DiFi urges confirmation of NorCal judges

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., is urging swift action by the full Senate now that the Senate Judiciary Committee has approved the nominations of two people to serve as federal judges in Northern California.

The committee today approved the nomination of U.S. Magistrate Judges Edward Chen and Richard Seeborg to sit as judges of the U.S. District Court for California’s Northern District, based in San Francisco. President Barack Obama nominated them in August and the Judiciary Committee heard from them last month. Here’s a clip of Chen being grilled by U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the committee’s ranking Republican, and then being defended by Feinstein:

Magistrate Judges assist District Judges by handling simpler matters in civil and criminal cases as directed; they’re appointed to eight-year terms by a majority vote of the district judges in a given district, while district judges are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate to lifetime terms.

The Judiciary Committee also today approved the nominations of Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Nguyen and Los Angeles attorney Dolly Gee to sit on the U.S. District Court for California’s Central District in Los Angeles.

“All of these judges are highly qualified and I believe they will bring significant and diverse experience to the federal bench,” Feinstein said in her news release. “I hope that the Senate will move expeditiously to confirm them. The courts where these nominees will be sitting – in the U.S. District Courts for the Central and Northern Districts of California – have unacceptably high caseloads. The confirmation of these four excellent nominees will be a first step toward ensuring that the courts are able to administer justice in a timely and appropriate manner.”

Chen would be the first Asian American judge ever to sit on the Northern District’s bench; Nguyen, the first Vietnamese American woman ever to serve as a U.S. District Judge; and Gee, the first Chinese American woman to serve as a U.S. District Judge. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are among the fastest growing racial groups in the nation, yet only eight of the nation’s 875 active district and appellate judges are Asian American or Pacific Islander.

President Obama nominated these four people after they were selected by bipartisan advisory committees created by Feinstein and U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., in each of the state’s four federal districts.

Chen has been a U.S. Magistrate Judge for since 2001; before that, he’d been a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California since 1985. He also worked for the firm of Coblentz, Cahen, McCabe & Breyer from 1982 to 1985. He holds undergraduate and law degrees from the University of California, Berkeley.

Seeborg also has been a U.S. Magistrate Judge since 2001; before that, he was an associate from 1982 to 1991 and an equity partner from 1998 to 2000 at Morrison & Foerster in Palo Alto and San Francisco. From 1991 to 1998, Seeborg was an Assistant U.S. Attorney – a federal prosecutor – in San Jose. He holds an undergraduate degree from Yale University and a law degree from Columbia University.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.