gavel.jpgAfter a year and nine months of having his nomination stalled in the U.S. Senate, federal Magistrate Edward Chen was confirmed today to the post of a U.S. district judge in Northern California.

Chen, 58, was approved by a 56-42 vote of the Senate.

Chen has been a U.S. magistrate in San Francisco since 2001 and previously worked as a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union for 16 years and in private practice for three years.

Chen was originally nominated by President Obama on Aug. 9, 2009, at the recommendation of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California.

Obama renominated him three more times, most recently in January of this year, after the Senate failed to act on the nomination. Some Republican senators who blocked a floor vote on Chen said they believed his ACLU experience showed that he was too liberal.

Feinstein and fellow California Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer issued statements today saying they were delighted with the confirmation.

“Judge Chen has both judicial experience and a proven judicial track record. He is a solid, tested and respected judge with over a decade of experience on the federal bench,” Feinstein said.

Chen, the son of Chinese immigrants, grew up in Oakland and received his college and law degrees from the University of California at Berkeley.

He said in a statement, “I am honored to have been confirmed. I am grateful to President Obama for nominating me and to Senator Dianne Feinstein for her steadfast support throughout the entire nomination and confirmation process.”

The U.S. District Court for Northern California is based in San Francisco and has branches in Oakland and San Jose. It has jurisdiction over federal cases in the Bay Area and northern coastal California to the Oregon border.

Chen will replace former U.S. District Judge Martin Jenkins, who left the court in 2008 to become a state appeals court judge.

Another judge on the federal court, Charles Breyer, said, “A lesson of Judge Chen’s confirmation is that highly qualified individuals who pursue careers in the public interest can nonetheless find their way to the federal bench.”

Chen will be the second Asian-American to serve as a federal trial judge in the Northern California district. The first is Lucy Koh, also nominated by President Obama, who was confirmed to the post last year.

Four Republican senators joined Democrats in voting to confirm Chen today.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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