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Morgan Christen

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Morgan Christen
Court Information:
United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Title:   Judge
Station:   Anchorage, AK
Appointed by:   Pres. Barack Obama
Approval vote:   95-3
Active:   1/11/2012-Present
Past post:   Justice, Alaska Supreme Court
Past term:   2009-2011
Personal History
Born:   1961
Hometown:   Chehalis, WA
Undergraduate:   University of Washington, 1983
Law School:   Golden Gate University School of Law, 1986
Morgan Brenda Christen is a judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. She joined the court in 2011 after a nomination from President Barack Obama. At the time of nomination, she served as a justice on the Alaska Supreme Court, a post she held from 2009 until her confirmation.[1][2]

Early life and education

Christen began her course work at Richmond College in London in 1979. She then studied at the American College of Switzerland in 1980. She continued her studies at Nanjing University, Peoples Republic of China in 1982. She earned her undergraduate degree in International Studies from the University of Washington in 1983. She went on to receive her Juris Doctor from Golden Gate University School of Law in 1986.[3][4]

Professional career

Judicial career

Ninth Circuit

Nomination Tracker
 Candidate:Morgan Christen
 Court:Ninth Circuit
 Progress:Confirmed 211 days after nomination.
ApprovedANominated:May 18, 2011
ApprovedAABA Rating:Unanimously Well Qualified
ApprovedAHearing:July 13, 2011
ApprovedAReported:September 8, 2011 
ApprovedAConfirmed:December 15, 2011
 Vote: 95-3

Justice Christen was nominated on May 18, 2011, to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit by President Barack Obama. She was nominated to a seat left vacant by the retirement of former judge Andrew Kleinfeld.[6] Obama commented on the nomination, stating, "I am proud to nominate this outstanding candidate to serve on the United States Court of Appeals. I am confident Justice Morgan Christen will serve the American people with integrity and distinction."[7]

She was rated "Unanimously Well Qualified" by the American Bar Association. She had a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 13, 2011. You can find her Committee Questionnaire here and her Questions for the Record here.[8] Christen's nomination was hotly contested due to her role as a former board member of Planned Parenthood. However, her nomination was supported by both senators from Alaska. Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski told the press:

Over the course of a decade on the bench she has a track record of impartial, intelligent and fair judgments that demonstrate respect for the rule of law and the role of the judiciary in our democratic system. She is a valuable asset to the Alaska legal community and I will support her wholeheartedly through the confirmation process.[9][10]

On December 15, 2011, the United State's Senate confirmed Morgan Christen to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit with a vote of 95-3.[8]

Notable cases

Law firm wins rights to George Clinton songs (2014)

The Ninth Circuit upheld a lower court’s decision to require musician George Clinton to sign over the rights in several hit songs to a law firm. The law firm has a judgment against Clinton for unpaid legal fees. After Clinton failed to pay, the firm sought a court’s help in executing on the judgment and requested the copyright to four songs.

Clinton argued that his work was protected from involuntary transfer because the songs were exempt under Section 201(e) of the Copyright Act. That provision states that intellectual property cannot be unwillingly taken from an author if he or she has never transferred that property previously. The lower court found that the author of the songs was not, in fact, George Clinton; the author was actually Warner Bros. Clinton wrote and recorded the songs as part of a work-for-hire arrangement with the studio. He later sued and obtained the copyrights to the songs as an assignee, not an author. As a result, the lower court said the songs had been transferred previously by the author, Warner Bros., and were no longer protected by the provision in the Copyright Act.

Clinton appealed the lower court’s ruling, and a three-judge panel for the Ninth Circuit affirmed. Judge Morgan Christen wrote for the panel, stating that the rights in the songs were Clinton’s personal property, even if he was not the author, and were therefore eligible to be seized to satisfy a judgment.


Gay conversion therapy ban is constitutional (2013)

     United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Pickup v. Brown, No. 12-17681)

Judge Christen was a member of a three-judge panel that ruled on the constitutionality of a ban on gay conversion therapy in California. The other two members of the panel were Susan Graber, who wrote the opinion, and Chief Judge Alex Kozinski. The suit, which was brought by David Pickup on behalf of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, was a challenge of a California law that banned gay conversion therapy. They claimed that the law was unconstitutional because it violated the therapist's First Amendment right of free speech. The panel ruled the law was constitutional because therapy and psychology are a state regulated practice, therefore speech, as treatment, is not constitutionally protected.[11]

Awards and associations


  • Light of Hope Award
  • American Jurisprudence Award, Evidence
  • American Jurisprudence Award, Constitutional Law
  • Athena Society Award, Chamber of Commerce
  • Community Outreach Award, Alaska Supreme Court, 2008
  • Philanthropist of the Year, 2004[4]


  • Member, Anchorage Downtown Rotary, 1992-Present
  • Board Member, Alaska Community Foundation, 2005-Present
  • Board Member, Rasmuson Foundation, 2004-Present
  • Former Board Member, United Way of Anchorage
  • Former Board Member, Big Brothers, Big Sisters
  • Former Big Sister, Big Brothers, Big Sisters
  • Former Member, Anchorage Association of Women Attorneys
  • Former Board Member, Planned Parenthood[12][4]

Political ideology

See also: Political ideology of State Supreme Court Justices

In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan ideology of state supreme court justices in their paper, State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns. A score above 0 indicated a more conservative leaning ideology while scores below 0 are more liberal. Christen received a Campaign finance score (CFscore) of -0.18, indicating a liberal ideological leaning. This is more liberal than the average CF score of -0.11 that justices received in Alaska. The study is based on data from campaign contributions by judges themselves, the partisan leaning of contributors to the judges or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor or legislature). This study is not a definitive label of a justice, but an academic gauge of various factors.[13]

See also

External links


Political offices
Preceded by:
Andrew Kleinfeld
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
Succeeded by:

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