The Federal Judges Association, a volunteer organization of about 1,000 members focused on the independence of the judiciary, has named Judge Margaret McKeown of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit as its new president.

McKeown, of San Diego, an appointee of President Clinton, replaces U.S. District Judge W. Royal Furgeson in Dallas, who is becoming dean this month of the new University of North Texas Dallas College of the Law, which opens this fall.

McKeown will serve a term of two years as president.

A member of the board of directors since 2007, McKeown will lead the association during a particularly turbulent time: The group recently warned that sequestration—mandated U.S. government budget cuts that became effective on March 1—has put the federal courts at risk, with courtroom operations, public information, public defenders and probation services staff affected.

"The FJA recognizes that these are difficult times for the judiciary," McKeown said in a prepared statement. "Budget cuts, confirmation delays and judges leaving the bench for financial reasons—all of these strain our judicial system. Through the FJA, judges are able to speak with one voice about these and other critically important issues."

The association has been particularly active in advocating for judicial pay. Last year, the group weighed in on a case brought by six sitting and retired federal judges in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled on October 5 that Congress, in revoking cost-of-living adjustments, violated the Compensation Clause of the U.S. Constitution.The government had denied those pay increases, provided for in the Ethics Reform Act of 1989, in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2007 and 2010. On April 22, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of that ruling.

Furgeson and six other judges also brought a class action on November 30 in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, seeking a similar ruling for all federal judges.

In addition to judicial salaries and funding of the federal courts, the association focuses on the filling of vacancies on the bench.

McKeown has served on the Ninth Circuit since 1998. Before that, she was an attorney at Perkins Coie in Seattle and Washington and served as a White House Fellow. She is a 1975 graduate of Georgetown University Law Center.

She also is chairwoman of the Code of Conduct Committee at the U.S. Judicial Conference and of the American Bar Association’s Rule of Law Council on Latin America.

Contact Amanda Bronstad at abronstad@alm.com.