The Senate today voted today to confirm the nomination of Edward Milton Chen to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. He will become the first Asian-American judge in the history of that court.
“This is welcome news for an overworked federal bench that has waited almost two years for Judge Edward Chen’s confirmation,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “Judge Chen’s experiences – as a magistrate judge and author of more than 300 opinions, a community advocate, a small business owner, and the son of immigrants – combine to make him a well?rounded candidate who will always seek to ensure just results for all litigants who appear before him.
“What’s troubling is that that it took so long to confirm such a well-qualified nominee to this position, which was designated as a “judicial emergency” by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. With such impeccable qualifications and demonstrated need for his service, there was no legitimate reason that his confirmation to a judiciary-in-crisis should have taken this long.”
Judge Chen has served in the role of U.S. Magistrate Judge for 10 years, presiding over cases with a balanced and unbiased professionalism. His service has won him accolades from the American Bar Association — including 10 of its past presidents — local community organizations, and former prosecutors, including Republican Thomas P. Mazzucco, who praised Chen as a “fair, balanced and supremely competent jurist.”
Judge Chen was first nominated to the court on August 7, 2009, and voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee two months later. However, due to an unprecedented level of obstruction, Chen’s nomination languished for nearly two years, forcing President Obama to renominate him three times, most recently in January 2011.
The failure of the Senate to overcome obstructionist tactics of the minority party during the last two years has greatly increased the number of judicial vacancies on the federal courts. Before today’s vote, there were 90 vacancies – 35 of which have been designated “judicial emergencies,” by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts because they do not have enough judges to handle the caseload, including the seat to which Chen was confirmed, which has been vacant since April 2008.
A court with vacancies and increased workload means long delays for people seeking to enforce their rights or settle their legal disputes in court. In his statement, Henderson urged the Senate “to put partisanship aside and promptly provide up-or-down confirmation votes to every nominee recommended by the Senate Judiciary Committee.”