Bay Area judicial nominees get Senate hearing

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held a confirmation hearing today for two Bay Area nominees to the federal bench.

President Obama just one month ago nominated Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jon Tigar and Deputy Assistant U.S. Attorney General William Orrick III to the U.S. District Court for California’s Northern District.

Per my colleague’s story at the time, Orrick, 59, has been in the Justice Department’s civil division since 2009. He is the son of a prominent San Francisco federal judge, William Orrick II, who died in 2003. The nominee previously worked more than two decades for the San Francisco law firm Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass.

Tigar, 49, has been an Alameda County judge since 2002, when he was put on the bench by former Gov. Gray Davis. He was a civil litigator for another San Francisco law firm, Keker & Van Nest, before taking a judgeship.

You can watch an archived webcast of today’s hearing here; it actually starts at about 16:44, with Sen. Barbara Boxer’s introduction of the California nominees at about 19:48 and Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s at 25:43. Tigar introduces himself at 34:27, and Orrick at 36:23.

If confirmed, these are lifetime appointments. A district court judge currently earns an annual salary of $174,000.

Read Boxer’s introduction of the nominees, after the jump…

“Senator Durbin, Ranking Member Grassley, I am honored to be here today to introduce William H. Orrick III, and Judge Jon S. Tigar, who have been nominated to the Northern District Court of California.

“Bill Orrick is here with his wife Caroline and two of their daughters—Sarah, a second year law student at UC Berkeley, and Libby, a senior at the University of Puget Sound. A third daughter, Katherine, is in South Africa doing conservation biology research.

“Judge Tigar is joined today by his wife, Carrie Avery, his father Michael, Judge Jeb Boseberg of the District Court of DC, and William King, who clerked with Jon in the 11th Circuit.

“Mr. Orrick brings a depth of legal experience in both the public and private sectors, which will make him a tremendous asset to the Northern District court.

“He received his bachelor’s degree from Yale University and earned his law degree from the Boston College Law School, graduating cum laude from both schools. After law school, he spent 5 years providing pro bono legal services for low-income clients in Georgia.

“Then Mr. Orrick returned home to the Bay Area and joined the San Francisco firm of Coblentz, Patch, Duffy, and Bass where he spent 25 years as an associate, a partner, and then the head of the firm’s employment litigation practice. Since 2009, Mr. Orrick has worked at the Department of Justice where he currently is Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Division.

“Bill considers service to the community to be a hallmark of his legal career. He spent 11 years as Chancellor and legal advisor to the Episcopal Diocese of California, and 13 years working with the Good Samaritan Family Resource Center, a low-income housing non-profit in San Francisco. At his law firm he supervised much of the firm’s pro bono work, for which he received the San Francisco Bar Association’s ‘Outstanding Lawyer in Public Service’ Award.

“If confirmed, Bill would not be the first of his family to serve the Northern District. His father, William Orrick II, sat for more than 25 years in the very same seat his son is nominated to today – what an honor it would for him to follow his father to the same Federal bench.

“Judge Tigar has had a diverse legal career, including more than nine years as an exemplary Superior Court Judge, and will be an excellent addition to the bench.

“He received his bachelor’s degree from Williams College and earned his law degree from the University of California-Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law. Following law school, Judge Tigar clerked for Judge Robert Vance of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Birmingham, Alabama. In 1989, Judge Vance was killed by a mail bomb that was sent to his home. Judge Tigar assisted FBI agents with their investigation at the field office that very evening.

“This nightmare experience has had a lasting effect on Judge Tigar’s commitment to justice. He remembers Judge Vance for his fealty to the rule of law, his work ethic, his judicial temperament, his humanity, and his common sense – qualities he will bring to the federal district court.

“After his clerkship, Judge Tigar spent a number of years as a civil and criminal litigator in private practice, and two years as a trial attorney in the San Francisco Public Defender’s office.

“Since 2002, Judge Tigar has served on the Alameda County Superior Court with great distinction, presiding over civil, criminal, and family law cases. In his current assignment, he manages approximately 570 cases. Before he joined the state court bench, Judge Tigar received an award from the State Bar of California for his pro bono services. He is a member of the California Judicial Council Advisory Committee on Civil Jury Instructions. He is an Adviser to the American Law Institute’s forthcoming Restatement of Torts, he has lectured at UC Berkeley Law School, and he sits on the board of directors of the Alameda County Bar Association’s Volunteer Legal Services Corporation.

“His nomination has the strong support of law enforcement officials. The Berkeley Chief of Police writes that Judge Tigar ‘meets our officers in his home, or wherever he happens to be when he receives a phone call. He has even reviewed faxed warrants while on vacation.’ The Alameda County Sheriff writes that Judge Tigar ‘is a man of integrity who will bring wisdom and expertise to this position.’

“I would like to submit for the record letters of recommendation I have received in support of Judge Tigar.

“In closing, I am proud to be here today with Mr. Orrick and Judge Tigar, who both received a ‘well qualified’ rating from the American Bar Association. I urge the Senate to move swiftly to confirm them to the federal bench.”

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.