The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington is poised to get a new judge, with the Biden Administration putting forward the nomination of Judge Charnelle Bjelkengren to replace Judge Salvador Mendoza.
Charnelle Marie Bjelkengren received her B.A. from Mankato State University University in 1997 and a J.D. from Gonzaga University School of Law in 2000. Bjelkengren then served as an assistant attorney general for the Washington Attorney General’s Office.
In 2013, Bjelkengren became an administrative judge for the Office of Administrative Hearings with Washington State.
In 2019, Bjelkengren was appointed to be a Superior Court judge in Washington, where she currently serves.
History of the Seat
Bjelkengren has been nominated for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington. This seat opened on September 16, 2022, when Judge Salvador Mendoza was elevated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Between 2001 and 2013, Bjelkengren served as an assistant attorney general with the Washington Attorney General’s Office. Among her duties with the office, Bjelkengren defended the administrative suspensions of the licenses of drivers convicted of DUI. See, e.g., In re License Suspension of Richie, 113 P.3d 1045 (Wash. App. 2005). She also handled administrative disputes involving employment benefits. See, e.g., Markam Group, Inc. v. Employment Sec. Dep’t, 200 P.3d 748 (Wash. App. 2009).
From 2013 to 2019, Bjelkengren worked as an administrative law judge, working with the Employment Security Department and the Department of Social and Health Services. In 2019, Bjelkengren was appointed to the Spokane County Superior Court, becoming the first black female judge in Eastern Washington. See Will Campbell, Inslee Appoints 1st Black Female Judge in E. Washington, Spokesman Review, Apr. 11, 2019.
Bjelkengren has attracted little controversy throughout her career, and that is likely to continue in the confirmation process.