WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden on Friday nominated Spokane judge Charnelle Bjelkengren to serve as a U.S. District Court judge in the Eastern District of Washington.
While the federal judiciary remains overwhelmingly white and male, Biden has made increasing diversity on the federal bench a priority. As of July 1, more than two-thirds of his 68 judicial nominees who had been confirmed by the Senate were nonwhite and more than three-quarters were women, according to an analysis by the American Bar Association.
Bjelkengren, 46, has served on the Spokane County Superior Court since 2019, when Gov. Jay Inslee appointed her to the post. She would replace Judge Salvador “Sal” Mendoza Jr., whom Biden nominated in April to serve on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
After earning her bachelor’s degree from Mankato State University – now Minnesota State University – in 1997, Bjelkengren moved to Spokane to study law at Gonzaga University and fell in love with the city, she told The Spokesman-Review in 2019. She received a law degree from Gonzaga in 2000 and went on to serve as a Washington state assistant attorney general starting in 2003, and as an administrative law judge in the Office of Administrative Hearings in Spokane Valley from 2013 to 2019.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., recommended Bjelkengren to Biden and praised the judge in a statement Friday.
“A judiciary that serves all people fairly – not just the rich and powerful – and upholds the rule of law is at the bedrock of our democracy, and I am confident that Judge Bjelkengren will bring those values to the federal bench,” Murray said, lauding the nominee’s “commitment to fairness and impartiality on the Spokane County Superior Court.”
Democrats hold a slim majority in the Senate and are likely to confirm both Mendoza and Bjelkengren.
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