Senate Confirms Two New Bay Area Judges

Two new federal trial judges for the San Francisco-based Northern District of California were confirmed by the U.S. Senate today.

San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Beth Freeman was approved for the federal bench by a 91-7 vote and San Francisco attorney James Donato was confirmed by a vote of 90-5.

Freeman will join the federal court’s San Jose branch and Donato will sit at the San Francisco courthouse.

The two new judges were nominated by President Obama at the recommendation of Senator Dianne Feinstein.

Feinstein said today that both new judges bring “strong qualifications … and extremely important experience” to the federal bench.

Freeman, 60, has served on the San Mateo County Superior Court since 2001, including one year as presiding judge, and previously worked in the county counsel’s office. She earned her B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley and her law degree from Harvard University.

Donato, 53, a former president of the San Francisco Bar Association, has worked primarily in private law practice and also served three years in the San Francisco city attorney’s office from 1993 to 1996. He was an undergraduate at UC Berkeley and studied law at Stanford University.

A third recent nominee, San Francisco Deputy City Attorney Vince Chhabria, was cleared by the Senate Judiciary Committee last month and is awaiting a confirmation vote. Chhabria was recommended by Senator Barbara Boxer.

All three candidates were nominated by Obama last year and were approved by the committee but were never given a vote by the full Senate before the congressional session ended. Obama re-nominated them in January.

The federal district court for Northern California handles federal civil and criminal cases in the Bay Area and northern coastal California up to the Oregon border.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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