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Senate deal to ease political logjam for federal judge nominees

March 14, 2012 |  4:42 pm

Judge Jacqueline NguyenSenate political leaders agreed Wednesday to hold votes in the next two months on 14 of President Obama's stalled nominees to federal judgeships, including two from California.

The deal announced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky probably means that U.S. District Judge Jacqueline Nguyen will win confirmation to move up to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Nguyen, named to her Los Angeles seat on the federal bench by Obama early in his administration, won unanimous approval from the Senate for the lower court seat in 2009.

A  vote scheduled for Thursday on the nomination of Los Angeles attorney Michael Fitzgerald for the U.S. District Court for Central California was also expected to pass, filling one of three vacancies on that court, which is one of the busiest in the judicial system.

But the deal brokered by the Senate leaders to avoid a time-consuming showdown over the blocked nominations doesn't cover two other 9th Circuit nominees: Los Angeles attorney Paul J. Watford and Arizona Supreme Court Justice Andrew Hurwitz.

Both the 9th Circuit and the Central District court have been declared "judicial emergencies" because of the mounting backlog of cases due to unfilled vacancies.

Obama has succeeded in getting two other picks for the appeals court confirmed since taking office, Mary H. Murguia of Arizona and Morgan Christen of Alaska. Another seat on the appeals court is vacant because of a long-running dispute between California and Idaho over which state's senators are entitled to recommend potential nominees.


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-- Carol J. Williams

Photo: U.S. District Judge Jacqueline Nguyen  Credit: Courtesy 9th Circuit Court of Appeals