Press Releases

Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today released the following statement after President Obama nominated San Mateo Superior Court Judge Beth L. Freeman and James Donato for seats on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California:

“I was pleased to recommend Beth Freeman and James Donato to the Northern District Court,” said Senator Feinstein. “Judge Freeman has 30 years of public service as counsel for San Mateo County and a Superior Court Judge. James Donato served with distinction in the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office, as a private practice attorney and as president of the Bar Association of San Francisco. Both nominees have impressive records and will be able to hit the ground running in the Northern District, which has a caseload high enough to make it a judicial emergency.”

Judge Beth Freeman earned her bachelor’s degree in 1976 from the University of California, Berkeley, and her law degree in 1979 from Harvard Law School. She spent four years in private practice, after which she entered public service for the County of San Mateo. She served in the county counsel’s office from 1983 to 2001, trying more than 200 cases to verdict.

Judge Freeman was appointed to the San Mateo Superior Court by Governor Gray Davis in 2001, where she presided over hundreds of trials, both civil and criminal. She also served the court as assistant presiding judge and presiding judge.

James Donato earned his bachelor’s degree in 1983 from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in 1984 from Harvard. He earned his law degree in 1988 from Stanford Law School, where he served on the Stanford Law Review. He was an associate at Morrison & Foerster for three years from 1990 through 1993, after which he joined the San Francisco City Attorney's Office, where he served from 1993 to 1996. He served as an attorney at Cooley LLP from 1996 to 2009, and then joined Shearman & Sterling LLP as a partner in 2009. He is a former president of the Bar Association of San Francisco. For many years he has handled complex civil litigation, including antitrust cases.

Caseloads in the Northern District have been rising steadily, up nearly 11 percent over 2010. Weighted filings per authorized judgeship—the figure used by the federal judiciary to compare different types of cases across the nation—have risen from 598 to 662 during that period, making it the 11th-busiest District Court in the country. With three vacancies on the 14-member court, caseloads per sitting judge are even higher. The time from filing to trial for civil cases in the Northern District has risen by nearly 50 percent since 2010, from 20.3 months to 29.8 months.