The Bay Area's likely next new federal judges on Wednesday skated through their Senate judiciary committee hearings without a grilling, setting up a possible panel vote on their nominations by the end of the month.
San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman and San Francisco lawyer James Donato appeared for the hearing in Washington, D.C., the first step in their bid to join the region's federal bench. Freeman and Donato are not expected to encounter any serious political opposition and may join the court as soon as the end of the year.
The White House this summer nominated Freeman to succeed San Jose U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel, who became head of the Federal Judicial Center two years ago, and Donato to replace former Chief U.S. District Judge James Ware, who retired a year ago. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who recommended both nominees to the White House, introduced them at Wednesday's hearing.
Freeman, 59, has been a San Mateo County judge since 2001, when former Gov. Gray Davis appointed her. She served as presiding judge of the court for two years, was a county lawyer before joining the bench and is a Harvard Law School graduate.
Donato is a partner in the San Francisco law firm Shearman & Sterling, and previously was a lawyer in the San Francisco city attorney's office.
Howard Mintz covers legal affairs. Contact him at 408-286-0236 or follow him at Twitter.com/hmintz