Wenatchee lawyer named to replace judge on Richland federal bench

By:  Tri-City Herald – Kristin Kraemer
Source: Tri-City Herald

A Wenatchee lawyer was nominated Thursday to replace Judge Ed Shea on the Richland federal bench.

Stan Bastian was selected over Tri-City Judge Cameron Mitchell as the final candidate for the lifetime appointment to the U.S. District Court.

Bastian and Mitchell were recommended to the White House as finalists in June.

Now, with President Obama’s nomination, Bastian, a managing partner in the Wenatchee law firm of Jeffers, Danielson, Sonn & Aylward, must go through Senate confirmation.

“I think Stan Bastian has had a distinguished career as an attorney and has served the (Washington State) Bar as well as president (of the bar),” Shea told the Herald. “He’s an outstanding choice by the president. … I look forward to working with him.”

Bastian was one of eight people nominated Thursday for federal judgeships across the country.

“These men and women have had distinguished legal careers and I am honored to ask them to continue their work as judges on the federal bench,” President Obama said in a news release. “They will serve the American people with integrity and an unwavering commitment to justice.”

There are 92 vacancies on the federal district and appellate courts, with 42 nominees pending, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

The majority of the judicial vacancies have been open since 2011 and 2012, but some date back to 2009 and even 2005.

Shea, who’s been with U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Washington since 1998, went to senior status in June 2012. He handles a reduced workload with that status.

Applications for his position were accepted at the start of this year, and an eight-person bipartisan committee forwarded Bastian and Mitchell’s names on for consideration to Sen. Patty Murray’s office. Murray and Maria Cantwell, the U.S. senators from Washington state, then sent their recommendations to Washington, D.C.

Mitchell is a Richland native who has been on the Benton-Franklin Superior Court bench since July 2004, when he was appointed by the governor to replace a retiring Superior Court judge. He could not be reached Thursday about the nomination.

Bastian, reached Thursday, told the Herald he has been instructed not to talk with the media. He apologized and said he didn’t have any comments.

Bastian joined the Wenatchee law firm in 1988. He primarily handles civil employment cases, but his legal expertise also is in healthcare, police liability and labor negotiations.

He often has represented local municipalities in court, including Wenatchee when it faced civil suits brought by former defendants in the tainted sex abuse arrests of the 1990s, The Wenatchee World has reported.

Bastian previously was an applicant in 2011 to replace federal Judge James Whaley after his move to senior status; and in 2009, to replace retiring Judge James Van Sickle, said the newspaper.

Bastian is married to Judge Alicia Nakata with Chelan County Superior Court.

Early in his career, he served as a law clerk for state Court of Appeals Judge Ward Williams, and worked as an assistant city attorney in the criminal division of the Seattle City Attorney’s Office. He was president of the Washington State Bar Association in 2007-08 and is immediate past chairman of the Equal Justice Coalition.

The federal Eastern District covers all of Washington east of the Cascade Mountains. The district has courthouses in Spokane, Yakima and Richland. The annual salary is $174,000.

Shea was the first federal judge to be based full-time in the Tri-Cities at the Federal Building.

Now that Bastian has the formal nomination for Shea’s seat, he must complete a comprehensive questionnaire and testify at a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The committee looks to see if the candidate has the endorsement of his home state senators. Ultimately, the nomination should go to the floor for full Senate consideration and, if there’s a majority in favor, the president will be notified and the nomination is confirmed.