Judge Rita Lin – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California

San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Rita Lin would, if confirmed, be the first Chinese American woman on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.


Lin got her B.A. from Harvard University in 2000 and her J.D. from the Harvard Law School in 2003. After graduating, Lin clerked for Judge Sandra Lynch on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and then joined the San Francisco office of Morrison & Foerster. In 2014, she became an Assistant U.S. Attorney with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California.

In 2018, Governor Jerry Brown appointed Lin to the San Francisco County Superior Court, where she has served since.

History of the Seat

Lin has been nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, to a seat vacated on May 17, 2022, by Judge Edward Chen.

Legal Experience

Lin started her legal career at the San Francisco office of Morrison & Foerster. Among the matters she handled at the firm, Lin represented Karen Golinski in a suit to seek spousal benefits for her wife. See Pam Spaulding, Lambda Legal Sues U.S. OPM on Behalf of Fed Lesbian Employee Whose Wife Was Denied Insurance, Pam’s House Blend, Jan. 20, 2010. The suit ended in Judge Jeffrey White ruling that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional, which was echoed by the U.S. Supreme Court in U.S. v. Windsor. See Aaron Kase, Defense of Marriage Act Thrown Out By Supreme Court, Lawyers.com, June 26, 2013.

From 2014 to 2018, Lin worked as a federal prosecutor in the Northern District of California. In this position, Lin prosecuted Melinda Van Horne for environmental damage to federal lands from her cultivation of marijuana, ending with Van Horne pleading guilty and receiving a 12 month prison sentence. See Whitehorn Woman Sentenced to 12 Months Imprisonment for Environmental Damage from Marijuana Grow on National Conservation Land, States News Service, Aug. 3, 2016.


Since 2018, Lin has served as a judge on the San Francisco County Superior Court. In this role, Lin presides over trial court matters in criminal, civil, family, and other state law matters. Lin also presides over preliminary hearings that see if sufficient evidence exists to proceed on felony charges. See, e.g., Adam Ruthenbeck, Deterring Theft By Encouraging It, The People’s Vanguard of Davis, Oct. 7, 2019 (noting that Judge Lin found probable cause for bike theft charges).

Statements and Writings

Lin has sometimes made media statements regarding the law and policy. For example, as an undergraduate student, she supported a protest against clothing company Guess? due to the conditions the clothes were manufactured in. See Breezy Tollinger, Harvard Students Protest Labor Conditions at Guess?, University Wire, Sept. 25, 1998.

Overall Assessment

With experience on both the civil and criminal side, as well as time on the bench, Lin would, despite her youth, be deemed qualified for a federal judicial appointment. Lin may draw opposition based on her pro bono representations with Lambda Legal but, if she gets a hearing this Congress, Lin should be confirmed by the end of the year.


  1. This nominee seems to be good but I would like to have seen any number of more progressive lawyers instead, even AAPI lawyers in the Bay Area. She has some good pro bono work & slime food work as a federal prosecutor but there were definitely more progressive choices. Still in all not a bad choice.


    • Dequan my best guess is Durbin and Schumer feel like there is enough home state support (I feel very co Disney about Graham support Benjamin at least) that they’ll be able to be confirmed quickly in December. If my math is right, if they get a Nov 16th hearing then they should get voted out of committee on Dec 9 and still have 1-2 weeks to get floor votes.

      It’s tight but perhaps this was a gamble to get a few extra district nominees through this session.


      • I agree with both of you. Personally I would not have done this and would have hyper focused on circuit seats, even adding additional races hearings, until all 41 vacancies were filled. I think it’s a major gamble, even if I do feel mildly confident that it may work out in spite of Schumer and Durban’s mistake.


      • The worst part is had they been strategic, they could have gotten a lot done without taking too much time away from the senators.

        Last week Thursday – 2 circuit court (CC 1 & 2) cloture votes. Recess @3pm

        This week – Recess

        Monday @5:30pm – Confirm 2 (CC 1 & 2). Then send a cloture motion for 2 CC (3 & 4) to the desk.

        Tuesday – Discharge Bloomenkatz & Abudu (8 hours total)

        Wednesday – Discharge Ho & Kato (8 hours total)

        Thursday – Vote for cloture on 2 CC (3 & 4) send a cloture motion to the desk for Bloomenkatz & Abudu. Recess at 3pm

        Monday of the following week @5:30pm – Confirm 2 CC (3 & 4). Send a cloture motion to the desk for 2 more CC (7 & 8)

        Tuesday – Vote for cloture on Bloomenkatz & Abudu

        Wednesday – Confirm Bloomenkatz

        Thursday – Confirm Abudu & vote for cloture on CC (7 & 8) Send a cloture motion to the desk for some district court nominees. Recess at 3pm

        Recess weeks for election

        Monday following the election – Confirm CC (7 & 8)

        But since the Democrats feel they need SIX weeks off they damn sure better hold the senate.


    • Don’t think they will be getting confirmed unless Dems keep the Senate then. Sad and pathetic.

      4th and 10th rare circuits where Dems have more appointees. 4th is actually tied because of the vacancies and one of the Dems (Wynn or Diaz) is essentially a Republican and votes with the conservative block every time. If Republicans take back the presidency in 24 those circuits are gone from us.


    • The Federalist Society has some liberal members such as Jennifer Nou & John Rappaport. I doubt there are many conservatives that are members of the American Constitution Society.

      Also regarding him, according to his questionnaire senator Tester reached out to him about the 9th circuit vacancy. From that date until the announcement was about six months. He interviewed with senator Daines so he can’t say he wasn’t consulted.


  2. Another blue state that has Democrat appointed conservatives on its highest court. In Delaware it’s mandated to have a partisan balance by their constitution. Every member of the Delaware SCOTUS was appointed by a Democrat. This simply wouldn’t happen in a red state.



  3. Supreme Court of Delaware

    Absolutely shameful ruling. But what else would you expect from a court comprised such as this?
    I really hope that this adds to the impetus to change the state’s constitution.

    @Frank, by your admission, this indeed would not fly in red states. So what’s the practical effect of this nonsense? We’d live in a country where all blue states will have to follow your BS wish and Georgia keeps its courts full of 30-something GOPers, right?


    • I would like to say Democrats are bringing a knife to a gun fight when it comes to state SCOTUS’s but it’s probably more like they are bringing a plastic spoon to a gun fight.

      First, we got blue states like Delaware & New Jersey that have built in disadvantages in their constitutions. Then we have states like New York that have commissions giving the governor old prosecutors to chose from. Then you got states like California where the governor choices 60 year olds & then when they have a chance to pick chief justices, pass up on progressive choices for moderates. Even where things are pretty good like Pennsylvania & Colorado, you still have a Democrat governor that has put a Republican on the bench. It’s sad


    • Why is it shameful to follow the constitution, as the court did in this case? The fact that the decision was unanimous should tell you that this law needed to be struck down.

      And no, there is no practical effect of my wish, but the 30-something GOPers are by and large not qualified. I am glad that Democrats by and large don’t nominate such hacks.


      • @Frank

        The problem is the 30’s & 40’s GOP hacks votes are just as legitimate as the 50’s & 60’s Democrats votes. The difference is the GOP judges are on the bench a decade or two longer. That’s one of the reason why we got to a 6-3 conservative SCOTUS majority even though Democrats have won the presidential popular vote all but once since 1992. That’s why 230 Trump judges will continue to vote down many of the legislation Biden & the Democrats pass.

        If we were talking about state courts that have mandatory retirement ages (Delaware does not have one), then youth wouldn’t be a premium. But that’s not the reality we live in so sadly she matters.


      • Wouldn’t youth matter more when there are mandatory retirement ages? Because when there is a mandatory requirement age, when you know a nominee’s age you know their expiration date. Youth wouldn’t matter so much though if there were term limits rather than mandatory retirement ages.


      • When you have mandatory retirement ages then I believe youth matters less. If you put a 60-year-old on the bench & the mandatory retirement age is 75 then you know they are going to retire in 15 years. But if you don’t have a mandatory age like federal judges, then you run a higher risk of that judge trying to hold on too long & then dying or retiring under somebody in the other party that can name their replacement.

        But don’t get me wrong, I want young progressives in both cases… Lol


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