Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Ishii’s federal judge replacement in Fresno is on the slow track

On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved Sacramento Superior Court Judge Troy Nunley to serve as a U.S. District Court judge in the eastern federal judicial district.

Don’t expect a similar vote any time soon in the eastern district’s other courthouse here in Fresno, where U.S. District Judge Anthony W. Ishii’s position is also open.

Anthony W. Ishii

President Barack Obama, it appears, wants to send out a second applicant call and see if additional people seek the position.

U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, both Democrats, trade off making recommendations for federal judicial vacancies, each advised by a panel of experts. It is Boxer’s turn to offer a replacement for Ishii.

Fresno attorney Don Fischbach, who chairs Boxer’s screening committee for the Eastern District of California, said the panel had been vetting candidates, but “we didn’t have a great number of applicants like we usually do.”

Fischbach said once the election was over last November and Obama won a second term, “the White House said put out the word for further applicants.”

Already, Fischbach said he knows of a few people in the legal community who are interested and are filling out applications.

The initial process began after Ishii informed the White House he planned to take “senior status.” That was in November 2011. Fischbach said the review panel last fall finished its work on the initial batch of applicants.

At that time, the pending election had stopped virtually all work in Washington, including the Senate Judiciary Committee. It is also possible the unknown status of Obama’s reelection may have stopped some people from going through the application process.

Whatever the case, once Obama won, the White House said “let’s open the door again,” Fischbach said.

Now that the word is out, there are at least two or three more people who are interested, Fischbach said.

There is no deadline, though the panel wants to finish its work as soon as possible — hopefully in the next 60 days, Fischbach said.

“But no deadline has been set by either Senator Boxer or the White House,” he added.

Whenever that decision comes, it can’t be soon enough for the Fresno courthouse, which struggles with a per-judge caseload that is at or near tops in the nation.

By taking senior status, Ishii is officially recognized as retired — and his judicial post comes open. But — as others locally have done before him — Ishii is staying on and keeping a full caseload.

This strategy has for well over a decade allowed Fresno to keep a third judge, when it is officially only allotted two positions.