Senate confirms first Biden nominee to federal judge seat in California’s Eastern District

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The United States Senate last week confirmed its first Biden-tapped nominee to a federal judge seat in the Eastern District of California, which oversees litigation relating to federal law in 36 counties including Sacramento County.

Chief US Magistrate Judge Jennifer L. Thurston was confirmed in a vote of 46 to 24, which was overwhelmingly split across party lines. The only senator to detract from her colleagues was Susan Collins of Maine, who joined 45 Democrats in voting to confirm. Thirty senators, including Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Mitt Romney of Utah, did not vote.

Thurston told The Update that she was excited to fill her new role in the court, adding that she would strive to continue to serve the people in the same capacity she has been.

“I am so honored by the nomination and confirmation. It feels like Christmas has come early this year,” she said. “I will do my best to continue to serve the people of the Eastern District of California.”

Upon judicial commission, Thurston will be elevated from her court-nominated Magistrate Judge position, where she assisted district court judges by overseeing judicial processes like pre-trial matters and misdemeanor cases, to a presidentially nominated judge seat.

In her new role as US District Judge, Thurston will handle criminal and civil cases in a new capacity. That includes presiding over trials, managing jury selection, and instructing the selected jurors. Thurston received her L.L.M from Duke in 2018, Her J.D. from California Pacific School of Law, and her B.S. from California State University. She previously worked as Deputy County Counsel for the Office of County Counsel in Bakersfield.

The nomination of Thurston and seven others was announced by President Biden in early September. A statement by the White House made note of Biden’s promise to reflect diversity in the court with the nominations of several historic firsts, including the first Korean-American woman to serve as a federal appellate judge and the first Black woman from California to serve on the Ninth Circuit court.

At her nomination hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in October, Thurston touched on the demanding caseload for federal judges out of California’s Eastern District.

“I’ve been on the bench there, in the Eastern District of California, for just about 12 years and in that time, I have learned all of the difficulties that we face due to the judicial crisis that we’re in,” she said. “I think that one of the reasons that makes me well qualified for this position is because I can step in on the first day and start deciding cases.”

Thurston acknowledged that, while the court’s exerting caseload will be a burden, she’s confident she will be able to be productive in her new role.

“I appreciate the extraordinary burden that will place on me and my family, but I do have this second family, this court family, that I feel I wanna step up and help even more than I have already.”

Ethan Biando
Ethan Biando is a freelance journalist from Sacramento. His writing focuses on crime, courts, and policing. Find him on Twitter @ethanb822

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