Two nominees for the federal bench in the Bay Area got through the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee today, but not before Republicans lined up solidly against one of them.
While San Jose-based Magistrate Judge Richard Seeborg sailed through on a voice vote, his colleague from San Francisco, Edward Chen, got through on a party line 12-7 tally. Ranking Republican Jeff Sessions of Alabama criticized Chen for his some of his writings and speeches, along with his long tenure as an ACLU staffer. An “ACLU chromosome” runs through President Obama’s judicial nominees, Sessions declared, prompting loud groans from Chairman Patrick Leahy and other Democrats.
Not-so-smooth sailing ahead? .... After the jump.
The ACLU line of attack — plus the solid Republican opposition — could mean Chen will languish on the Senate calendar for a while before getting a vote by the full chamber. Obama’s first appellate court nominee had ACLU connections and has not yet received a vote after months of delay. However, circuit appointments involve much higher stakes than the district court.
“The man is a good person. [Chen] has apparently conducted himself without serious problems as a U.S. magistrate,” Sessions said, “but I am concerned his stated positions and background indicate an understanding of the law that is contrary to what a judge should have.”
Despite her own rumored distaste for the ACLU, California Democrat Dianne Feinstein defended Chen, whom she had recommended to Obama.
“He has made a transition from advocate to judge, and I don’t believe there is a spot, a blemish or a wart on his record as a magistrate judge,” she said.
Feinstein also alluded to the political stakes involved in California, saying Chen would be the first Chinese-American federal judge in the Bay Area. “It is an extraordinarily important appointment,” she said.
— Dan Levine