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After 202 days, Senate confirms Alaska jurist for 9th Circuit seat

December 15, 2011 |  3:50 pm

Alaska Supreme Court Justice Morgan Christen won confirmation Thursday to a seat on the  U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, only the second of six vacancies on the powerful Western appeals court that President Obama has succeeded in filling.

Judicial analysts blamed partisan politics in the U.S. Senate for Christen's 202-day wait from nomination to the 95-3 vote by the full Senate to approve her elevation to the federal bench.

Christen, a 50-year-old Washington state native, was named to the Alaska high court in 2009 by then-Gov. Sarah Palin, a choice largely forced on the conservative former vice presidential candidate by Alaska's practice of having the state judicial council forward potential candidates.

Her selection was opposed by some religious and antiabortion groups because of her previous work in private practice for Planned Parenthood and in battling Big Oil after the Exxon-Valdez spill.

The 9th Circuit is the nation's largest and busiest federal court, with 29 authorized judgeships and an annual caseload exceeding 13,000 filings. Two other Obama nominees for the nine-state appellate bench are still waiting for Senate approval, and a third seat has been open for seven years because of a dispute between the senators of California and Idaho over which state gets to vet the potential choices.

In announcing Christen's confirmation, a 9th Circuit spokesman said her judicial commission was expected "shortly."

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--Carol J. Williams

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