The Bay Area and California are on the brink of major additions to the federal bench.
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved the nominations of three prospective Bay Area federal judges: San Francisco lawyers James Donato and Vince Chhabria for spots in the San Francisco federal courthouse, and San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman for a vacancy in San Jose.
In addition, the committee backed the nominations of San Francisco lawyer Michelle Friedland and Los Angeles attorney John Owens to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which shapes federal law for California and eight other Western states.
The Obama administration nominees will now head for confirmation votes to the Senate floor, where the Senate's maneuver last year to end filibusters of judicial nominees diminishes Republicans' ability to block the judgeships.
Owens' nomination may still run into some resistance but not because of his credentials. The White House nominated him to a 9th Circuit seat that has been a source of contention between California and Idaho senators for a decade because of an argument over whether the vacancy belongs to California or Idaho, both within the 9th Circuit's orbit.
Howard Mintz covers legal affairs. Contact him at 408-286-0236 or follow him at Twitter.com/hmintz