East Bay judicial nominee has U.S. Senate hearing

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers appeared today before the U.S. Senate Judiciary committee for a confirmation hearing on her nomination to the federal bench.

Yvonne Gonzalez RogersPresident Barack Obama nominated Rogers, 46, of Piedmont in May; if confirmed, she would be the Northern District of California’s first Latina district judge.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., at today’s hearing praised her as an “intelligent, balanced, reasonable” attorney; lauded her “extraordinary record” of community service; and described her as “an outstanding Superior Court judge, handling substantial criminal and civil caseloads” who would “be a fine addition to the federal bench.”

Rogers has served as a state judge since her July 2008 appointment by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. She also served as a pro tem judge from 2007 to 2008 and a member of the civil grand jury from 2005 to 2007, serving as forewoman from 2006 to 2007.

Earlier, she was in private practice at the law firm of Cooley Godward LLP in San Francisco from 1991 to 2003, where she was an equity partner from 1999 to 2001. She earned her bachelor’s degree with honors in 1987 from Princeton University and her law degree in 1991 from the University of Texas School of Law. She is registered to vote as a Democrat.

Her husband, Matt Rogers, served on Obama’s transition team when he was elected and later was a senior adviser to U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu where he helped manage more than $36 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act economic stimulus funds. He left the Obama administration in September. The couple has three children.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate to this lifetime appointment, she will earn an annual salary of $174,000 — a pay cut from her superior court judge’s salary of $178,789.

Read Feinstein’s remarks in their entirety, after the jump…

“It is my pleasure to introduce and express my strong support for Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, whom the President nominated to be a U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of California.

“She is a well regarded judge with a proven record of success and dedication in Northern California. Her nomination is also historic; she will be the first Latina district judge on the Northern District of California.

“Judge Gonzalez Rogers has been screened and recommended to me by a bipartisan screening selection committee that I have used these past eighteen years. This committee reviews candidates for their legal acumen, professionalism, breadth of personal experience, judicial temperament, and overall commitment to excellence in the field of law. Judge Gonzalez Rogers stood out because of her impressive record, her life of service, and her dedication to her community. She also has Senator Boxer’s strong support as well.

“Judge Gonzalez Rogers represents an American success story, her parents were each the eldest of nine siblings and grew up in south Texas, and Spanish was her parents’ first language. Her father served in the U.S. Army and went to college with assistance from the G.I. Bill. Of her parents, her sixteen aunts and uncles, and their children, Judge Gonzalez Rogers is one of only three family members to attend college.

“Her path in life has been extraordinary, rising from modest beginnings to graduating from one of the best universities in the country, Princeton. During school breaks and weekends she worked cleaning housing, and cutting grass to help pay her tuition. She took pride in the calloused hands she got doing that work.

“She excelled at Princeton, graduating cum laude. She then went on to attend two of the best public law schools in the country: the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of California at Berkeley. She began the practice of law at the prestigious San Francisco firm of Cooley LLP, where she had a distinguished career of private practice, and continued to break down barriers.

“When she began practicing, no Latino woman had been elected into the partnership ranks of any major San Francisco law firm. She worked her way up the ranks, starting as a young associate in complex litigation in 1991.

“In her own words, she worked hard to break that mold, by becoming an excellent attorney worthy of an invitation to the partnership. Over years of litigating complex cases, she did just that.

“By all accounts, she was intelligent, balanced, reasonable, and represented her clients extremely well. She built a sterling reputation as an attorney, and was elected to Cooley’s partnership in 1998.

“In 2003 she took time away from the practice of law to devote time to her children, who I believe are here today. Judge Gonzalez Rogers, and her husband Matt, have three young children – Christopher is sixteen, Maria is 12, and Joshua is 10. And they very excited not only to support their mother’s nomination, but also to tour the Capitol tomorrow.

“Even while away from the practice of the law, Judge Gonzalez Rogers has remained passionately dedicated to her community. For example, she served as a foreperson of the Alameda County Civil Grand Jury. In Alameda, the Civil Grand Jury is an active, investigative division of the county court system that holds the county government accountable. As foreperson, Judge Gonzalez Rogers oversaw all of the Grand Jury’s investigations, including major reviews of the county hospital system and the county office of education.

“In addition, she served as a pro-tem judge on the Superior Court, sitting in for absent judges and providing mediation assistance in civil cases, often managing over 100 cases a day.

“She also worked hard as a strong advocate for Piedmont Public Schools. As the Co-Chair of Citizens for Piedmont Schools, Judge Gonzalez Rogers helped lead a campaign to pass funding measures for the local public schools. The campaign was successful, passing those measures with over 80 percent of the vote each. That’s pretty rare in California.

“She also committed herself to being directly involved in her children’s schools, serving on the School Parent Board of Piedmont Middle School and as President of the Wildwood Elementary School Parent Board.

“As a former mayor I know how valuable it is for members of the community to contribute to making their community a better place. I’d like to applaud Judge Gonzalez Rogers’ extraordinary record of service.

“In 2008, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed her a judge of the Alameda County Superior Court. The President of the State Bar of California praised Judge Gonzalez Rogers’ nomination, saying that “There are certain skills they look for in a judge: Be well-prepared, a good listener, have good judgment and be decisive. She demonstrates all those skills.”

“By all accounts, she has been an outstanding Superior Court judge, handling substantial criminal and civil caseloads.

“During her first few years on the bench, she presided over a criminal calendar, conducting over 30 jury trials and hundreds of hearings on all sorts of criminal issues.

“She now oversees a civil docket of more than 500 civil cases at a time, so she has a great record. She has the breadth of experience in private practice, she’s been on the bench, and she’s survived in public service, and she is prepared to hit the ground running as a Federal Judge.

“So I hope that you will agree with me Mr. Chairman, I believe she will be a fine addition to the Federal bench, and I urge my colleagues to support nomination.”

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.