This was a vote on confirming President Obama’s nomination of Edward Milton Chen to be a U.S. District Judge in Northern California.
Under the constitution, the president has the authority to nominate individuals for federal judgeships, but a majority of the Senate must vote in favor of their nomination in order for them to be sworn into office.
Republicans had sharply criticized Chen’s work for the American Civil Liberties Union, a national legal organization dedicated to defending civil rights and individual liberties. Conservatives have long viewed the ACLU as an extreme, left wing organization. Democrats contended that one’s legal work for a group such as the ACLU should not disqualify a person for a federal judgeship.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) supported this nomination: “Ed Chen is fair. He is impartial. He is an excellent jurist, and has been for 10 years, and he deserves to be confirmed…. Despite this long judicial track record and broad bipartisan support, this nomination has been sitting in the Senate for more than 600 days. The President first nominated Chen on August 6, 2009. That was 643 days ago….Senate Judiciary Committee has had to consider the nomination four different times….This is a district court nominee with 10 years of judicial experience, with not a blemish on it. When other judicial nominees have come before the Senate, they have been criticized because they didn't have judicial experience or because there was no judicial track record to review. Well, here is a nominee who has both. Ten years on the bench; bipartisan support and uniformly positive reviews; more than 350 published opinions, and there has not been a single criticism of a single one.”
“Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) opposed Chen’s nomination: “… Judge Chen worked as a staff attorney at the ACLU for over 15 years. He was a advocate for the ACLU. He took very liberal positions on a variety of issues. I would like to name just a few. He opposed private drug testing, he opposed anti-gang injunctions, he defended affirmative action, he harshly criticized English-only measures, and he argued that Alabama should be forced to give driving tests in languages other than English….Judge Chen's advocacy on behalf of the ACLU is not disqualifying in and of itself. But it is hard to imagine why Judge Chen would devote so much of his professional career to the ACLU causes if he did not believe in them deeply. More importantly, given that in Judge Chen's view, personal views and personal experiences should influence how a judge decides cases, we have no choice but to examine Judge Chen's personal views and experiences, including his work at that organization. For these reasons and others, I oppose this nomination.”
The Senate confirmed Chen’s nomination by a vote of 56-42. All 52 Democrats present and 4 Republicans voted “yea.” 42 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the Senate confirmed President Obama’s nomination of Edward Milton Chen to be a U.S. District Judge in Northern California.