[Vanessa Blum]

The White House at long last is closing in on a pick to fill the Northern District judicial seat once held by U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel.
San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman is the administration’s new leading contender to replace Fogel, who has been on leave as director of the Federal Judicial Center since 2011, the San Jose Mercury News reported Sunday.
Freeman, who was appointed to the San Mateo bench in 2000 by former Governor Gray Davis, served as presiding judge in San Mateo from 2011 to 2012 and previously handled general trial, law and motion, and family law assignments.
From 1983 to 2000, she worked as a deputy county counsel in San Mateo and before that spent four years in private practice in San Francisco and Washington D.C.
Freeman, 59, is a Bay Area native and Harvard Law School grad. Several local lawyers and judges contacted by The Recorder said they believed Freeman was a candidate for Fogel’s seat but had no direct knowledge. Freeman declined to comment through her clerk.
By tradition, the state’s Democrat senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer alternate in submitting candidates to the White House based on the recommendations of screening committees. Feinstein’s committee, led by former San Francisco City Attorney Louise Renne, had been charged with finding a replacement for Fogel’s seat.
The committee initially recommended U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal who sits in San Jose, but the White House rebuffed the suggestion because Grewal is a registered Republican.
Meanwhile, San Francisco lawyer William Orrick III is slated for a Senate vote this week and expected to be confirmed to the seat once held by his father (and more recently by U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer).
That leaves the busy Northern District with two judicial posts yet to fill — the seat held by former Chief U.S. District Judge James Ware and that soon to be vacated by U.S. District Judge Susan Illston, who announced she would assume senior status in July.