Northern California Record

Friday, November 15, 2019

Judge's nomination to 9th Circuit Court of Appeals depends on politics, professor says

By Jenna Spinelle | Aug 11, 2016

General court 4

SAN FRANCISCO – Following a successful confirmation hearing, Lucy Koh is one step closer to becoming the first female Korean-American judge on an appellate court.

Koh was nominated by President Barack Obama February for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the busiest appellate court in the U.S. with 29 judges and more than 11,000 cases heard each year.

Koh’s confirmation hearing with the U.S. Senate was held July 13, but the Senate did not vote on her approval before it left for summer recess.

Michael McConnell, a professor at Stanford Law School, said Koh could be in limbo for much longer.

“It’s very unusual for court of appeals nominees to be confirmed after March of an election year,” McConnell told the Northern California Record.

Koh has served as a U.S. district judge for the Northern District of California since 2010, when she was confirmed 90-0 by the senate. Her confirmation hearing appeared to go smoothly, with California senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein praising her record and her ability to unite Republicans and Democrats.

Ultimately, McConnell said, whether or not Koh is confirmed will be a question politics rather than one of her fit for the job.

“She won't be confirmed unless Republicans who think it's in their interest to confirm a candidate nominated by a Democratic president … that sometimes happens but not often,” McConnell said.

Questions raised at Koh’s hearing focused on how she would balance individual privacy with the government’s need to obtain information about criminal suspects. Last year, Koh ruled that cellular location data was protected under the Fourth Amendment and required a warrant to obtain.

McConnell said it was unusual for Koh to have a hearing this late in the election cycle, and for her hearing to occur this quickly after nomination, adding that previous appellate court nominees have waited years for their hearing after being nominated.

“And it seems that with every new president things get worse than before,” McConnell said.

Koh holds a degree from Harvard Law School and has previously worked for the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Department of Justice. She has also served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Central District of California.

If confirmed, Koh will replace Judge Harry Pergerson, who plans to retire after more than 50 years of service.

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Organizations in this Story

U.S. Department of Justice9th Circuit Appellate Court, San FranciscoU.S. District Court for the Northern District of California