Padilla Applauds Historic Nominations for California-Based Federal Judgeships
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, released the following statement after the White House announced that President Biden nominated six individuals to California-based judgeships. Judge Lucy Haeran Koh, Justice Gabriel Sanchez, and Judge Holly Thomas received nominationsto serve as federal appellate judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Judge Hernán Vera and Judge Maame Frimpong were nominated to serve as federal judges on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Judge Jennifer Thurston was nominated to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.
“I applaud President Biden’s nomination of these six highly qualified candidates to serve as judges on the Ninth Circuit and California’s District Courts. If confirmed, this slate of nominees will bring historic personal and professional diversity to California’s federal bench. Our justice system needs the experience and unique perspectives these public servants bring.
“I urge the swift confirmation of these nominees and I will continue to recommend candidates for federal judgeships who reflect California’s tremendous diversity, bring a breadth of professional and lived experience, and demonstrate a commitment to equal justice. I am committed to rebuilding our federal judiciary to better reflect the America it serves, and this set of nominees is a big step forward in that process.”
This slate includes:
- Two Latino judicial nominees with diverse professional experiences.
- A nominee who would be the first Korean-American woman to serve as a federal appellate judge and the second AAPI woman to serve on the Ninth Circuit from California.
- A nominee who would be the first Black woman to serve on the Ninth Circuit from California, as well as the second Black woman to ever serve on the Ninth Circuit.
- A nominee who would be the only active Black woman district court judge in any of California’s four federal district courts.
Within weeks of being sworn in to the Senate, Senator Padilla established a Judicial Evaluation Commission that is approximately 70 percent attorneys of color and a majority women to evaluate candidates for federal judicial vacancies in California. Working with his Commission over the last several months, Senator Padilla evaluated each of the individuals nominated by President Biden today, and enthusiastically supports their confirmation. In addition to evaluating and recommending candidates for California’s district courts, Padilla also worked closely with the Biden administration in advising and supporting the nominations of Koh, Sanchez, and Thomas to serve on the Ninth Circuit.
Judge Lucy H. Koh: Nominee for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Judge Lucy H. Koh has served as a U.S. District Court Judge for the Northern District of California since 2010. Prior to her confirmation as a federal judge, Judge Koh served as a California Superior Court Judge for Santa Clara County from 2008 to 2010. From 2002 to 2008, she worked as a partner in the Palo Alto, California office of McDermott Will & Emery LLP, where she specialized in patent, trade secret, and commercial civil litigation. From 2000 to 2002, she worked as a senior associate in the Palo Alto, California office of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. Before her time in private practice, Judge Koh spent seven years working for the U.S. Department of Justice. She served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California from 1997 to 2000; as Special Assistant to the Deputy Attorney General from 1996 to 1997; and as Special Counsel in the Office of Legislative Affairs from 1994 to 1996. She was awarded, among several recognitions, the Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Louis J. Freeh Award for Demonstrated Excellence in Prosecuting a Major Fraud Case. Judge Koh began her legal career as a Women’s Law and Public Policy Fellow for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee from 1993 to 1994.
Judge Koh received her J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1993, and her B.A., magna cum laude, from Harvard University in 1990.
Justice Gabriel P. Sanchez: Nominee for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Justice Gabriel P. Sanchez has served as an Associate Justice on the California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District since 2018. Prior to being appointed to the bench, Justice Sanchez worked for seven years in California state government. From 2012 to 2018, he worked as Deputy Legal Affairs Secretary to Governor Edmund Brown and from 2011 to 2012, he worked as a Deputy Attorney General in the Correctional Law Section of the California Attorney General’s Office. Before his tenure in state government, Justice Sanchez was an associate at Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP from 2006 to 2011, where he litigated a wide range of civil litigation matters at the trial and appellate levels. He also had an active pro bono practice and received the ACLU of Southern California’s Social Justice Award in 2010 for his efforts to enforce and improve heat illness safety protections for farm workers. Justice Sanchez served as a law clerk for Judge Richard A. Paez on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit from 2005 to 2006.
Justice Sanchez received his J.D. from Yale Law School in 2005; his M. Phil. in European Studies from the University of Cambridge in 2000; and his B.A., cum laude, from Yale College in 1998. Justice Sanchez was a Fulbright Scholar in 1999 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Judge Holly A. Thomas: Nominee for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Judge Holly A. Thomas has served as a judge in the Family Law Division of the Los Angeles County Superior Court since 2018. Prior to being appointed to the bench, Judge Thomas was the Deputy Director of Executive Programs at the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing from 2016 to 2018. From 2015 to 2016, Judge Thomas was a special counsel to the New York Solicitor General, and from 2010 to 2015, she was an appellate attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. As an appellate litigator, she represented clients on over two dozen cases before the federal courts of appeals or the U.S. Supreme Court, and in over a dozen matters before state courts. She has argued cases before the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the First, Second, Fourth, Fifth and Ninth Circuits, as well as state appellate courts. In 2014, Judge Thomas was awarded the Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service. From 2005 to 2010, Judge Thomas worked as an Assistant Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, where she was a Liman Fellow from 2005 to 2006. Judge Thomas served as a law clerk for Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit from 2004 to 2005.
Judge Thomas received her J.D. from Yale Law School in 2004, and her B.A., with honors and distinction, from Stanford University in 2000.
Judge Maame Ewusi-Mensah Frimpong: Nominee for the United States District Court for the Central District of California
Judge Maame Ewusi-Mensah Frimpong has served as a judge on the Los Angeles County Superior Court since 2016. From 2015 to 2016, she served as Vice President, General Counsel, and Corporate Secretary of the Millennium Challenge Corporation. From 2007 to 2015, Judge Frimpong worked for the U.S. Department of Justice, serving in various positions, including as Counselor to the Attorney General, Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch, and other positions. Prior to joining the Department of Justice, Judge Frimpong worked as an associate at Morrison & Foerster LLP in San Francisco from 2002 to 2007. Judge Frimpong served as a law clerk for Judge Stephen Reinhardt on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit from 2001 to 2002. Judge Frimpong received her J.D. from Yale Law School in 2001 and her A.B., magna cum laude, from Harvard University in 1997.
Judge Hernán D. Vera: Nominee for the United States District Court for the Central District of California
Judge Hernán D. Vera has served as a judge on the Los Angeles County Superior Court since 2020. He previously worked as a principal at Bird Marella P.C. from 2015 to 2020. From 2002 to 2014, Judge Vera worked for Public Counsel, the largest pro bono public interest law firm in the nation, first as a directing attorney and later as president and CEO. From 1997 to 2002 and 1994 to 1995, Judge Vera worked as an associate and counsel at O’Melveny & Myers LLP. He worked as a staff attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund from 1996 to 1997. Judge Vera served as a law clerk for Judge Consuelo B. Marshall on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California from 1995 to 1996. He received his J.D. from UCLA School of Law in 1994 and his B.A., with distinction, from Stanford University in 1991.
Judge Jennifer L. Thurston: Nominee for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California
Judge Jennifer L. Thurston has served as a U.S. Magistrate Judge in the Eastern District of California since 2009, and as Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge for the district since October 2020. She previously served as a Deputy County Counsel for the Office of County Counsel in Bakersfield, California from 1997 to 2009, where she handled civil matters, including litigation and appeals. Judge Thurston received her LL.M from Duke University in 2018, her J.D. from California Pacific School of Law in 1997, and her B.S. from California State University in 1989.