SAN FRANCISCO -- President Obama has selected two lawyers from the same California firm -- a former federal prosecutor and a corporate attorney who helped challenge Proposition 8 -- to fill openings on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
John B. Owens, 41, a litigation partner in the Los Angeles office of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, and Michelle T. Friedland, 41, a litigation partner in the firm’s San Francisco office, must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate before joining the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit, which hears appeals from California and eight other Western states.
As a former assistant U.S. attorney, Owens prosecuted white-collar and border crimes. Since joining Munger Tolles last year, Owens has worked primarily on complex business and Supreme Court litigation.
Born in Washington D.C., Owens earned his bachelor's degree in 1993 from UC Berkeley and graduated first in his class from Stanford Law School in 1996. He clerked for 9th Circuit Judge J. Clifford Wallace and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
He spent one year in the Justice Department’s Office of Consumer Litigation and another as a litigation associate at O'Melveny & Myers LLP in Washington, D.C. before becoming a federal prosecutor.
Friedland, born in Berkeley, joined Munger Tolles in 2004 after completing a two-year lectureship at Stanford Law School.
She has represented the University of California in constitutional disputes and corporate clients in antitrust, tax, patent, copyright and consumer class actions. She also has taught a class on constitutional issues involving higher education at the University of Virginia Law School.
Friedland won the State Bar of California's 2013 President's Pro Bono Service Award, and the 2009 ACLU of Southern California’s LGBT Award. The ACLU honored her for her representation of a gay-rights group in a state challenge of Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage.
Friedland graduated with honors from Stanford University in 1995, studied at Oxford University on a Fulbright Scholarship and graduated second in her law class from Stanford.
She clerked for Judge David Tatel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and then for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias said it was rare for the president to nominate two lawyers from the same firm at once. Another Obama appointee and former Munger Tolles partner, Paul Watford, won confirmation to the 9th Circuit last year.
"It probably says that the firm has many strong attorneys and that it is well-connected politically," Tobias said.