is the most likely to take senior status.


The District of Alaska has three active judgeships, currently filled by Chief Judge Timothy Burgess, a Bush appointee, Judge Sharon Gleason, an Obama appointee, and Judge Joshua Kindred, a Trump appointee. Of the three, only Burgess is eligible for senior status. He is, however, unlikely to move to senior status before his term as Chief ends in 2022.


The District of Arizona is one of the most overworked courts in the country, with heavy caseloads. Luckily, after years of chronic vacancies, all judgeships on the court are currently full, with one Bush appointee, seven Obama appointees, and five Trump appointees serving. No vacancy is expected before 2024, when Chief Judge Murray Snow, and Judges Douglas Rayes and James Soto all become eligible for senior status. However, if Judge Andrew Hurwitz moves to senior status upon eligibility next year, Judge Rosemary Marquez may be selected to replace him, opening up a seat for Biden to fill.


The nation’s most populous state also has the most district court judgeships serving its population, sixty one, divided into four districts: the Central, Northern, Eastern, and Southern. Despite the high numbers, California’s district courts are, if anything, understaffed in proportion to their caseload. This is particularly true now, as the courts have a whopping 18 vacancies with an additional two set to open next year. California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla have each claimed to have sent recommendations to the White House, but it’s an open question when nominees will hit the senate.

The largest of the four districts is the Central, based in Los Angeles. Currently, the court is served by 22 active judges, eight appointed by Bush, seven by Obama, four by Trump, two by Clinton, and one by Reagan. There are also six vacancies, with the oldest going back to 2015. Additionally, a seventh vacancy will open in February 2022 when Judge Virginia Phillips moves to senior status. Of the remaining 21 judges, nine are eligible for senior status: Reagan appointee Stephen Wilson; Clinton appointee David Carter; Bush appointees Percy Anderson, John Walter, Gary Klausner, Dale Fischer, Otis Wright, and George Wu; and Obama appointee John Kronsdadt. This makes future vacancies on the court fairly likely.

While the Sacramento based Eastern District is, with six judgeships, the smallest in California, it is also severely overworked. This is particularly true as it is currently having only four active judges carry the burden as the remaining two seats are vacant. Unless judges are confirmed swiftly, the situation will get worse next year when Judge John Mendez takes senior status.

The Bay area based Northern District of California has eleven active judges serving, all appointees of President Obama. An additional three seats are vacant. While none of the active judges is eligible for senior status, two, Edward Davila and Edward Chen, will become eligible for senior status next year and may move then.

Finally, the San Diego based Southern District of California is the hardest hit of all the California courts when it comes to vacancies, as seven of the thirteen judgeships are vacant. Of the remaining six active judges, one, Judge Janis Sammartino, is eligible for senior status and could choose to make the move.


The four judgeship District of Hawaii does not currently have any vacancies and no new vacancies are expected, with the first judges to hit senior status eligibility doing so in 2024.


One of only two states to be served by just two active judgeships, Idaho is currently at half-capacity with Judge B. Lynn Winmill’s move to senior status in August. Winmill gave plenty of notice of his intention to take senior status, and the Idaho Democratic Party recommended four candidates to replace Winmill in March: Idaho Falls attorney DeAnne Casperson; former U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson; and Boise attorneys Keely Duke and Deborah Ferguson. Idaho Senator Mike Crapo indicated that his office has had many “preliminary” conversations regarding the judgeship with the White House and that they are working to find a mutually agreeable nominee.


While none of the three active judges in the District of Montana, all Obama appointees, are eligible for senior status, Judge Dana Christensen becomes eligible for senior status in December and may choose to make the move at that time.


The U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada has two vacancies among its seven judgeships, with the remaining five judges all appointed by President Obama and years from taking senior status. The two pending vacancies on the District Court, one in Reno and one in Las Vegas, are both over three years old. Nevada Senators set up judicial nomination commissions to fill the vacancies with application deadlines of February 28, 2021. Since then, there has been no public recommendations made and the White House has not yet sent any nominations to the Senate.


The U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon has six active judgeships: three Obama appointees, and one appointee each from Clinton, Bush, and Trump. The Court will have a vacancy open on December 27 of this year when Bush appointed Judge Michael Mosman takes senior status. Clinton appointee Ann Aiken is also eligible for senior status but has made no indication that she intends to take it. So far, there has not been any word on recommendations by Oregon Senators to replace Mosman.


After an agreement over judicial nominations fell apart during the Trump Administration, Washington’s district courts saw no confirmation over the last four years. As a result, the Western District of Washington now has five vacancies out of seven active judgeships, with one future vacancy set to open on the Eastern District. So far, nominees have been submitted to the Senate for three vacancies on the Western District, and for the lone Eastern District vacancy. All three Western District nominees are awaiting final Senate votes, with Judge David Estudillo being teed up for confirmation in September. So far, there is no timeline on nominees for the remaining two vacancies.

Additionally, the two active judges remaining on the Western District: Judges Richard Jones and Ricardo Martinez, are also eligible for senior status, so additional vacancies may open as the current ones are filled.

Tenth Circuit

Court of Appeals

The Tenth Circuit, based in Denver, is considered a moderate court, evenly divided between five Republican and five Democrat appointed judges, with two vacancies. The Senate is poised to confirm public defender Veronica Rossman to fill a Colorado vacancy on the court in September. The other vacancy, based in Kansas, is still without a nominee.

Of the remaining judges on the court, only Judge Harris Hartz, appointed by President George W. Bush, is eligible for senior status. While Chief Judge Timothy Tymkovich, another Bush appointee, will reach eligibility for senior status in November, he is unlikely to take senior status without serving out his term as Chief in 2022. Additionally, Judge Scott Matheson, an Obama appointee, becomes eligible for senior status at the end of 2022, and may also make the move.


The seven judgeship District of Colorado is undergoing a significant transformation, with Biden already having appointed Judge Regina Rodriguez to the court, and having nominated Charlotte Sweeney for a second vacancy. A third vacancy is set to open in 2022 when Judge Christine Arguello moves to senior status. The only other vacancy that could open this Congress could occur when Judge William Martinez reaches eligibility for senior status at the end of 2022.


The District of Kansas currently has all six judgeships filled, although Judge Julie Robinson, a George W. Bush appointee, is set to take senior status on January 14, 2022. So far, there has been no public application period or recommendation noted for Robinson’s seat. Judge Eric Melgren, another Bush appointee, also reaches eligibility in 2022 but has so far made no indications of taking senior status.

New Mexico

The seven-judgeship District of New Mexico is one of the busiest courts in the country. The Court currently has two vacancies, with a third set to open with Judge Martha Vazquez’s move to senior status next year. New Mexico Senators Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan submitted nominees to fill the two existing vacancies in January 2021, but so far the White House has only nominated one nominee: Margaret Strickland. Strickland is currently the longest pending judicial nominee waiting on the Senate floor, and, although Majority Leader Schumer filed cloture on three pending nominees before the August recess, he skipped over Strickland.

The situation could potentially become worse as Judge James Browning is also eligible for senior status, although he has not indicated that he will take it. If Browning and Vazquez vacate their seats, this could leave the District of New Mexico with less than half of its allotted judgeships full.


The Oklahoma District Courts currently have one vacancy, from Judge John Dowdell’s early move to senior status earlier this year. So far, no public process has started to replace Dowdell.


The five judgeship District of Utah, composed of three Obama appointees and two Trump appointees, will see a vacancy open next year when Judge David Nuffer takes senior status. So far, there is no public replacement process for Judge Nuffer.


The three-judge District of Wyoming already has a vacancy pending, as Judge Nancy Freudenthal has announced her intention to take senior status on June 1, 2022. As Wyoming has no Democrats in the Congressional delegation, the White House will have to work with Republican Senators John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis. During the Obama Administration, Barrasso endorsed and supported Fredeunthal and Chief Judge Scott Skavdahl, but it’s unclear if a similar accommodation would be reached today. Additionally, Judge Alan Johnson, who is 82, and is one of the few actively serving Reagan appointees, may also take senior status, opening up a second vacancy and potentially opening the door to a one-for-one deal.


  1. A word about Christine Arguello. She was appointed by George W. Bush, but she’s not a Republican. She’s a former aide to then-Senator Ken Salazar who was nominated for the Tenth Circuit in 2000, but it came at the end of Bill Clinton’s Presidency and was not acted upon.

    After Bush became President, he needed for Salazar to turn in a blue slip supporting Timothy Tymkovich for the Tenth Circuit. Salazar agreed and Bush later nominated Arguello for District Judge at Salazar’s recommendation.

    Nina Wang and Kenzo Kawanabe were considered for another District Court vacancy. Will they be considered for this one?


  2. I expect multiple more vacancies in the Ninth Circuit before the midterms. Each nominee should be young & have a progressive background as they will be coming from states with two Democrat senators & President Trump was able to replace some rock ribbed liberals during his term.

    No nominees yet for any of the 22 California appeals court or district court nominees is extremely disappointing. There needs to be a LARGE package released from The White House in September as it will eat up a lot of floor time to confirm that many nominees.

    I am actually confident the Idaho Republican senators will work with The White House to get a nominee they can agree on. They did the same when President Obama was in office. They do not want half the seats on the court to be vacant for four years.

    Nevada two Democrat senators did a great job holding the two vacant seats open during the Trump presidency. Now they should come up with two young progressive nominees. They did a good job during the Obama presidency so I expect the same now.

    I am still not happy with the two Washington senators recommending Republican (Or at best conservative) David Estudillo. I know they kept the 5 district court seats vacant during the Trump presidency but it does no good if your just gonna fill any of them with a conservative once you have a Democrat president. I would have rather the US attorney nominee Nicholas W. Brown or either of the Trump nominees Beth Andrus, Tessa M. Gorman, Kathleen M. O’Sullivan or J. Michael Diaz to be renominated then Estudillo.

    The Colorado commission should get brand new nominees for the third vacancy, especially with them having 10 months to fill it. Nina Wang and Kenzo Kawanabe are ok but we can get younger recommendations then them (Both born around 1972) & certainly more progressive. Regina Rodriguez was not a progressive nominee & progressive groups made an uproar & caused the two Colorado senators to get a new committee. Charlotte Sweeney was a much better nominee.

    Margaret Strickland was a great nominee. Even her law partner Mollie C. McGraw (Born 1979) would be a good nominee. I am not sure why senator Schumer is skipping over her as I do not see anything in her background that would get a no vote from senators Manchin or Sinema. I would hope the New Mexico senators have similar recommendation for the other vacancies.

    The Utah & Wyoming vacancies will probably at best be filled with moderates.

    As for some of the nominees mentioned by Mitch in the comments section;

    Virginia Grady – She was born around 1958. I think that is too old even for a state with two Republican senators.

    Christine Van Aken – She is 44 years old & seems to be progressive so good choice.

    There is a wealth of great choices from California for the appeals & district courts. The 4 Jerry Brown supreme court justices would all be good nominees for the Ninth Circuit but I don’t think you need to waste floor time confirming them as the California Supreme Court is important enough that President Biden could justify appointing any of them to the US Supreme Court directly from that court.

    I will list some below with their approximate years of birth;

    Leah Song Richardson (Born 1964) – I would hope most of the nominees were born 1970 or later but this & the next name are the only ones I would consider that is older.

    Thomas A. Saenz (Born 1965)

    Davina T. Chen (Born 1970)

    Nicole Berner (Born 1970)

    Cecillia Wang (Born 1970)

    Janai Nelson (Born 1971) – I think she has moved to New York now. If so she should be considered for any of the district court vacancies there.

    Catherine Lhamon (Born 1971)

    Steve Kim (Born 1972)

    Sandy Leal (Born 1972)

    Deepak Gupta (Born 1973)

    Brian E. Nelson (Born 1975) – He has been nominated to serve as Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence but I would much rather him be a federal judge.

    Fatima Goss Graves (Born 1976)

    Shireen Matthews (Born 1977)

    Holly A. Thomas (Born 1978)

    Armilla Staley-Ngomo (Born 1982)


    • That’s a very impressive list. I can think of two of the more obvious and conventional options.

      The Biden Administration seems to have a soft spot for Obama nominees who never got a vote. One would be Lucy Koh. She’s a well-regarded Federal Judge of Northern California and Dianne Feinstein has strongly recommended her for the 9th Circuit. Another obvious choice for that court is Leondra Krueger, and she’s a possible Supreme Court nominee. I think all eyes will be on them until nominees are announced.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Leondra Krueger would be a GREAT choice but I am not sure you need to put her on the Ninth Circuit. She is just as qualified to be appointed to the US supreme court sitting on the California supreme court as if she was sitting on the Ninth Circuit. That doesn’t hold true for most state supreme courts but California I would say is one of the few. I don’t think she would want to risk an additional confirmation hearing. It was reported that she turned Biden down for appointing her as the US Solicitor General.

        I agree with your assessment on Lucy Koh but there are several reasons why I would not appoint her to the Ninth Circuit. First off, we simply can get a younger nominee of at least a decade younger then her being born in 1968. Second, her husband is one of Jerry Brown’s 4 appointments to the California supreme court so she would have to recuse herself from numerous cases.

        I think Lucy Koh would be a better fit for the Federal Circuit appeals court along with two Delaware district court judges Maryellen Noreika & Leonard P. Stark. I am not sure she would be willing to move across the country away from her husband for the promotion with her already having a lifetime seat, but that would be my suggestion.


      • Here are some other federal defenders that could be considered for any of the California vacancies if they decided to apply;

        Candis Lea Mitchell (Born 1980)

        Cassandra Lucinda Lopez (Born 1982)

        Harini Padmapriya Raghupathi (Born 1982)

        Michelle Cynthia Angeles (Born 1988)

        Chelsea A. Estes (Born 1988)


    • A lot of these are excellent possibilities, but some of them are just the same kind of AUSA or corporate lawyer types we need no more of. We need far better from California. Also Deepak Gupta was born in 1977, which makes him even a better choice, but I’m hoping for Gupta for the DC Circuit.

      I would put Holly Thomas at the top of the list, but these two Cali seats belong to Northern California.

      It’s also time for Dianne Feinstein to resign immediately after this bogus recall of Newsom is finished. Newsom is not going to get recalled, but Feinstein is not suitable for continuing in office regardless.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You are right, Deepak Gupta was born 1977. I think I searched another Gupta & got their birth year.

        And yes a couple of the possibilities I named are corporate lawyers such as Brian E. Nelson but in his case he is very close to VP Harris & I suspect he is probably just as liberal as the rest of the list despite his career path. Which goes back to my earlier argument in another post. If you can find a corporate lawyer that you are sure will be on the same side of the issues as a Myrna Perez & could probably pick up a few more GOP votes to make their confirmation easier, I’m fine with that.

        I see little to no chance of Dianne Feinstein resigning. I’m actually surprised she stepped down from her chance to be the next chairwomen for the judiciary committee. I’m happy she did that at least. I trust senator Durbin much more in that role.

        We are already in the first week of September & have yet to get even one nominee for any of the 22 appeals or district court vacancies from California. I truly hope that means we are going to get a large package of young progressives soon. I am sure senator Feinstein will slip in 2 or 3 bad “New Jersey type” nominees, but hopefully no more then that.


  3. I found out that Nicholas Brown, the nominee for U.S. Attorney in Western Washington state, was a contestant on “Survivor” in the 90’s. He was also a panelist on “Hollywood Squares” back in 2001


  4. There is so much public interest talent in California that there is zero reason to even consider any AUSA or a corporate attorney. While Goodwin Liu, Martino Cuellar and Leondra Kruger would be fantastic nominees, there’s no need to take them off the best state Supreme Court in the country.
    (Lucy Koh is too old to be seriously considered at this point)

    Here’s a list of possible nominees to the 9th Circuit from California in addition to Dequan’s suggestions (Holly Thomas and Harini Raghupathi among others were on my list as well). All are 50 or under. And this just scratches the surface of possible nominees from California. You can add hundreds of quality candidates.

    Jenny Martinez, Stanford Law dean.

    Linda Lye (former labor lawyer and ACLU, now general counsel CA Dept of Environment)

    Jennifer Bennett, from Public Citizen

    Bertrell Ross (Black law prof at UC Berkeley)

    Jon Michaels (law prof at UCLA)

    Kara Hartzler (former immigration attorney, now AFPD in San Diego

    Casey Pitts, labor lawyer and LGBT

    Nico Espiritu, SoCal immigration attorney

    Cuauhtemoc Ortega, FPD for Central District

    Jennifer Chacon, UCLA immigration law professor

    Monica Ramirez Almadani, head of Public Counsel, former immigration law professor

    Greta Hansen and Laura Trice, Santa Clara County Counsel

    Kate Desormeau and Jaclyn Prange among others at NRDC

    Abigail Dillen, EarthJustice, appears to be also a Montana native as a possible replacement for Judge Sidney Thomas.

    Nina Robertson, Sarah Burt, and Adrian Martinez among other at EarthJustice

    Catherine Sweeter, former labor and human rights attorney,

    Mitra Ebadolahi, Jessica Bansal, Melissa Goodman, Shilpi Agarwal, among others from ACLU branches.


  5. For the non-California seats in the 9th Circuit, here are some thoughts.


    Rebecca Pennell- state appellate court judge and former public defender

    Lisa Marshall Manheim- law professor at UW

    Mario Barnes- Black UW dean who was a military prosecutor but born in 1968.

    Brian Gunn- Native American law attorney

    Colleen Melody and Marsha Chien- attorneys in the Washington state Civil Rights Division

    Benjamin Gould- a plaintiffs attorney (any relation to Judge Gould?)

    Also could elevate Lauren King.


    Professor Anthony Johnstone

    Also Abigail Dillen from EarthJustice

    Raph Graybill- losing candidate for Montana AG and former counsel to Governor Steve Bullock, maybe too young


    Anne Rachel Traum- appointed by Obama to the district court, former AFPD, now law professor, perhaps a bit too old at 52.

    Ruben Garcia, labor law professor and ACS Board member

    Brenda Weksler- magistrate judge and former AFPD

    Lauren Gorman, AFPD

    Margaret McLetchie, public interest attorney


    Elevate Rosemary Marquez, district judge and former AFPD

    Her sister Letty Marquez, AFPD

    Justin Pidot- UA law professor

    Eunice Lee- LGBT Asian UA law professor, former LGBT rights attorney

    Roopali Desai- election attorney who was legal counsel to Sinema’s Senate campaign

    Leonard Aragon- Hispanic plaintiffs attorney

    Victoria Lopez- ACLU legal director

    Ethel Branch- Navajo Nation AG

    Stacy Leeds- Native American ASU professor

    Erin Scharff- ASU law professor

    Laura St. John- legal director for pro-immigration group

    Shalev Roisman- UA professor


    • My thoughts on each with approximate years of birth (Could be off by a couple years);


      Rebecca Pennell (1970) – With her being a female public defender, she would certainly be on the short list. Justice Helen Whitener (1964) would be a good choice but probably too old.

      Lisa Marshall Manheim (1980) – Election law background is good but I’m sure we could get a nominee with a more progressive background.

      Mario Barnes (1968) – Military, good. African American, good. Prosecutor background & age, bad.

      Brian Gunn (1973) – Good background but if Biden wanted to go with a Native American I think his district court nominee King would be a more probable nominee as she is over a decade younger.

      Colleen Melody (1984) – Looks like a good nominee for a district court judge but I would be happy if it was for the appeals court.

      Marsha Chien (1985) – Civil rights, Peace Corps, Immigrant Rights Project, Friends of Farmworkers, California Rural Legal Assistance, The Legal Aid Society & Women’s Policy Institute (WPI) Fellow… She should be appointed to the district court TOMORROW to set her up for one of the front runners for an appeals court vacancy.

      Benjamin Gould (1980) – Legal Fellow of the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project & two good clerkships would make him a good nominee even as a white male. He probably is related to the judge with the same spelling of his last name which would only make his confirmation smother.


      Anthony Johnstone (1973) – Basic bland lawyer from what I can find. Certainly qualified for a district court nominee with blue slips in play but we can do much better for the appeals court.

      Abigail Dillen (1977) – Climate change rock star. No objection whatsoever.

      Raph Graybill (Feb 20, 1989) – Despite the youth, he’s a Rhodes Scholar at Magdalen College, Oxford, former Chief Legal Counsel to the Governor helped design Montana’s response to the COVID & former candidate for Attorney General. He is more experienced then most if not all of the 10 ABA unqualified Trump nominees. The two Republican senators may feel putting him on the bench would take a threat off the table for the Democrats for a future senate or governor race & may go along with him being a nominee.


      Anne Rachel Traum (1969) – With the successive Obama appointments to the district court, the two current vacancies will likely be the last for quite some time. We need nominees around a decade or more younger then this. She was fine when Obama nominated her but too old now.

      Ruben Garcia – ACLU, Labor Law, Employment Discrimination Law, Employment, Constitutional Law, Law and Society, Law and Social Change, First Amendment, Immigration Policy, International Human Rights Law gives him a solid progressive background. I couldn’t find his age but his picture looks as if he could be on the older side. If so then only his age would make him a bad nominee. Otherwise he is solid.

      Brenda Weksler (1976) – An assistant federal public defender background is good.

      Lauren Gorman (1983) – Assistant Federal Public Defender & under 40 makes her one of the better possibilities.

      Margaret McLetchie (1972) – Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Discrimination, Employment, Fair Housing, Police Misconduct is a good background but there are younger possibilities.


      Rosemary Marquez (1968) – She is a great judge but I wouldn’t elevator her because of her age plus you would then need to get senator Sinema’s blue slip & I probably trust her less then some Republican senators. I would much rather get a younger non district court judge for a nominee.

      Letty Marquez (1970) – Federal Public Defender background is good but she would have to recuse herself from cased her sister ruled on from the district court. There are other candidates younger that would not have that recusal issue.

      Justin Pidot (1977) – Environmental background & worked for the Obama administration is good. Noting else too great in his background from what I can find.

      Eunice Lee (1981) – International human rights law, civil rights of immigrants, refugees & work on behalf of transgender refugees. In addition to being young. Absolutely spectacular nominee. I would much rather see this Eunice Lee on the appeals court then the one we got in New York.

      Roopali Desai (1978) – Representation of cannabis companies, civil rights and voting rights organizations is likely to make her the front runner should senator Sinema push for her hard.

      Leonard Aragon (1976) – Pro bono work in insurance, immigration, family, contract law & current litigation on the NCAA Student-Athlete Name and Likeness makes him a good candidate.

      Victoria Lopez (1975) – Director at the ACLU of Arizona & senior staff attorney at the ACLU National Prison Project makes her a solid candidate.

      Ethel Branch (1979) – I don’t see much in her background in regards to civil rights so this would only be a good pick if Biden wanted to increase Native American representation on the federal courts.

      Stacy L. Leeds (1971) – See comments for Ethel Branch.

      Erin Scharff (1982) – As chair board of the Phoenix Legal Action Network combined with her youth makes her an attractive candidate.

      Laura St. John (1984) – Immigration legal director & her youth makes her an attractive candidate.

      Shalev Roisman (1982) – Office of Legal Counsel, U.S. Department of Justice under Obama is good but I can’t find anything else in his background that would suggest he is progressive.


      • Thanks for your detailed reply. A few comments/clarifications

        Ruben Garcia got his BA from Stanford in 1992, so I’d guess a birth year of 1970. His primary academic focus is labor law from the union/employee side. Hopefully Judge Rawlinson takes senior status. Given that she is Black, I think a non-white nominee would be advantageous here.

        In Montana, we have one GOP senator. Senator Jon Tester is a Democrat. And to replace Judge Sidney Thomas, we don’t need the approval from Daines. I would expect Judge Thomas to take senior status soon after his tenure as Chief Judge is over in December. Raph Graybill would be excellent, but Abigail Dillen would be too.

        Hopefully Judges Gould and McKeown take senior status (both are Washington seats). The state ACLU does not list their staff and attorneys on their webpage, so there may be some nominees from there.

        Judge Hurwitz can take senior status in the middle of 2022, and given that he was 65 when appointed, I expect him to do so. Hence the Arizona candidates. I agree that Desai will be highly considered and that some of the other ones here would be better.


      • If Ruben Garcia was born around 1970 then despite his very good background, I would look to a younger nominee but if they aren’t a proven progressive then I would rather a 51 year old Garcia with the understanding he would not be considered for an appeals court vacancy in the future.

        Oh I thought you were talking about a Montana district court vacancy should Dana L. Christensen retire. For the appeals court I would pass on Anthony Johnstone but he would be good for a district court vacancy which does have blue slip considerations. Abigail Dillen would be great for the appeals court.

        Yea hopefully almost every Democrat appointee on the court of appeals retires within Biden’s term, preferably before the mid terms.


      • So this list as a whole is intended for potential openings for 9th Circuit seats (and the younger ones could also be candidates for district court).

        And so I would be ok with appointing Garcia to the 9th Circ if Judge Rawlinson retires basically immediately. The only one I would place above him is Gorman is you are comfortable appointing her to the 9th Circuit. I would not pick Garcia for a district court judge unless there were no younger progressive options.

        Johnstone is a liberal constitutional law scholar who was a former state solicitor general and clerked for Judge Sidney Thomas. Not the best but not the worst either. Dillen would be better. Graybill would be better if he is ready for the 9th Circuit, not sure he is at 33.

        A couple other longshot candidates (for either 9th Circ or district court)

        Nevada: Josh Buck (1979)- Labor Lawyer.

        Arizona: Liliana Zaragoza (1988)- NAACP attorney and the first Hispanic editor in chief of the Columbia Law Review. Grew up in Tucson. Maybe too young and inexperienced for the 9th Circuit, but maybe not by the end of 2022.


      • I would hope the Biden team is having some back door conversations with some of the older appeals court judges. Ambassador José A. Cabranes, Rosemary S. Pooler & numerous others would sound great. Pick a country, any country.

        Josh Buck & Liliana Zaragoza are definitely good additions to the list of possibilities.

        Going back to the article you sent about New York today, I just found out Jessica Clarke (1983) is African American. That now makes two Schumer district court recommendations that would have been a better choice for the 2nd circuit then Eunice C. Lee (1970) as I had already said David Ho would have been better too. Either Clarke or Ho would have been viable for a Supreme Court elevation in a second Biden term.



  6. I had been researching the vacancy in the District of Middle Alabama, left unfilled after Andrew Brasher was made an Appellate Judge.

    Back in 2013, Congresswoman Terri Sewell put together her own committee to vet and recommend applicants for another vacancy on that court. Here is the list, because some of them may be applying again.


    Incidentally, Sewell has a constructive working relationship with Shelby, who is the go-to man on Federal appointments affecting Alabama. Also, President Biden and Shelby have known each other for many years and are friendly, though not close. All of this will influence whoever is nominated.


    • I would hope Congresswoman Terri Sewell isn’t using any list from 2013. Just based on age alone, President Obama wasn’t exactly known for appointing the youngest judges in the first place so to add 8 years on anybody he would have consider is too old for my liking now.

      While you are correct senator Shelby acts in much more good faith then many of the other Republican senators, one major thing has changed in Alabama since 2013. Tommy Tuberville. For all the talk of insurrectionist senators like Ted Cruz & Josh Hawley, it was actually senator Tuberville that was the first to announce he would object to the election results. I’m sure he is not well versed in judicial nominees but he is very well versed in opposing anything Joe Biden wants so I look for him to be a problem when it comes to blue slips for district court nominees.


      • I think that for now, blue slips should remain for district court nominees. I would say otherwise if the GOP didn’t let Democratic senators withhold blue slips for district court nominees in blue states. Now, if it becomes clear that certain Senators abuse their blue slip power for district court nominees (as some GOP Senators have abused blue slip power for circuit court nominees), then I may support getting rid of blue slips. I can definitely see Cruz, Johnson, Tuberville, & others refuse to work with Biden, but the 4 Texas district court have 2 vacancies, not 20, so it shouldn’t be too problematic.


      • I agree blue slips should remain FOR NOW for district court vacancies. Particularly since there are so many vacancies in states with two Democrat senators to fill. Looking forward to after the mid terms, if Democrats hold the majority & Republicans predictably over play their hand in using them, then all bets are off.


      • I’m undecided on blue slips for district courts right now, but at the least some exceptions should be made. First of all, any senator that was involved in supporting Trump’s attempt to overturn the election should have their blue slip rights revoked. Secondly, blue slips should be ignored when GOP senators are blocking nominees of color in states where they are underrepresented in the judiciary.


  7. President Biden just released his Seventh Round of Judicial Nominees. He announced the 3 nominees for the Ninth Circuit. Unfortunately he named Lucy Koh but at least the other two were great nominees including my first choice Holly A. Thomas. Out of the 5 district court nominees Jennifer L. Thurston seems to be born around 1967 but the others seem to be under 50 years old so that is good.


    • So it is a pretty mixed bag. Thomas, Frimpong and Urias are great. Menendez is good as well. (I had Thomas, Urias, and Menendez on my Circuit Court list). I would actually prioritize getting Thomas confirmed because she should garner serious consideration for the Supreme Court.

      Hernan Vera has a good profile, but is too old. There were several candidates a decade younger with the same kind of profile.

      I feared we might get Lucy Koh and/or Gabriel Sanchez. We could have done much better than either of these choices, both are well below par. There were so many potential candidates that were far better than this in California. Thurston was also a waste of a nomination, especially as that seat would have been an opportunity to appoint a Hispanic. Judge Blanca Banuelos would have been a far better selection for this seat.


      • Lucy Koh was a good choice when Obama nominated her but is a bad choice now for several reasons. First is obviously her age now near her mid 50’s & not having a chance of being elevated to the Supreme Court for a second vacancy. That is my starting point for any appeals court appointment. That is why I can’t be too happy about Gustavo Gelpí (1965), particularly since there were at least 3 younger & just as progressive nominees that could have been appointed in his place. The only one I will give a pass to is Beth Robinson (1965) because she has such a progressive record, I doubt there was anybody else better for that seat & lets be honest, Joe Biden is not picking anybody from Vermont to the Supreme Court anyway… Second, her husband is on the California supreme court so there will be numerous cases she will have to recuse herself from… And third & most important, there were just dozens of better choices.

        Gabriel P. Sanchez (1976) is a good choice to me. With the ACLU giving him the Social Justice Award in 2010 for his work to improve safety protections for farm workers, he seems to be progressive in addition to him being goo don age. Munger, Tolles & Olson law firm seems to be a breeding ground for federal judges so I’m sure that helped him. We know at least one of the 3 seats for the 9th circuit was going to be a Hispanic nominee, especially with the complaints of Biden not nominating enough, so I like this pick.

        Holly A. Thomas is an absolutely spectacular pick. She was my personal #1 seed for an appeals court seat. Immediately upon confirmation she should be added to the short list for the first SCOTUS vacancy along with Brown Jackson, justice Kruger, Jackson-Akiwumi, Eunice C. Lee & justice Melissa A. Long if she is the nominee for the 1st circuit vacancy as I would pick her.

        Maame Ewusi-Mensah Frimpong (1975) – Another great pick. I was surprised to learn there are no active Black woman district court judges in any of California’s four federal district courts.

        Katherine Marie Menendez (1971) – Another good pick as she was a federal defender & Hispanic.

        Jennifer L. Thurston (1967) – The worst pick out of the 8 today. With only 3 vacancies on the court this was a wasted pick as there were scores of younger & more progressive possibilities.

        David Herrera Urias (1995) – A good pick with is work on the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund. He was probably one of the names Thomas Saenz gave to The White House.

        Hernán D. Vera (1969) – An ok to good pick with his work for Public Counsel & the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund but there were other possibilities with a similar background years younger.


    • Lucy Koh was expected. Democrats believe that she was unfairly denied confirmation and they’ve renumoniated several former Obama nominees. She’s a respected expert on patent law and generates no strong objections.

      I thought that Leondra Krueger would be nominated. All of her judicial experience is in California state law and being on Federal Court would enhance her SCOTUS credentials. I had guessed that Gabriel Sanchez would follow her to the California Supreme Court.

      I had expected Holly Thomas would be nominated for District Court, so count me surprised. She’s 40 y/o, young for an Appellate nominee. The White House is going for longevity.

      Jennifer Thurston worked on several cases for child protective services while at the County Counsel’s office in Bakersfield. Like Koh, she’s one of the more conventional choices.


      • I agree Lucy Koh was unfairly denied a vote when Obama nominated her, the issue is there were a lot of nominees that never received a vote & is this one deserving to be renominated for this court. I would argue NO.

        She is now the fourth renomination Biden of a Obama nominee that did not receive a vote. But unlike Julien Xavier Neals, Regina M. Rodriguez & Florence Y. Pan who were all renominated for a district court in which there is no realistic chance of being elevated to the US supreme court, Koh was renominated to an appeals court.

        I truly do not believe any appeals court seats should be filled by anybody that wouldn’t be considered for elevation for at least the next 5 years. If two vacancies became vacant by the end of the year (Since we know Biden has pledge to nominate a black woman to the first vacancy), I believe Koh would already be considered too old to be considered. I would have offered her the Federal Circuit vacant seat as nobody would probably be elevated from that appeals court.

        It was reported Leondra Krueger was offered the US solicitor general position & turned it down. I am sure she was probably offered one of these 3 appeals court seats as well. She really doesn’t need to waste the confirmation hearing & the Democrats don’t need to waste the floor time to confirm her as she is already a viable SCOTUS nominee from the supreme court of the countries largest state. I’m more surprised none of the 4 Jerry Brown appointees to the court got either of these 3 seats. I wonder if the Gavin Newsome recall had anything to do with that as it wasn’t until the last week or two the polls wee showing he will most likely retain his office.

        Holly Thomas was literally my number one pick for the appeals court. Especially with Biden’s pledge for the first SCOTUS vacancy. No need to waste her on a district court seat.

        Maame Ewusi-Mensah Frimpong is the ideal nominee & one of the better district court nominees so far in Biden’s presidency.


  8. When will Biden learn to appoint younger Judges? Maybe he feels he owes to appointees blocked under Obama? Or maybe he feels it doesn’t matter as much for larger courts/ courts in solidly blue states? At least he’s not taking Eric Holder’s advice to only appoint 50+.


    • I think overall Biden has been appointing younger nominees then the past two Democrat presidents. The issue is after Trump appointing over 230 judges in 4 years, Biden only having slightly more then half of that number in vacancies so far, combined with a 50/50 senate, it makes every pick that more important. So to have a wasted pick is magnified.

      I would consider a wasted pick any nominee to the court of appeals too old to be considered for the Supreme Court over the next 8 years and/or that does not have a progressive record.

      The district courts aren’t as simple since blue slips are in play however all district court nominees so far have come from states with two Democrat senators. So when you have horrible picks such as David Estudillo (Basically a Republican), Christine O’Hearn (She would have been a good pick if Trump nominated her) or Florence Pan (I see nothing in her background that resembles she is progressive at all), it is frustrating.

      So far Biden has re-nominated 5 Obama nominees that did not receive a vote. Julien Xavier Neals is good & Armando Omar Bonilla is not for a lifetime appointment so I’m ok with those two. But we could have gotten much better picks then Lucy Koh, Regina M. Rodriguez & Florence Pan.


  9. Those are all viable choices. But what about geographical diversity? I wouldn’t want to see any of the seven counties in the district underrepresented. Is there anyone you can think of from outside Los Angeles County?


      • Haaaaa… It’s cool. But even if they were, some of the judges on the 9th circuit eligible for retirement are from the region & both Central as well as Southern districts have SEVEN vacancies each. So there are plenty of vacancies right now without mentioning possible future vacancies just in Southern California alone.

        I would argue September is far behind for the first batch of nominees from a state with 22 vacancies in a 50/50 senate. After 8 years of governor Brown & 3 years of Newsome there are some GREAT potential that should have given us a much larger package today. I was expecting more then a dozen just from Cali alone.


      • Dequan, Governor Newsom has actually appointed a lot more quality Superior Court judges in his first 2+ years than Brown did in 8. Brown’s appointees are mostly way too old with a heavy dose of corporate attorneys and prosecutors.
        I’m not one of those people who thinks Governor Newsom as the lesser evil, I think he has been a great Governor.


      • I totally agree governor Newsome has been a great governor. I think the recall was breed out of frustration from Covid restrictions while residents look on tv at packed bars, arenas & other places in Florida & other states. I think the best thing that could have happened was for Larry Elder to be the front runner if he is recalled. The best thing that can happen out of all this is for California to update it’s recall requirements. The number of signatures needs to be increased as I believe it’s now 15% or even lower of voters from the last election.

        As for Newsome’s judicial nominees, he’s been solid on that front with the one glaring exception of his appointment to the Supreme Court of 67 year old Martin Jenkins. There has to be a liberal, black, gay man in the entire state of California at least 20 years younger that he could have appointed instead. I actually told a friend I talk about judges with last year that Newsome should be impeached for putting a 67 year old on a 7 member Supreme Court in one of the bluest states in the nation. Little did I know my joke would come close to fruition less then a year l later… Lol

        Jerry Brown had four SOLID Supreme Court appointments. Literally any of them could be appointed to the US Supreme Court by Biden, even Joshua Groban, the lesser of the four. I think Democrat governors should be using Supreme Court appointments for nominees that can be elevated to the appeals court where applicable (I know some states like New Jersey & Delaware has rules that don’t allow a governor to always pick a nominee of their own party).


      • Yeah I agree that the Jenkins appt was a big blunder by Newsom. But I think age matters less than ideology for the California state Supreme Court, as Jenkins will very likely be replaced with a progressive when he leaves. Frankly I wouldn’t even bother taking federal nominees (except for the SCOTUS) from the Cali Supreme Court, it is arguably a demotion to be appointed to the 9th Circuit. But his Superior Court nominees were solid (and where we find a solid bench for federal district court nominees). However his most recent selections to the appellate court were quite lacking (including a 64 year old Black woman).

        Jerry Brown was the opposite, excellent Supreme Court nominations, weak to awful lower court nominations. Also Brown also sat on selecting that last justice for almost a full year. I looked through his appellate court nominations a while back and did not find even one judge that I liked for the 9th Circuit. Justice Sanchez was the only one even that was suitable. There were also few solid Superior Court selections.


      • Yea it would be nice if we can get a California governor to appoint both lower court judges the way Newsome has done & Supreme Court justices the way Brown did. Kruger was set up nicely for consideration for SCOTUS. I feel Newsome could have found another gay black man just as liberal as Martin Jenkins two decades younger who could have been set up for consideration for a possible Clarence Thomas replacement later on. On a 7 member court I wouldn’t waste any pick as Jerry Brown didn’t.

        But Newsome’s Superior Court judges could be emptied out onto district court vacancies & it would make me happy. Hopefully the recall pushes him even further to the left with judicial appointments as I expect scores more vacancies on both the district & appeals courts in the coming years.


  10. There are two reasons I can think of why the vacancies aren’t being filled faster. One is that the nominating commissions got changed after Biden was elected President for many obvious reasons. It takes time to put those things together. You can’t just bring back the commissions under Obama because some of those panelists are retired and/or suffering health problems. Younger progressives want to get their people there and that doesn’t happen overnight

    Another is that vetting potential candidates is very drawn out. Background checks are time-consuming and tedious, but you don’t want to be hit with an last-minute revelation that sinks the nominee after the fact.

    Also, Senators have to deal with many important people making recommendations. House members and Governors often have choices and occasionally state legislative leaders have people they want appointed.

    Biden is nominating judicial nominees at around the same rate that the Trump Administration did. I see nothing unusual happening.


    • That is all very true & I will even add a third reason. Alex Padilla became a a senator after the inauguration.

      I guess I am more frustrated at the pace of confirmations. There are currently 13 pending on the floor & with Republicans demining cloture on each one, its frustrating to see a 5 week Summer vacation instead of them cancelling at least 1 week to work on so many pressing issues that need to be worked on not excluding confirming judges. Even when they are in session the senate only works from Monday at 3pm to Thursday at 3pm. I would like to see senator Schumer act with more urgency of a 50/50 senate & schedule at least full days on Monday’s & Thursday’s or at least use Friday’s to eat up cloture time. He should have a 4 senator rotation to just sit in the chair for 12 hours each Friday (Enough cloture time for 1 appeals court nominee & 2 district court nominees) or (Enough cloture time for 6 district court nominees). That way you can just come in on Monday’s & start to vote for confirmation without using any in week session for cloture time.

      I don’t think working at the same path as Mitch McConnell did during the Trump years is good enough. At no point were they one heart beat away from losing the majority plus Democrats were much more willing to compromise. I remember one day I think they agreed to confirming 14 nominees in one day right before a senate vacation. If Republicans aren’t doing the same now then it’s time to play hardball.


  11. I think some are setting too high of expectations for nominees from California, considering who is vetting and proposing candidates. The judicial commissions in California’s four districts have always been pretty loath to propose anyone to a district court seat that isn’t already a Superior Court or Federal Magistrate judge. And today all 6 of the candidates from California are presently judges. All of Obama’s Eastern District judges were also state or magistrate judges for example and this was true of most of his nominees for the Central and Southern districts in the state. Because that’s the case you’re always going to end up with slightly older and more conventional nominees, not ACLU lawyers just out of law school.

    Thomas, Sanchez and Koh are all pretty great, in my opinion.

    The least suprising thing is that another Munger, Tolles, Olson lawyer is a 9th Circuit nominee. Sanchez is the fourth Democratic California nominee in a row to have a close association with that firm.


    • The commission is definitely the way California has always recommended nominees. I think the hope was with the Biden administration they would either move away from it or add more progressive members to it. But as you accurately pointed out judging from today’s announcement that is unlikely as sitting judges seem to have the outsized shot over non judges.

      Munger, Tolles, Olson is definitely a breeding ground for Democrat federal judges. Even Trump named a couple form there as well. I expect more of the same with 16 California seats still vacant plus more vacancies probable over the rest of Biden’s term.


      • Agreed. The way Clinton got Fletcher/Paez/Berzon in was by nominating conservatives and moderates for other seats. Clinton got 14 judges in to the 9th circuit and there were some that were still open when he left office. (Also, the GOP senators back then were different than those now). Out of the court’s 7 Obama appointees, only 2 (Christen and Friedland) are real progressives. I won’t judge Biden’s judges until I see them handing down rulings.


    • Hell yeah I have high expectations! California is a dark blue state and has a strong progressive

      The whole point of Biden’s request was the change the way that we’ve been doing business in the past. Not to continue to do it the same damn way. The idea was to nominate far fewer judges from places like Munger Tolles Olson (who have plenty of representation on the courts), and far more who are public defenders, civil rights and public interest attorneys, labor lawyers, etc.

      Sanchez and Koh are a *substantial* downgrade from the judges we had in these Bay Area seats, Marsha Berzon and William Fletcher. Berzon was a labor lawyer and Fletcher was a liberal academic. It’s one thing if you can’t find qualified candidates, but there are so many highly qualified candidates as I mentioned above. Frankly I give these picks a D or an F.

      The big roadblock here is Senator Feinstein. She should not have run again in 2018, and should resign immediately after this bogus recall is done. I think Padilla will certainly cooperate.

      The other thing is that Newsom has been quietly nominating public interest attorneys to the California superior courts. Hernan Vera is a nominee today in part because Newsom put him on the Superior Court last year. Hopefully California keeps Newsom in office with as large a margin as possible.


      • While I would probably give a higher grade to Gabriel P. Sanchez (B) & Lucy Koh (C), I agree with your premise. We should have a better process to get better (Or at least as good) nominees from states like California then the judges they are replacing. And while I agree senator Feinstein is a road block, I would disagree she should resign as she was dually elected. If the people of California don’t get out & vote in the primary to get a better nominee then they deserve the senator they get. Kevin de Leon is much more progressive then her but she won 54% to 45% so that’s not her fault, that’s the fault of the voters.

        To me the biggest problem is the Biden administration is going back on what they initially said which is they will defer to Democrat senators for district court nominees while they will take the point for appeals court nominees. Now of course doing that would take a much longer time to find, vet & get nominees confirmed. But there is no question we could have gotten a better AAPI nominee then Koh. Governor Newson appointee Bryant Y. Yang (39) from the same court Hernán D. Vera was appointed to on the Superior Court is just one example of a better nominee. Honestly Biden could have just taken any number of Brown or Newsome state judges with a proven progressive background & filled each of the 22 California vacancies in one judicial batch already.

        I think the question is what is the Biden administration looking for in appeals court nominees. If I ever got the chance to give them my advice I would tell them this should be the starting point;

        1. Is the nominee young enough to be considered for a second SCOTUS vacancy (Unless they are a black women in which they could be considered for the first SCOTUS vacancy per Biden’s pledge).

        2. Does the nominee have a proven progressive record.

        3. Is the nominee confirmable in a 50/50 senate. Basically do they pass the Joe Manchin test.

        Now of course a nominee can meet all 3 of those (I would argue Gabriel P. Sanchez does) & there can still be better nominees, but that should at least be a starting point for the appeals court in my view.


      • Judge Sanchez fails #2 in your criteria IMO. I would not want Sanchez as a replacement for Justice Sotomayor. More importantly, there were numerous Hispanic candidates in California who were considerably better. Even at around age 50, both Cecilia Wang and Lynda Lye were far better than Judge Koh for the 9th Circuit.

        The only 9th Circuit nominee appointed yesterday that meets your criteria was Judge Holly Thomas.


      • I think Berzon, Fletcher, and Paez are some of the best federal judges in the nation. They are 3 of the few remaining liberal lions on the bench. While I am happy that they are making room for Biden appointees, I will be sad to see them go. I hope that they continue to hear a good amount of cases in senior status.

        Regarding Sanchez and Koh, they aren’t likely to be super progressive but they could end up being a lot more progressive than expected. It’s happened before, many, many times.


      • Berzon, Fletcher, and Paez are some of my favorite judges in the nation, and some of the few liberal lions left on the bench. While I am happy that they are making room for Biden nominees, I will be sad to see them go and I hope that they continue to hear a good amount of cases in senior status.

        While Sanchez and Koh aren’t the most progressive, they could turn out to be a lot more progressive than expected. It’s happened before many times.


  12. One thing I read about the California nominations. Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla had over 300 applicants for judgeships. I am unable to find the news article mentioning that. It explains a lot.


  13. Here are the names of some California state court judges that have public defender backgrounds that are under 50 I would consider for any of the district court vacancies that remain. At the bottom are also the names of a couple who would be on the top of my list if non judges are nominated. This is in addition to many of the great names mentioned in all the comments above;

    Paul W. Baelly (47) – Deputy Public Defender at the Ventura County Public Defender’s Office. He was the first Korean-American to serve on the Ventura County bench.

    Jeffrey S. Cohen-Laurie (46) – Los Angeles County Superior Court. He was deputy public defender at the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office.

    Lee L. Gabriel (46) – Senior Deputy Public Defender at the Orange County Public Defender’s Office.

    Rita L. Badhan (44) – Deputy Public Defender at the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office.

    Michele A. Mathis (41) – Deputy Public Defender at the Riverside County Public Defender’s Office.

    Bryant Y. Yang (39) – Superior Court Judge at Los Angeles Superior Court. Deputy Director of Voter Protection at Organizing for America.

    Cecillia Wang (Approximately 1970) – Deputy legal director at the national ACLU and directs the Center for Democracy, which encompasses the ACLU’s work on immigrants’ rights, voting rights, national security, human rights, and speech, privacy and technology.

    Armilla Staley-Ngomo (Approximately 1982) – Assistant Federal Public Defender


    • Cecilia Wang would have been a far better option for the 9th Circuit than Lucy Koh. Even better would have been a younger progressive.

      Former senator Barbara Boxer hinted very strongly last week that it’s time for Sen. Feinstein to resign. She would be smart to follow that advice.

      On another note, California Supreme Court justice Tino Cuellar stepped down today. Unfortunate as he was probably the best justice there (maybe on par with Liu) and was far more progressive than his wife. Thomas Saenz would not be bad pick here even if he’s a little older.


      • Congrats to Justice Mariano-Florentino “Tino” Cuéllar on becoming president of The Carnegie Endowment. That removes one of the reasons I thought Lucy Koh was such a bad pick for the 9th circuit because she would have had to recuse herself from rulings her husband made on the California Supreme Court. Either way there were MUCH better picks with Cecilia Wang as one example.

        I saw that interview with senator Boxer. I agree with her, but ultimately the voters of California elected senator Feinstein for 6 years so it’s ultimately up to her & nobody else. Albeit I will admit had the California recall gone wrong I would be much more forceful in saying she needs to retire before Larry Elder would have been sworn in.


      • According to the Wikipedia page, Cuellar is still on the California Supreme Court, although I did see articles about his new job and he plans to step down (presumably before November 1st). Koh would have to recuse from some cases early on (ones that were decided by the California Supreme Court while Cuellar was still in office) but eventually it would clear up. Also, there’s no policy for recusing and no punishment for refusing to do so other than that the losing side will say it’s rigged.


    • Another young former public defender is Judge Euketa Oliver, of the superior court in San Diego. She is 46 and was appointed by Gov. Newsom in July. As a new judge, she may need a little more time on the bench first, but I think she’s a good addition here, especially as the Southern District has no active black judges.


  14. Two days ago, the Judiciary Committee held hearings on some nominees, including Jennifer Sung of Washington and Beth Robinson of Vermont. Sung drew hostile questions over a 2018 letter she signed calling Brett Kavanaugh “intellectually and morally bankrupt” and that “people will die” if he’s confirmed. Sung distanced herself from the letter, and claimed that she didn’t personally write it.

    Beth Robinson came out of the hearing mostly unscathed. She got some questions about religious liberty, particularly from Ted Cruz, but successfully pointed out that her proposals on LGTBQ rights included religious liberty protections. She also pointed out that her nomination is supported by leading Vermont Republicans, including Governor Phil Scott.


    • Sung’s distancing herself from the letter against Kavanaugh has nothing to do with appeasing Republicans, rather she is appeasing a 74 year old man from West Virginia who meets weekly with ExxonMobil. At least so far, confirming judges is the one area where he isn’t holding Democrats hostage.


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