The White House Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release May 18, 2011
President Obama Nominates Justice Morgan Christen for the United States Court of Appeals
WASHINGTON- Today, President Obama nominated Justice Morgan Christen for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
“I am proud to nominate this outstanding candidate to serve on the United States Court of Appeals,” said President Obama. “I am confident Justice Morgan Christen will serve the American people with integrity and distinction.”
Justice Morgan Christen: Nominee for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Justice Morgan Christen was born and raised in the state of Washington. She attended the University of Washington, where she received her B.A. in 1983. While an undergraduate student, Justice Christen studied in England, Switzerland, and China. She later attended Golden Gate University School of Law and obtained her J.D. in 1986.
Justice Christen moved to Alaska in 1986, when she began a clerkship for the Honorable Brian Shortell of the Alaska Superior Court. In 1987, she joined the law firm of Preston Thorgrimson Ellis & Holman (now K&L Gates LLP) in their Anchorage office. While at the law firm, Justice Christen handled a variety of civil matters, including representation of the State of Alaska in the wake of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. In 1992, she was elected to the firm’s partnership.
In 2001, Justice Christen was appointed to the Alaska Superior Court, the state trial court with jurisdiction over, among other things, civil cases, family law and probate matters, and felony criminal offenses. Beginning in 2005, she served as the presiding judge of Alaska’s Third Judicial District, the judicial district with the largest caseload in the state. As presiding judge, Justice Christen supervised approximately 40 judicial officers in 13 court locations. In 2009, Justice Christen was elevated to serve as one of five Justices on Alaska’s Supreme Court, the highest court in the state.
LA Times: President Obama nominates Alaska jurist to 9th Circuit panel
Christen was named to the Alaska high court by then-Gov. Sarah Palin in 2009, but the choice was largely forced on the conservative by state law requiring the governor to choose between two candidates put forward by the Alaska Judicial Council.
Christian and anti-abortion groups like Alaska Family Council opposed Christen's appointment to the Alaska Supreme Court, citing her service as a board member of Planned Parenthood while a lawyer in private practice.
Alaska Daily News: Obama nominates Alaska Supreme Court Justice Morgan Christen to 9th
Christen's 2009 appointment forced a difficult choice on Palin, who was required by the state Constitution to select from among the nominees sent to her by the seven-member Alaska Judicial Council. That council is made up of lawyers, public members appointed by governors and the state Supreme Court chief justice.
Palin took the unusual step of asking the Judicial Council to send her all information it had on the two finalists, Christen and another judge, Eric Smith.
The head of the Alaska Family Council -- a Christian pro-family, anti-abortion group -- urged Palin to pick Smith, not Christen. The group objected to Christen's membership on the board of Planned Parenthood in the mid-1990s. The organization, which didn't provide abortions in Alaska until 2003, opposed a Palin-backed bill to require girls under 17 to get parental consent for an abortion.
But Smith also proved a difficult choice for Palin for his role in the 1980s as executive director of the public interest environmental law firm, Trustees for Alaska.
Both of Alaska's senators said they'd confirm Christen when her nomination comes before the U.S. Senate for a vote.