If Confirmed, Thomas Will Sit on Ninth Circuit, Vera, Frimpong Will Have Seats on District Court; Sanchez, Koh Also Named to Ninth Circuit; White House Says Selections Reflect Commitment to Promoting Diversity on the Bench
By a MetNews Staff Writer
President Joseph Biden yesterday nominated three Los Angeles Superior Court judges to judicial posts, with Judge Holly A. Thomas chosen for a seat on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and Judges Hernán D. Vera and Maame Ewusi-Mensah Frimpong selected to fill vacancies on the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California.
The president also named Justice Gabriel P. Sanchez of California’s First District Court of Appeal and U.S. District Court Judge Lucy H. Koh of the Northern District of California to serve on the Ninth Circuit. For Koh, it is her second nomination to that court; the one she received on Feb. 25, 2016 from President Barack Obama was not acted upon by the Senate and expired on Jan. 3, 2017.
She is married to California Supreme Court Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar.
The vacancies on the Ninth Circuit will be created by Judges Marsha S. Berzon, Richard A. Paez and William A. Fletcher, all appointees of President Bill Clinton, assuming senior status, which they have said they will do upon the nomination of their successors.
Commitment to Diversity
The White House’s press release telling of the nominations of eight persons to judgeships declared that the choices “continue to fulfill the President’s promise to ensure that the nation’s courts reflect the diversity that is one of our greatest assets as a country—both in terms of personal and professional backgrounds.”
It was noted that Biden was naming one person—Koh—“who would be the first Korean-American woman to serve as a federal appellate judge and the second [Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders] woman to serve on the Ninth Circuit from California” and another—Thomas—“who would be the first Black woman to serve on the Ninth Circuit from California, as well as the second Black woman to ever serve on the Ninth Circuit.”
The announcement said, with reference to Frimpong, that the nominee “would be the only active Black woman district court judge in any of California’s four federal district courts.”
It pointed out that three of the nominees are Latinos. In addition to Vera and Sanchez, the president selected attorney David Herrera Urias to sit on the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico. The president also named two magistrate judges—Jennifer L. Thurston of the Eastern District of California (who is chief judge) and Katherine Marie Menendez of the District Court for the District of Minnesota—to posts as Article III judges of the courts they presently serve.
The announcement said the nominees “are extraordinarily qualified, experienced, and devoted to the rule of law and our Constitution,” noted that Biden has now made 43 judicial nominations, and commented that he “has spent decades committed to strengthening the federal bench, which is why he continues to move rapidly to fill judicial vacancies.”
Superior Court Judges
Of the three Los Angeles Superior Court judges who were nominated, Frimpong has the longest tenure, having been appointed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown on Nov. 17, 2015, and Vera has the shortest track record on the bench, being a Nov. 13, 2020 appointee of Gov. Gavin Newsom. Thomas was given a judgeship by Brown on Nov. 29, 2018.
Thomas and Frimpong received their law degrees from Yale and Vera was awarded his by UCLA.
Sanchez, whose law degree if from Yale, was appointed to the Court of Appeal by Brown on Oct. 26, 2018.
Koh, who received her law degree from Harvard, was named to the District Court on Jan. 20, 2010 by Obama. At the time, she was a judge of the Santa Clara Superior Court, to which she had been appointed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Jan. 25, 2008.
Six of the nominees have served as law clerks to federal judges. Those nominees and the judges they assisted are Thomas, Ninth Circuit Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw (2004 to 2005); Sanchez, Ninth Circuit Judge Richard A. Paez (2005-06); Vera, Judge Consuelo B. Marshall of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (1995-96); Frimpong, Ninth Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt , now deceased (2001-02); Menendez, Fourth Circuit Judge Sam Ervin III (1996-97); Urias, Judge Vanessa Ruiz on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals (2001-02).
Thomas was an attorney in the Appellate Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division from 2010-15; Koh was an assistant U.S. attorney for the Central District of California from 1997 to 2000; Frimpong held various posts in the U.S. Department of Justice from 2007-15, Menendez was an attorney in the Office of Federal Defender for the District of Minnesota from 1997 to 2016.
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