Northern California has a new federal judge

The U.S. Senate voted 56-41 today to confirm William H. Orrick III as a district judge in Northern California’s federal court.

OrrickOrrick, 60, from 2009 to 2012 served as a counsel and deputy assistant attorney general for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Division; earlier he was a litigator at the San Francisco firm of Coblentz, Patch, Duffy and Bass for 25 years. His father, William Orrick Jr., also served as a judge of the San Francisco-based Northern District court.

President Obama first nominated the younger Orrick to the bench in June 2012; the Senate Judiciary Committee approved him a month later and sent his nomination to the floor Aug. 2, but that nomination died when the Senate adjourned Jan. 2 without holding a confirmation vote. Obama re-nominated him a day later; once again, the Judiciary Committee approved him in February on an 11-7 vote.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., issued a statement today saying Orrick “will be an outstanding addition to the Northern District bench and I am so pleased the Senate has confirmed him. He brings a depth of legal experience in both the public and private sectors, which will make him a tremendous asset to the court.”

Boxer and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., both spoke before today’s vote to praise Orrick’s record, but Feinstein also used her time to berate the Senate’s Republican minority for having delayed the vote for so long.

“This is a real shame. The Northern District of California is in a judicial emergency, as declared by the Judiciary Conference of the United States, as are all judicial districts in California,” Feinstein said. “The Northern District has 675 weighted filings per judgeship, making its caseload 30 percent above the national average. A civil case takes nearly 3 years to get to trial—up nearly 50 percent from a year ago.”

“When well-qualified nominees like Bill Orrick are held up, judicial emergencies like those California continues to face year after year are only exacerbated. So, I am very pleased Bill Orrick will be confirmed, and I thank my colleagues on the Republican side for agreeing to schedule a vote on his nomination,” she concluded. “I simply believe – strongly – that he could and should have been confirmed sooner by this body.”

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.

  • About damn time. Senator Feinstein’s right.

  • Diddo Clark

    I second Jerome Pandell’s comment.

  • MichaelB

    Any nominee from Obama (the same guy wanting a “fundamental transformation” of the nation) is suspicious despite the predictable “well qualified” and “outstanding addition” claims from members of his party.

    Expect decisions/judgments to favor left wing causes and/or expand government powers – previous efforts to “rezone neighborhoods to benefit low-income people”. “He also helped supervise the district court preemption litigation brought by the United States against Arizona and other states that enacted immigration legislation in 2010 and 2011”. (from the link/name in the original article).

  • RR senile columnist

    Mitch and Rand Paul, u can’t hide!/we charge u with judge-o-cide!

  • JohnW


    Got it. Judges appointed by Republicans are judicial saints — strict constitutionalists who exercise judicial restraint and who would never dream of judicial activism. Judges appointed by Democrats are devils who legislate from the bench and don’t believe in the constitution. Therefore, judges appointed by Republican presidents should be confirmed quickly without question. Judges appointed by Obama or other Democratic presidents should never even get an up or down vote. Hey, sounds reasonable!

  • MichaelB


    No, you don’t get it.

    Obama’s political beliefs are out of the mainstream. Sorry, he’s no “moderate” despite the media spin. The “fundamental transformation” comment (not defend the Constitution as a President is supposed to) from him should have sealed the deal on this one.

    He was the one saying earlier the courts did not go far enough to promote so called “redistributive justice” during the Civil Rights era.

    Since the guy making the nomination doesn’t respect the Constitution/limits it places on government/wants to give the nation a “makeover” because he thinks he “knows better”, expect the same from his nominees. That sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

    Where in the Constitution does it say we need to “rezone neighborhoods to benefit low income people”? It doesn’t.

  • JohnW

    @6 While I won’t make leadership comparisons, I would peg Obama, in terms of domestic politics, as occupying the same part of the political spectrum as FDR and LBJ. However, they had solid majorities in both houses of Congress and were able to pass more stuff and appoint just about anybody they wanted to the courts with little obstruction.

    The New Deal and Great Society are where most of what conservatives regard as “big government” came from. Unless you want to include the Environmental Protection Agency (Nixon), OSHA (Nixon), Americans With Disabilities Act (Bush 41) and Medicare Prescription Drugs (Bush 43). So are most of the independent regulatory agencies like the SEC, FCC etc. Oh, I forgot, the FCC evolved from the Federal Radio Commission, championed by and created under the well-known Socialist Commerce Secretary, Herbert Hoover. Of course, as we know, the Big Two, Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid came from FDR and LBJ respectively.

    I realize conservatives don’t like much of this stuff, but you can’t say it’s “out of the mainstream.”

    Can you imagine the uproar if those agencies and programs enacted under both Democratic and Republican presidents didn’t already exist and Obama proposed even one of them?

  • MichaelB


    Obama’s exclusive reliance on government as the answer to everything (economy/jobs, health care, “fair” distribution of income, expanded government assistance programs, relaxed welfare rules, etc.) is out of the mainstream in addition to being utopian nonsense.

    He’s a firm believer in central planning/government control/collectivism and opposes individual accomplishments/personal freedoms.

    He didn’t run on his record in 2012. Most of what we heard was that Romney was a greedy rich guy that would starve children/take away people’s benefits if he won. I can’t help it if too many young voters (many who still can’t find jobs) really thought they were getting “free” health care when it really wasn’t. And that there were no “millions of green jobs” despite promises made years earlier. Earlier complaints about Bush being “unpatriotic” for running up government debt were ignored when Obama did more of it.

  • JohnW

    @8 MichaelB

    I think your problem is with Democrats, not just Obama. Fair enough. We’re all entitled to our views and have a civic duty to stand up for what we believe.

    Starting with Woodrow Wilson, there’s not more than a few degrees of separation between any of 8 Democratic presidents of the 20th and 21st centuries when it comes to domestic issues. Personality and style issues aside, any of those 8 could be serious contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination today based on their domestic policy positions. Democrats may keep their distance from the Carter presidency, but they still share most of the domestic policy views that he held then and still holds.

    Republicans, on the other hand, have been on a fairly steady march further to the right on both economic and socio-cultural issues since JFK was elected, starting with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the 1964 GOP convention. It’s interesting to note that 11 Republicans have served in the 20th/21st centuries, but the only two ever mentioned by today’s Republicans are Calvin Coolidge and Ronald Reagan. Well, they mention Nixon from time to time, but only so they can brand the latest Democratic screwup as “Nixonian” or “worse than Watergate.”

    Can you imagine what Republicans would have to say if Obama did to the banks what TR and Taft did to the oil, steel and railroad companies? Can you imagine what they would say if Obama tried to fight inflation by imposing wage and price controls, as Nixon did?

    I don’t think Democrats have a monopoly on good ideas, or that Republicans have a monopoly on bad ideas. But the right seems to yearn for the simplicity of an agrarian, “just leave me alone,” culturally homogenous world without today’s interdependencies.

  • MichaelB


    And the left yearns for the simplicity of sugar coated socialism? The Constitution is really a “living” document and means nothing as written?

    Haven’t you had enough of the entitlement mentality, the silly idea that guns “cause” violence (society is to blame for people’s behaviors) and that the supposed “job” of the government is to give you everything you need/want for prosperity purposes?

    Someone has to make the effort/work to accomplish things and to generate income to pay all the bills. Encouraging people to just show up and demand their “fair share” (or get angry because their neighbor has more) is asking for trouble because it incentivizes dependent behavior.

  • JohnW


    I do believe that the Constitution is a living document — not in the sense of basic constitutional principles, but in terms of how those principles are applied to 21st century realities that differ from 18th century realities. I’m sure that those who opposed Brown v Board of Education of Topeka considered themselves to be “strict constructionists” and those who supported the decision to be part of the “living document,” “judicial activist” crowd. I guess those kids in the “separate but equal” schools thought they were “entitled.” Amending the Constitution to, say give women the right to vote is part of the “living document” approach. The Founding Fathers absolutely did not intend for women to vote or for you to be able to vote directly for United States Senator. But times change.

    As for entitlement mentality, it depends of what specifically you are referring to. I’m sure you are not a big fan of low income housing subsidies. But are you equally opposed to high income housing subsidies in the form of the mortgage interest deductions for people buying homes in Atherton? How do you feel about Medicare and Social Security, since those are the biggest entitlements of all? Surely you are opposed to the ObamaCare insurance exchange premium support plan for people who don’t get insurance through an employer. But are you also opposed to the tax subsidies received by people who have employer-paid insurance?

    I disagree that “someone has to make the effort/work to accomplish things.” Because I believe everyone who can has to do that. However, some can’t for all kinds of reasons. I’m not big on letting kids starve. School lunch programs for low income kids? I guess that’s welfare of a sort. But hungry kids don’t learn. And kids who don’t learn don’t “generate income” when they grow up.

  • Cole Day Rain

    He’s another politico shill bent on Dem agenda rather than laws. Another lessening of what is already the dead “judicial integrity” of Northern California’s federal court.

    “An opponent, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said: “I was troubled by his intervention in Utah, Arizona, South Carolina, and Alabama. In those States he led the effort to strike down the statutes in those States addressing the Federal Government’s failure to enforce immigration laws.” The vote, on May 15, was 56 yeas to 41 nays.” (http://blogs.buffalonews.com/politics_now/)