VIDEO: EASTERN WASHINGTON: Historic Senate Vote Confirms E. Washington’s First Latino Federal Judge

Jun 17 2014

WA Sens Murray, Cantwell lead Senate in 92-4 vote to confirm Judge Salvador Mendoza, Jr.

A former intern for Senator Murray, Judge Mendonza breaks historic racial barrier in Eastern Washington

***WATCH video of Sen. Cantwell’s speech***

(Washington, D.C.)—U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) spoke on the Senate floor this morning to urge their colleagues to support the historic nomination of Judge Salvador Mendoza, Jr, who today became the first Latino United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Washington.  Currently a judge on the Superior Court for Benton and Franklin Counties, Judge Mendoza is widely respected within the state’s legal community, and has dedicated much of his personal and professional life working on behalf of children and families throughout Eastern Washington. 

Early in his career, Judge Mendoza worked briefly as an intern for Senator Murray.

The Eastern District of Washington includes the following counties: Adams, Asotin, Benton, Chelan, Columbia, Douglas, Ferry, Franklin, Garfield, Grant, Kittitas, Klickitat, Lincoln, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Spokane, Stevens, Walla Walla, Whitman, Yakima.

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks, as prepared:

“Mr. President, I’d like to take just a few minutes to discuss an important vote we’ll be taking today to confirm the next United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Washington.

“Mr. President, it’s not every day that I get to support a nominee who also happens to be former intern in my Senate office.

“But it’s also not every day that a man who is the son of migrant farm workers and himself worked on farms in the Yakima Valley, is called on by the President of the United States to become the very first Latino federal judge in the Eastern District of Washington.  

“So Mr. President, I’m incredibly proud today to stand here in support of Judge Salvador Mendoza, Jr., whose confirmation we will vote on today.

 “Mr. President, through his life story, Judge Mendoza represents the very best of my home state’s honest, hardworking spirit.

“Through his work ethic, his commitment to his community, and his belief in equal opportunity, Judge Mendoza is a leader and a role model for families throughout our state…

…particularly young men and women born into poverty and difficult circumstances.

“In fact, in his application to serve as federal judge, he discussed his own upbringing, and I’d like to quote from it here.

“Judge Mendoza wrote:

“I worked and studied hard to better myself and my family.  I understood then what I believe now, that both the quality of the educational system coupled with a strong system of justice will lift up the entire community.”

“Mr. President, those are the words of a man who belongs in our judicial system.

“And it should come as no surprise that throughout his professional life, Judge Mendoza has stayed true to those words. 

“From serving as trustee for Columbia Basin College,  to helping to coordinate the annual Tri-Cities Youth and Justice Conference, to helping to create the first drug court for Benton and Franklin counties...Judge Mendoza has given his time and experience, investing in institutions that lift up communities throughout our state.

“He is currently a superior court judge, but his judicial career spans private practice, service as an assistant attorney general, and years of experience in superior, district, municipal, and juvenile court. 

“He is an experienced practitioner in federal court and served from 2010 to 2013 as lawyer representative to the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference. 

“And through his many years of legal practice and judicial experience, Judge Mendoza will come to the federal bench well prepared.

“Mr. President, Judge Mendoza has described his judicial philosophy as guided by the principles of patience, respect and humility--the same principles that have guided his life and legal career--and principles that will serve him well as a member of the federal judiciary.

“So Mr. President let me close by thanking Judge Mendoza for his willingness to serve Washington State as a federal judge. 

“I have always believed that as a country, we are at our best when good people are willing to give of themselves in service to others. 

“It is that kind of service to others that has defined Judge Mendoza throughout his career, and that will continue to define him as he assumes the duties of this new office.

“Mr. President, I am proud to support his nomination to be United States District Judge, and I urge my colleagues to support his nomination as well.

“Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.”

Full text of Senator Cantwell’s remarks:

“Mr. President, I rise today to support the nomination of Salvador Mendoza, Jr., to be district judge for Eastern District of Washington

“I applaud the Senate Judiciary Committee for favorably reporting Mr. Mendoza's nomination out of the committee on a bipartisan basis with a 17-1 vote, so a great deal of support. We are happy today because we filled one vacancy for the Eastern District bench earlier in April. Now it's time for the Senate to move forward in filling the last of the two vacancies by voting to confirm Judge Mendoza.

“Mr. President, Judge Mendoza is a well-qualified, dedicated judge whose passion and perspective will serve the Eastern District of Washington very well. He has had experience serving as a Superior Court judge, he served as a prosecutor, he has been in private practice and he has been a community leader in the central part of our state.

“There is no question that Salvador Mendoza is ready for the challenge of being a federal judge, but I also want to speak today in terms of the historic nature of this vote. Salvador Mendoza will become the first-ever Hispanic federal judge in Eastern Washington. That is a major step forward and one that is long overdue. One in every nine residents of Washington state is Hispanic and yet we have not had a Hispanic federal judge in the Eastern part of our state.

“Judge Mendoza is the right man for the job and he’s ready to make history.

“Judge Mendoza personifies the American dream. Eastern Washington is home to a very large and growing Hispanic population. Many settled in Eastern Washington for the very same reasons that Judge Mendoza’s family did. 

“He grew up in a family of migrant workers who moved from California to Washington’s Yakima Valley when he was just a small child. He went on from working alongside his parents in the fields to earning a bachelor's degree from the University of Washington and a law degree from the University of California at Los Angeles.

“Coming from very modest beginnings, Judge Mendoza has built a stellar legal resume. Mendoza served as a deputy prosecuting attorney and spent a year as Assistant Attorney General. He has worked in private practice in a firm and he went on to serve as judge pro-tem for Benton County Superior Court and Franklin County Juvenile District Court.

“Since 2013, he has served as Washington state’s Superior Court Judge for Benton and Franklin counties. A few years ago, I had the honor of speaking with Judge Mendoza at a roundtable of Latino community leaders in the Tri-Cities. I came away very impressed with his intellect, his ability, and his keen understanding of our challenges in Central and Eastern Washington and of our legal system. He talked about the importance of an effective drug court to tackle the challenges facing Central Washington, and Judge Mendoza has shown his commitment to making his community a better place to live.

“He helped found the juvenile drug court program for Benton and Franklin Counties, which provides the opportunities for treatment for juvenile drug offenders. He is the main organizer of the Tri-Cities Youth and Justice Forum, an organization that encourages students from underrepresented communities to seek careers within the legal system. He also serves on many other boards, including the Board of Trustees for Columbia Basin College.

“Judge Mendoza has earned this important position. I hope my colleagues will support him. I know my colleague, Senator Murray, just spoke. Our Governor Jay Inslee and many other attorneys and judges across the State of Washington enthusiastically support Judge Mendoza’s nomination. So I urge my colleagues to confirm him today. I thank the President and I yield the floor, and I would suggest the absence of a quorum.”