Bloomberg Law
March 5, 2020, 4:24 PMUpdated: March 5, 2020, 5:32 PM

Judicial Picks for Understaffed California District Advance (1)

Madison Alder
Madison Alder

Three of Donald Trump’s selections for a California federal district court short on judges easily cleared a Senate committee.

The Judiciary Committee on Thursday advanced the nominations of Fernando L. Aenlle-Rocha, Stanley Blumenfeld, and Mark C. Scarsi to the Central District of California without opposition.

The district, which has courthouses in Los Angeles, Riverside and Santa Ana, presently has nine vacancies. No California district court nominee has made it through to confirmation under the Republican-led Senate during the Trump administration, yet the state leads the nation in unfilled federal judgeships.

Confirmations in states with one or two Democratic senators will be very important for Republicans this year if they want to maintain their historic rate of judicial appointments under Trump.

The shortage in the Central District of California is putting a strain on the remaining judges, the court’s Chief Judge Virginia A. Phillips wrote to lawmakers, asking them to fill the vacancies.

“Nearly one-third of our authorized judegships sit vacant; some have been vacant for over five years,” Phillips wrote. Those vacancies mean each active judge in the district has a weighted caseload of 986 civil cases, which is nearly double the national average.

John C. Hinderaker, tapped for the District of Arizona, also cleared the panel, with some opposition from Republicans. Ten other nominations were held for a vote as early as next week.

While the nominees advanced by the Senate committee Thursday would aid the shortage in California in part, there are other courts in also asking for assistance.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence O’Neill of the Sacramento-based Eastern District of California urged lawmakers to fill two seats in his district and warned of an impending “judicial catastrophe.”

“The statement sounds serious and ominous. It is both. It may also sound like an exaggeration. It is not,” O’Neill wrote.

The nominees held over were:

(Updates with additional reporting.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Madison Alder in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at; John Crawley at; Andrew Harris at