Profiles

Morgan Christen

JD 86

Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

School of Law Alumna’s Path to the Federal Judiciary

Morgan Christen, born in 1962, always intended to be a lawyer. "I don‘t know what might have influenced me, but I‘ve wanted to go to law school for as long as I can remember," she says. Although she doesn‘t recall the incident personally, a five-year-old Morgan announced to her kindergarten teacher her intention to attend law school. After graduating with a degree in International Studies from the University of Washington, Morgan fulfilled her kindergarten prophecy as her law school career at Golden Gate University began.

Through the law school‘s clinical program, Christen obtained an internship at the Anchorage Municipal Prosecutor's Office. "I did not know anyone in Alaska, but I knew I wanted to litigate, and they promised me a lot of time in the courtroom. I was not disappointed. I worked in the prosecutor‘s office for six months–from June until early December–and I was in court every day I worked. It was a wonderful experience and a great opportunity, but I had no intention of staying when I came to Alaska."

But she did stay, and for fifteen years worked at the firm of Preston, Gates & Ellis LLP, becoming a partner in 1992. In 2001 she was appointed to a position on the Alaska Superior Court bench in Alaska‘s Third District. After serving for three years, Morgan Christen was appointed presiding judge of the third judicial district in 2005. Her workload included the administrative work that goes along with the state‘s largest judicial district—presiding over several hundred cases, daily court appearances, and trying approximately twenty-five bench and jury trials per year.

Her years on the bench earned Justice Christen many awards and honors, and in March 2009, Christen became the twentieth justice appointed to Alaska‘s highest court, and only the second woman in its fifty-year history. In the press release announcing her decision, the governor stated, "I have every confidence that Judge Christen has the experience, intellect, wisdom and character to be an outstanding Alaska Supreme Court justice."

In 2011, Christen was nominated by President Obama and in January 2012, was confirmed and now serves as a Judge to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco.