The U.S. Senate voted to confirm Judge Morgan Christen on Thursday to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The tally was 95-3. The “no” votes came from conservative Republican Senators Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Rand Paul of Kentucky and David Vitter of Louisiana.
Alaska’s Senators sung her praises Thursday morning on the Senate floor before the vote. Republican Lisa Murkowski noted the barrier-breaking significance Christen’s seating would be.
“This is really Mr. President an historic nomination. Only two Alaskans have had an opportunity to serve on the 9th Circuit. And both those judges were somewhat predictably men,” Murkowski said.
Christen has been a justice on the Alaska Supreme Court. She had bipartisan support from the Alaska delegation to move to the 9th Circuit. She was also previously elevated in her career by both Democratic Governor Tony Knowles and Republican Governor Sarah Palin. Democratic Senator Mark Begich says she’s been recognized for her volunteer work and philanthropy in Alaska.
“I’ve known Morgan for years and am continually impressed by her keen legal mind, her oustanding ecord of public service and her ability to carve plenty of time out of her schedule for extensive volunteer work” Begich said.
The seat on the 9th Circuit has been vacant for 18 months since Judge Andrew Kleinfeld took senior status. The Circuit has jurisdiction over much of the west, including Alaska, California, Washington and Montana. It’s headquartered in San Francisco and is the largest of the nation’s 13 courts of appeals.
Judicial confirmations have been happening slowly in the Senate because they’ve become political cannon fodder. A handful of Republicans have intentionally held up votes, even when the judges’ actual nominations aren’t controversial.