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Judging the judges DiFi came back for

Wish I could, but I can’t do anything about Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s poor health.

Which, of course, Californians are naturally worried about, now that we’ve seen the state the powerful longtime senator is in even after returning to Washington from her San Francisco manse.

“Using a wheelchair, with the left side of her face frozen and one eye nearly shut, she seemed disoriented as an aide steered her through the marble corridors of the Senate, complaining audibly that something was stuck in her eye,” as The New York Times reported on Thursday. That paper also broke the news that the senator had also contracted encephalitis, which had previously not been reported.

It’s an odd position to be in, being more concerned about the well-being of an influential, important person now that we’ve seen her out and about than even before, when she was confined to quarters for months and reportedly quite ill and no one got to see her.

Still and all, it’s her call about soldiering on, and she likely will.

She made it back to the Judiciary Committee to cast those crucial votes she’d been missing that were holding up some of President Biden’s federal judge nominees — you know, the three people who Sen. Ted Cruz, after welcoming his colleague back to the committee, said were “several nominees who are so extreme, who are so unqualified that they could not have a prayer of getting even a single Republican vote on this committee.”

And I just wondered: are they that? So extreme, so unqualified?

The three, who Feinstein’s vote moved out of committee, are Charnelle Bjelkengren of Washington state, S. Kato Crews of Colorado and Marian Gaston of California.

Bjelkengren’s B.A. from Mankato State University (now Minnesota State University) was given cum laude in 1997 and she took her J.D. from Gonzaga University School of Law in 2000. From 2001 to 2003 and from 2004 to 2013, she was an assistant attorney general in Washington and, and then she served as an administrative law judge there. Since 2019, she’s a judge on the Spokane County Superior Court. OK, so she’s qualified. Extreme? Well, it looks like Cruz and Mitch McConnell are hanging their hats on her inability to answer some gotcha questions from Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana, including what purposivism is. Verdict: not extreme.

Crews is a magistrate judge of the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, and now is Biden’s nominee to serve as a district judge of the same court. B.A., University of Northern Colorado; J.D., University of Arizona, where he served on the Arizona Law Review. Worked in private practice for years, including in labor and real estate law, before becoming a judge four years ago. Extremism? Again, he was set up by Kennedy and couldn’t say what the 1963 precedent known as a Brady motion. Bet he knows what it is now.

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Gaston took her B.A. from Emory University in 1993 and J.D. from UC Berkeley School of Law. Go Bears. Now is a Superior Court judge. Highly qualified. For 19 years, unusually for a judicial nominee, she was a public defender in San Diego, and that’s why she’s being targeted as extreme. Because public defenders defend accused criminals, many of whom are guilty as sin. Also because she co-authored a paper 16 years ago saying that sex offenders should be able to move into more neighborhoods once released. Bit of a libertarian streak, there. But not an extremist.

Glad DiFi showed to move these qualified, unextreme judges to the full Senate. Hope she gets entirely well, soon.

Larry Wilson is on the Southern California News Group editorial board. lwilson@scng.com.

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