Michelle Friedland at her confirmation hearing in November 2013 (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/THE NATIONAL LAW JOURNAL)
Munger Tolles & Olson partner Michelle Friedland was confirmed Monday for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, giving the court a full slate of 29 judges for the first time since 2007.
The Senate returned from a two-week break and voted, 51-40, for Friedland, who had become the new center of attention earlier this month in the fight over judicial nominations. Friedland narrowly received the majority of votes she needed for confirmation. Friedland faced opposition in part for her advocacy on behalf of gay rights groups.
Friedland, who joined Munger Tolles in 2004 as an associate and became partner in 2010, focused primarily on antitrust litigation, appellate matters and constitutional and academic-affairs litigation for higher education institutions. Her clients included Berkshire Hathaway Inc., The Boeing Co., Abbott Laboratories Inc., the University of California and Solvay Pharmaceuticals Inc., according Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who gave a floor speech before an April 10 procedural vote on Friedland’s nomination.
“Michelle Friedland is well qualified, she has bipartisan support, and her confirmation would give the Ninth Circuit—the busiest circuit—a full complement of 29 judges for the first time,” Feinstein said.
At least one outside group urged senators to oppose Frieidland’s nomination. Friedland represented Equality California in litigation over Proposition 8 and the gay-therapy case the Ninth Circuit decided last year. She and then-Munger partner Paul Watford helped Equality California win a 2007 ruling against county assessors over the tax treatment of registered domestic partners.
“She is unfit for the bench not because she is a gay rights activist, but because she has shown disregard for the democratic process and intolerance for positions with which she disagrees,” Curt Levey, president of the conservative group Committee for Justice, said in a statement earlier this month.
Reid called out Republicans on April 10 for delaying a confirmation vote for Friedland. The Senate earlier that morning voted, 56-41, to advance Friedland’s nomination to a confirmation vote. All that remained were 30 hours of debate time that needed to run under the Senate’s procedural rules, but Republicans refused to forgo the time and the vote was pushed to Monday.