The following comes from a Dec. 21 story on

Senate Republicans have blocked floor votes on President Obama’s three nominees for the federal court in San Francisco, an unusual action that will require Obama to resubmit the nominations and restart the confirmation process in January.

The candidates are Vince Chhabria, a deputy San Francisco city attorney; Beth Freeman, a San Mateo County judge; and James Donato, a San Francisco attorney. Obama nominated them to become judges in a federal district that U.S. court officials consider to be in a state of emergency, with three vacancies among its 14 authorized judgeships.

The action Friday before the holiday recess stemmed from Republicans’ anger at Senate Democrats‘ vote Nov. 21 to eliminate filibusters for confirmation of a president’s executive-branch appointees and judicial nominees, except for Supreme Court candidates.

A filibuster blocks debate on a nomination unless supporters can muster 60 votes in the 100-seat Senate, giving the minority party veto power if it votes as a bloc. Democrats moved to change the rule after Republicans repeatedly filibustered Obama’s nominees to the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.

The three Bay Area nominees to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California were among nine candidates who had won Senate Judiciary Committee approval. The Senate usually holds year-end confirmation votes on such nominations, but Republicans objected this year. They also balked at the traditional bipartisan practice of holding the nominations over for floor votes in January.

Chhabria was the only San Francisco nominee to draw Republican opposition in the Judiciary Committee, which voted 13-5 last month to approve his nomination.

He has worked for City Attorney Dennis Herrera‘s office since 2005 and supervises the city’s cases in appeals courts.

Chhabria successfully defended San Francisco’s law that requires most employers to provide health insurance for their employees or pay a fee to the city to treat them at hospitals and clinics. Republican opponents cited his work in another case, in which Catholic organizations accused San Francisco supervisors of hostility to religion in a 2006 resolution criticizing the Vatican for prohibiting Catholic Charities from placing adoptive children with same-sex couples.

Freeman and Donato both won committee approval on voice votes. Freeman was a longtime lawyer for San Mateo County when Gov. Gray Davis appointed her to the Superior Court in 2001. Donato is an antitrust and class-action lawyer with a business firm and was president of the Bar Association of San Francisco in 2008.

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