LOS ANGELES - Alaska Supreme Court Justice Morgan Christen won confirmation to the San Francisco-based federal appeals court Thursday, ending a lengthy congressional standoff to become the second jurist approved for the powerful Western court during the Obama administration.
Christen's 202-day wait between her nomination and the Senate's 95-3 vote was attributed to partisan politics that continue to hold up confirmation of 20 other federal judicial appointments despite their having cleared the Judiciary Committee. Christen had won unanimous committee approcal and the bipartisan backing of her home-state senators.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D., Vt.) has also lamented the glacial pace of judicial confirmations to fill the more than 80 vacancies, or about one of every 10 seats.
Christen, 50, was named to the Alaska high court in 2009 by then-Gov. Sarah Palin, a choice largely determined by Alaska's practice of having the state judicial council narrow potential candidates to two.
The Ninth Circuit, which covers nine states, is the largest and busiest federal court, with 29 authorized judgeships and an annual caseload exceeding 13,000 filings. It has three more vacancies. Two of President Obama's other nominees for the court await Senate approval, and a third seat has been open for seven years because of a dispute between the senators from California and Idaho over which state gets to vet potential choices.