President Barack Obama's return to the White House last week gives him another four years to shape the nation's federal bench, perhaps beginning locally with the expected confirmation of two Bay Area federal judge nominees who were on a list of 19 judicial hopefuls Republicans blocked before the election.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jon Tigar and San Francisco lawyer William Orrick III were approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in August, but the usual pre-election partisan wrangling held up floor votes on them and others until the presidential outcome was decided. The only question now is whether they'll sail through the lame-duck Congress, or have to wait until the next Congress to be renominated and confirmed
"It remains difficult to tell what the (Republicans) will do," said Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor who follows judicial nominations. "If they get votes on the floor, they'll be easily confirmed."
Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer recommended Orrick and Tigar to the White House earlier this year. Boxer and Sen. Dianne Feinstein alternate recommending candidates for California federal judges and U.S. attorneys to the president.
Tigar, an Alameda County judge since 2002, was previously a civil and criminal defense lawyer. Orrick, the son of late San Francisco federal Judge William Orrick II, has been a deputy assistant attorney general for the past three years.
"I am hopeful that with the election behind us, the Senate will take immediate action on these two great nominees," Boxer said in a statement Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Feinstein's Bay Area judge-selection committee is expected to resume its search for candidates for two other federal judge vacancies in the region, one to replace former Chief U.S. District Judge James Ware, who left this fall, and the other to fill the seat of San Jose U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel, who has become director of the Washington, D.C.-based Federal Judicial Center, a think-tank.
San Francisco attorney Louise Renne, who chairs Feinstein's Bay Area committee, could not be reached for comment.
Obama's re-election also assures there will be no turnover in the U.S. attorney's office, where Democratic-appointee Melinda Haag will remain the region's chief federal law enforcement official.
Howard Mintz covers legal affairs. Contact him at 408-286-0236 or follow him at Twitter.com/hmintz