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(Judge) John Owens Confirmed for 9th Circuit Bench

By William Peacock, Esq. | Last updated on

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Judge John Owens.

We've followed Owens' nomination since August, when President Barack Obama nominated him along with a fellow Munger, Tolles & Olson partner and fellow Stanford alum, Michelle T. Friedland, to the bench. While Friedland's nomination is still pending, Owens was confirmed earlier this week, much to the chagrin of Idaho's Republican senators.

What should you know about Owens? And why was his nomination semi-controversial? Read on:

Fun Facts About Owens

  • He was a career prosecutor before joining MTO last year.
  • His net worth is $2.5 million.
  • He was rated as "Well Qualified" (the highest grade by the ABA) for the bench.
  • At MTO, he's basically revealing the government's playbook. The firm's bio states that he "specializes in anticipating the government's investigative, trial and settlement strategies and mapping out the client's best response, both inside and outside the courtroom."
  • As an alum of UC Berkeley and Stanford Law, he was a Bay Area guy, though he practiced law as a federal prosecutor in Los Angeles and San Diego before joining MTO.
  • He once worked in publicity for the Golden State Warriors. According to the Metropolitan News-Enterprise, when listing his publications as part of the confirmation process, he included a number of basketball articles, in addition to legal writing.

Semi-Controversial Nomination

Tradition and Senate rules dictate that new nominees come from the state of the judge whom the person is replacing. Owens takes Senior Judge Stephen Trott's spot, which was the longest standing vacancy, having been vacant since 2004.

Why? Trott, who replaced a California judge, and practiced exclusively in California before heading to D.C. to work in President Ronald Reagan's Justice Department, and who was recommended by California senators, moved to Idaho, where his chambers are located. Idaho lawmakers claimed the seat was theirs to approve, while California Sen. Dianne Feinstein argued about the long Californian history of the seat, reports the News-Enterprise.

"This might sound like inside baseball to some," Feinstein stated, "but it is fundamental to the Senate's advice and consent role, and no Senator of either party would allow the arbitrary occurrence of a judge's personal choice of residence to remove a judgeship from the Senator's home State. This is a precedent this body cannot allow to be set."

Idaho has only one judicial seat, though that may change with the Federal Judgeship Act of 2013, which would create 65 new judgeships, including one more for Idaho. According to the News-Enterprise, Feinstein is a co-sponsor of the bill.

Meantime, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Judiciary Committee chair, seems to have sided with California, as he treated the seat as California's for purposes of blue-slipping (the informal veto process that allows that state's senators to kill a nomination).

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