There’s always been only one federal judge in Riverside County. Now there are two. The U.S. Senate voted Tuesday to confirm the nomination of Jesus Bernal to the federal bench.
President Obama nominated Bernal to the district court last spring. The oldest son of two factory workers graduated from Yale and then Stanford law school, and for the past six years has headed the federal public defender’s office in Riverside. He’ll be the only Latino district judge in San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
But the Senate still has four other California judicial nominees waiting for confirmation. Fernando Alguin, John Tigger, Bill Orrick and Troy Nunley are all considered "judicial emergency" nominations. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts says those vacancies are leaving an excessive number of cases for the rest of the judges on the bench.
University of Richmond Law School professor Carl Tobias says if the Senate doesn’t vote by the end of the year, the President has to renominate all of them: "But someone who’d already had a hearing or already had a committee vote, unless they’re someone is very controversial, I think the minority then would ascede."
Tobias points out the GOP remains a minority in the Senate and still has to deal with a Democrat in the White House. He says that likely means more votes on President Obama’s judicial nominees.
On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for another California nominee, L.A. County Superior Court Judge Beverly Reid O'Connell, who has been nominated as a district judge. If confirmed by the Committee, her nomination isn't likely to come to the full floor of the Senate until next year.