The White House on Thursday nominated a San Mateo County judge and a veteran San Francisco lawyer to two Bay Area federal judgeships.

San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman was picked to replace San Jose U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel, who became head of the Federal Judicial Center in Washington, D.C. two years ago. And James Donato, a San Francisco law firm partner, was nominated to succeed former Chief U.S. District Judge James Ware, who retired last fall.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who alternates recommending California federal judges with fellow Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, suggested Freeman and Donato to the White House.

Freeman, 59, has been a state court judge since 2001, when she was named to the San Mateo County bench by former Gov. Gray Davis. She served as presiding judge for the court in 2011 and 2012.She was a deputy county counsel for 18 years before becoming a judge.

Donato is a partner in the San Francisco office of the national law firm Shearman & Sterling, but spent much of his legal career at Cooley LLP. He also previously was a lawyer in the San Francisco city attorney's office, where he worked under former City Attorney Louise Renne, now chair of Feinstein's Bay Area judicial selection committee.

The Senate must confirm Donato and Freeman to the lifetime federal judgeships.


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In a statement, Feinstein praised both nominees and urged swift confirmation, saying the Bay Area federal courts face a potential emergency with three vacancies. U.S. District Judge Susan Illston will create the third vacancy on July 1, when she plans to step down as a full-time judge.

Howard Mintz covers legal affairs. Contact him at 408-286-0236 or follow him at Twitter.com/hmintz