Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Page 1


Hearing on Ninth Circuit Nominee Owens Postponed


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Today’s scheduled confirmation hearing for Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals nominee John Owens has been postponed to next week.

A notice posted on the web page for the Senate Judiciary Committee said hearings for Owens, as well as four other judicial nominees, that had been scheduled for today will take place next Wednesday, beginning at 2:30 p.m.

Owens, a Los Angeles-based litigation partner in Munger, Tolles & Olson, was nominated by President Obama on Aug. 1. The American Bar Association Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary gave him its highest possible rating, “Well Qualified,” by a unanimous vote, with one member recused.

Owens, 41, is a former federal prosecutor in Los Angeles and San Diego, where he headed the Criminal Division before joining Munger Tolles in January of last year.

He is a UC Berkeley and Stanford Law School graduate and, according to his firm profile, “specializes in anticipating the government’s investigative, trial and settlement strategies and mapping out the client’s best response, both inside and outside the courtroom.” His clients include the drilling company Transocean, which he and others at the firm represent in the criminal investigation arising from the April 20, 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The National Law Journal reported recently that Owens could face opposition from Idaho’s Republican senators, who believe that the seat—which has been vacant since Judge Stephen Trott took senior status in 2004—should go to someone from that state, since Trott’s chambers are located in Boise.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the Judiciary Committee chair, treated the seat as a California seat for purposes of the “blue slip” process, by which a confirmation hearing is scheduled upon the approval of the two senators from a nominee’s home state. This was consistent with a 2006 statement that Leahy made regarding the seat:

“Judge Trott was from California, where he had practiced for much of his career prior to becoming a judge. In fact, he was nominated to fill the seat of another Californian, Judge Joseph Sneed. At the time of his nomination, … the Senators from California were consulted and it was understood to be a California seat. The practice in filling circuit vacancies has been to replace each with a nominee from the same State from which his or her predecessor was nominated. ... I do not know of any precedent for a judge’s personal decision to change his or her personal residence resulted in shifting a circuit seat. …I am sensitive that every State within a circuit should have at least one judge come from that State. I supported legislation to ensure that.”

At the time Trott took senior status, Idaho was the only state in the circuit without an active, resident circuit judge, as Judge Thomas G. Nelson, since deceased, had taken senior status in November 2003. President Bush, who had nominated Boise attorney William G. Myers III to succeed Nelson, tapped N. Randy Smith, then a state trial judge in Idaho, to succeed Trott.

Democrats, however, objected to Myers on ideological grounds and to Smith on the ground that the seat should go to a Californian. After Democrats won control of the Senate in the November 2006 elections, however, the president did not resubmit Myers’ nomination, withdrew Smith’s nomination to the Trott seat, and replaced Myers with Smith as the nominee for the Nelson seat.

Smith subsequently won confirmation by a vote of 94-0.


Copyright 2013, Metropolitan News Company