(Washington, DC)  The NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) applauds the U.S. Senate’s vote this afternoon to confirm Paul Watford to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  The Ninth Circuit is the nation’s largest circuit court.  Its jurisdiction covers 62 million residents of California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Arizona, Montana, Alaska and Hawaii. 

According to Leslie Proll, Director of LDF’s Washington office, “Paul Watford will be an exceptional judge and his confirmation will double the African-American representation on the Ninth Circuit.”  Although there are 29 seats on the Ninth Circuit, only one is held by an African-American judge:  Judge Johnnie Rawlinson, who was appointed by President Clinton.  Only two other African Americans have served on the Ninth Circuit, President Carter appointed Jerome Farris and Cecil Poole, and they served until 1995 and 1996, respectively.

Paul Watford possesses stellar qualifications for the appellate bench.  The American Bar Association unanimously awarded Watford its highest rating of “well qualified.”  Watford received his B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley and his J.D. from the UCLA School of Law.  He served as a law clerk to Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit and as a law clerk to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the U.S. Supreme Court.  Since 2003, he has been a litigation partner at Munger, Tolles & Olson in Los Angeles, where he focuses on appellate litigation.  He has authored or edited briefs in nearly 20 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.  He has argued several cases before the Ninth Circuit as well as the California appellate courts.

Leslie Proll stated:  “We hope today’s vote is one of many confirmation votes in the coming months.  Instead of obstructing judicial nominees, the Senate should rapidly confirm nominees to remedy the vacancy crisis that has left nearly one in ten judgeships vacant.  For example, the Senate has confirmed only four circuit nominees this year, including Paul Watford.  Yet there are fourteen vacancies on the circuit courts that need to be filled.  The quality of our nation’s justice system is at stake.”