Barack Obama will leave an imprint on California courts far exceeding his tenure in the White House, having appointed 11 of the 14 full-time judges.
Obama obtained the opportunity to maintain the leftist bent of the Bay Area’s federal district court bench because Clinton and carter appointees refused to retire during the George W. Bush Administration Bush only appointed one judge in that district during his eight-year tenure: Jeffrey White.
The judges Obama has appointed will have decades to shape California policy, as they are young and drawn from ethnically diverse groups. The judges must be recommended by the state’s senators, and with leftist stalwarts Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein holding those seats, no chance exists for any conservative candidate to emerge.
Seven of the eleven appointees come from “minority” groups, according to the San Jose Mercury News; including the court’s first Asian-American, Lucy Koh; the first Latina, Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers; and the first Indian-American, Vince Chhabria, along with Dolly Gee, of Chinese ancestry, and Jacqueline Nguyen, who came from Vietnam.
U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson, a 1980 Carter appointee, said the new group of judges are not interested in what transpired before they assumed their seats. He said, “They come in with a confidence in themselves and their place on the court that I didn’t feel when I came in. They don’t just follow our lead. They say, ‘Here’s the way I’m going to do it.’ ”
Some significant cases involving the new group include Koh’s ruling in the battle between Apple and Samsung and her handling of a case about Silicon Valley’s major companies’ hiring practices. The San Francisco Chronicle asserted, “Though federal court cases are typically randomly assigned, fortuity and her spot in Silicon Valley have gained her more influence over tech than any other judge in the U.S.”
In March, Chen and Chhabria sided against Uber and Lyft, saying juries would have to decide whether Uber and Lyft’s drivers were independent contractors. Jon Tigar, another Obama appointee, forced the California prison system to pay for sex-reassignment surgery for a transgender inmate.
Obama has named over 250 judges to the nation’s district courts.