Friday, October 16, 2009
Senate Committee Approves Nominees for Federal Courts
By STEVEN M. ELLIS, Staff Writer
The Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday gave its backing to President Obama’s nominations of four Californians to federal judgeships in the Central and Northern districts of California.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Jacqueline H. Nguyen and attorney Dolly Gee—both named to the U.S. District Court for California’s Central District—cleared the committee without opposition on a voice vote along with Northern District nominee U.S. Magistrate Judge Richard Seeborg, while U.S. Magistrate Judge Edward Chen, also named to the Northern District, was approved on a roll call vote of 12-7 that was split along party lines.
If confirmed by the full Senate, Nguyen and Gee would be the first Vietnamese American woman and first Chinese American woman, respectively, to serve as a U.S. district judge. Chen would be the first Asian American judge to sit on the Northern District.
Currently, only eight of the nation’s 875 active Article III judges are Asian American or Pacific Islander, Sen. Dianne Feinsten said in a statement.
Feinstein, a member of the Judiciary Committee, praised the nominees and urged swift confirmation by the Senate to help alleviate judicial caseloads.
“The courts where these nominees will be sitting…have unacceptably high caseloads,” she said. “The confirmation…will be a first step toward ensuring that the courts are able to administer justice in a timely and appropriate manner.”
Feinstein’s office said that three of the four federal districts in California are currently operating with caseloads well beyond the level recommended by the Judicial Conference.
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has called judges in from across the region to volunteer to hear cases in California’s Eastern District, where the number of pending cases per judge exceeded 1,000 last year and the number of filings per judge was more than 900. According to the Judicial Conference, that is more than twice the recommended number of cases per judge.
The nominees were selected by bipartisan advisory committees established by Feinstein and Sen. Barbara Boxer in each of the state’s federal districts. The committees screened applications, interviewed applicants and recommending finalists to the senators, who then forwarded recommendations to Obama.
Nguyen, who fled Vietnam with her family in 1975 after the fall of the South Vietnamese government, was appointed to the Los Angeles Superior Court by then-Gov. Gray Davis in 2002.
Admitted to the State Bar of California in 1991, she graduated from Occidental College and UCLA Law School and began her career as a litigation associate with Musick, Peeler & Garrett.
Nguyen moved to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 1995 and served in the Public Corruption and Government Fraud Section, where her job included overseeing Department of Defense fraud prosecutions. She later served as deputy chief of the General Crimes Section, where she was responsible for training and supervising new federal prosecutors in the Central District.
Her husband, Pio Kim, is an assistant U.S. attorney.
The judge was rated well-qualified by the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, and would fill a seat that has been vacant since Nora Manella was named to this district’s Court of Appeal in 2006.
Gee is a managing partner of Schwartz, Steinsapir, Dohrmann & Sommers, where she practices labor and employment litigation.
She was admitted to the State Bar in 1984 after attending college and law school at UCLA, where she externed for California Supreme Court Justice Allen E. Broussard. After law school, she clerked for U.S. District Judge Milton Schwartz of the Eastern District of California.
In 1994, then-President Bill Clinton appointed Gee to a five-year term on the Federal Service Impasses Panel in Washington, D.C., where she mediated and arbitrated disputes between federal agencies and federal sector labor unions. Clinton nominated Gee to the Central District in 1999, but the nomination stalled amid Republican senators’ opposition to Clinton’s judicial nominations.
Gee has worked as a regional coordinator for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters supervising delegate elections and has been an arbitrator for the Kaiser Permanente Independent Arbitration System since 2000. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center of Southern California and a past president of the Southern California Chinese Lawyers Association.
Rated qualified by the ABA committee, she was nominated to fill a seat that has been vacant since U.S. District Judge George Schiavelli stepped down in September of last year.
Seeborg, who sits in San Jose, became a magistrate in 2001 and was recently reappointed to a second term. He previously worked at Morrison & Foerster in both Palo Alto and San Francisco, where he served as an equity partner from 1998-2000 and as an associate from 1982-1991. Between the two periods, he served as an assistant U.S. attorney in San Jose.
Admitted to the State Bar in 1982, Seeborg attended Yale College and Columbia University School of Law before serving as a judicial clerk to U.S. District Judge John H. Pratt of the District of Columbia.
He was rated well-qualified by the ABA committee, and was nominated to fill the vacancy created June 30 when U.S. District Judge Maxine M. Chesney assumed senior status.
Chen, who sits in San Francisco, also became a magistrate in 2001 and was recently reappointed to a second term. He worked as a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California from 1985-2001, and as an associate at the San Francisco firm of Coblentz, Cahen, McCabe & Breyer in the preceding three years.
A graduate of college and law school at UC Berkeley, he was admitted to the State Bar in 1980 and served as a judicial clerk to U.S. District Judge Charles B. Renfrew of the Northern District of California and to Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge James R. Browning.
Chen was also rated well-qualified by the ABA committee, and was nominated to fill the judgeship left vacant when Martin J. Jenkins resigned in 2008 to join the First District Court of Appeal.
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company