Judge Camille Velez-Rive – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico

Judge Camille Velez-Rive has served as a U.S. Magistrate Judge for nearly two decades. As such, she can be considered a fairly uncontroversial selection for a federal judgeship.

Background

A Puerto Rico native, Camille Lizette Velez-Rive was born in San Juan on February 5, 1968. Velez-Rive received her B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis in 1989 and her J.D. from the University of Puerto Rico School of Law in 1993. After graduating, Velez-Rive clerked for Judge Francisco Rebollo Lopez of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico. She then joined Pietrantoni Mendez & Alvarez in San Juan as an Associate. In 1998, she became a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico. She held that position until her appointment as a federal magistrate judge in 2004.

History of the Seat

Velez-Rive has been nominated for a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico. This seat opened when Judge Francisco Besosa moved to senior status on January 1, 2022.

Legal Experience

Velez-Rive started her legal career as a law clerk and then spent three years as an Associate in private practice. She then spent four years at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico, handling a wide variety of cases.

Notably, Velez-Rive handled a number of appellate matters before the First Circuit, defending the validity of convictions below. See, e.g., United States v. Hernandez-Albino, 177 F.3d 33 (1st Cir. 1999) (affirming conviction for conspiracy to possess cocaine); United States v. Rivera, 171 F.3d 37 (1st Cir. 1999) (affirming denial of motion for new trial); United States v. Morillo, 158 F.3d 18 (1st Cir. 1998) (reversing conviction for conspiracy for insufficiency of evidence); United States v. Hernandez, 146 F.3d 30 (1st Cir. 1998) (challenging sufficiency of evidence for conviction for felon in possession). She also helped brief challenges to suppression motions on appeals from the district court. See, e.g., United States v. Acosta-Colon, 157 F.3d 9 (1st Cir. 1998).

Velez-Rive later transitioned into handling civil cases, defending the federal government against claims brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). See, e.g., De Mangual v. United States, 131 F. Supp. 2d 263 (D.P.R. 2001). Notably, she successfully defended the federal government in a bench trial in a suit brought by a plaintiff who was injured by tripping on an uneven sidewalk. Sepulveda v. United States, 329 F. Supp. 2d 260 (D.P.R. 2004). She also, in that role, defended social security decisions. See, e.g., Cruz v. Barnhart, 265 F. Supp. 2d 173 (D.P.R. 2003); Chaparro v. Massanari, 190 F. Supp. 2d 260 (D.P.R. 2002).

Jurisprudence

Since 2004, Velez-Rive has served as a full-time U.S. Magistrate Judge with the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico. As a magistrate judge, Velez-Rive wrote reports and recommendations for substantive rulings, handled pleas and arraignments, and reviewed warrant applications.

Among the most notable cases in which she issued recommendations, Velez-Rive’s recommendation to dismiss a political discrimination case against the Mayor of San German was adopted as time-barred. See Llantin-Ballester v. Negron-Irizarry, 353 F. Supp. 2d 206 (D.P.R. 2005). By contrast, Velez-Rive denied motions to dismiss in another political discrimination case, finding that the case should move forward. Torres-Heredia v. Lopez-Pena, 708 F. Supp. 2d 148 (D.P.R. 2008).

On the criminal side, Velez-Rive recommended that a defendant’s motion for a Franks hearing should be denied for failure to offer sufficient factual support. See United States v. Perez Velasquez, 488 F. Supp. 2d 82 (D.P.R. 2006). In another case, Judge Aida Delgado-Colon concurred with Velez-Rive’s recommendation to deny a motion to suppress, finding that the defendant had been validly stopped based on reasonable suspicion. See United States v. Garcia-Robledo, 488 F. Supp. 2d 50 (D.P.R. 2007).

Velez-Rive’s rulings have generally been upheld on appeal. For example, the First Circuit upheld her grant of judgment on the pleadings to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in a constitutional claim involving a farmer’s tax credit program. See Perez-Acevedo v. Rivero-Cubano, 520 F.3d 26 (1st Cir. 2008).

Overall Assessment

Nominations to the District of Puerto Rico have rarely brought the same degree of partisan fervor as those to other courts. Judge Velez-Rive’s nomination is unlikely to be any different. Given her extensive experience as a federal magistrate judge, she will likely get bipartisan support.

Brad Garcia – Nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit

The D.C. Circuit is frequently home to future SCOTUS superstars, with three Justices having been former D.C. Circuit judges, a fourth having been a D.C. Circuit nominee, and a D.C. Circuit judge waiting to join the high court in a few days. As such, it’s been a matter of some controversy that the court has never had a single hispanic judge. The last hispanic nominee to the court, Miguel Estrada, was never confirmed and no president of either party chose to fill that gap for the last twenty years. However, President Biden’s nomination of Bradley Garcia could add a young, dynamic voice to the court who would also be the first Hispanic on the bench.

Background

The 35-year-old Garcia received a B.A. from Johns Hopkins University in 2008 and a J.D. from Harvard University in 2011. After law school, Garcia clerked for Judge Thomas Griffith on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and then clerked for Justice Elena Kagan on the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 2013, Garcia joined O’Melveny & Myers as an Associate and became a Partner in 2021. In 2022, he moved to become Deputy Assistant Attorney General with the Department of Justice where he currently serves.

History of the Seat

Garcia has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to be vacated on September 1, 2022 by Judge Judith Wilson Rogers.

Legal Experience

After his clerkships, Garcia joined O’Melveny & Myers as an associate, and transitioned into becoming a partner in 2021. At the firm, Garcia largely worked in commercial litigation, focusing largely on appellate litigation.

For example, Garcia represented Google before the Federal Circuit in litigation involving patents that Google had convinced the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”) to limit. See Nadia Dreid, Federal Circuit Mulls Overturning Google Victories at PTAB, Law360, Feb. 3, 2021. The PTAB decision was upheld by the Federal Circuit in per curiam opinions. See Andrew Karpan, Fed. Circ. Quickly Signs Off on Google PTAB Wins, Law360, Feb. 4, 2021.

Notably, Garcia represented Samsung and LG in suits involving patent infringement that were filed before Judge Alan Albright in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas. See Ryan Davis, Fed. Circ. Faults Albright’s OK of Patent ‘Venue Manipulation’, Law360, June 30, 2021. Garcia was able to get mandamus from the Federal Circuit to move the case from Albright’s courtroom, successfully arguing that the plaintiffs in the case were attempting to manipulate venue to find a favorable judge See id. An effort to seek en banc review of the grant of mandamus by the plaintiffs failed as well. See Dani Kass, Full Fed. Circ. Won’t Review ‘Venue Manipulation’ Ruling, Law360, Aug. 31, 2021.

Garcia later pushed the Federal Circuit to move another suit from Albright’s courtroom involving Google. See Tiffany Hu, Albright Keeps Making Same Mistakes, Google Tells Fed. Circ., Law360, Oct. 18, 2021. Albright granted the transfer in November 2021, while criticizing the Federal Circuit for “muddled” rulings. See Dani Kass, Albright Gets Defensive While Allowing Google Transfer, Law360, Nov. 8, 2021.

As part of his pro bono work, Garcia argued one case before the U.S. Supreme Court. See United States v. Palomar-Santiago, 593 U.S. __ (2021). The question in the case was whether, under 8 U.S.C. 1326(d), an immigrant who was deported under an erroneous classification of his conviction as a “crime of violence”, needs to establish an additional two elements in order to secure relief from deportation. In a unanimous opinion by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the Supreme Court ruled against Garcia’s client and found that all three elements were required by the statute even if the immigrant could establish that his deportation was conducted under an erroneous classification of his conviction. See id. In another case, he was part of the legal team representing El Paso County in a suit challenging the diversion of Department of Defense funds to build a border wall. See Daniel Wilson, High Court Vacates Border Wall Case After Construction Halt, Law360, July 2, 2021.

In February 2022, Garcia joined the Department of Justice as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel, responsible for advising on the legality of executive actions. See Justin Wise, O’Melveny Appellate Atty Takes Senior DOJ Legal Office Gig, Law360, Feb. 8, 2022.

Overall Assessment

When Justin Walker was nominated to the D.C. Circuit two years ago, the 38-year-old was criticized by some for being too young to join the court. Garcia, at 35, is even younger. However, unlike Walker who spent most of his legal career as an academic, Garcia has extensive experience with litigation, having argued multiple appeals, including at the Supreme Court.

However, it is nonetheless likely that Garcia’s youth is likely to be a strong motivator for opposition to his nomination. While Garcia is still more likely than not to join the bench (given that Republicans had oked the even younger Kathryn Mizelle to the bench two years ago), his confirmation is nonetheless likely to be a fight.

Maria Antongiorgi-Jordan – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico

Unlike magistrate and bankruptcy judges, who are frequently considered for lifetime appointments to the federal bench, it is relatively uncommon for court clerks to be appointed to the bench. As such, the nomination of Maria Antongiorgi-Jordan is a rarity: a chance for her to replace the Chief Judge she worked closely with.

Background

Maria del R. Antongiorgi-Jordan received her B.A. from Seton Hall University in 1989 and her J.D. from the Intramerican University of Puerto Rico School of Law in 1992. After graduating, Antongiorgi-Jordan earned an M. Laws from the Georgetown University Law Center and then joined McConnell Valde in San Juan.

In 2018, Antongiorgi-Jordan became Chief Deputy Clerk for the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, becoming Chief Clerk in 2019. She currently serves in that role.

History of the Seat

Antongiorgi-Jordan has been nominated for a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico. This seat opened when Judge Gustavo Gelpi was elevated to the First Circuit on October 19, 2021.

Legal Experience

Antongiorgi-Jordan has spent the vast majority of her legal career, between 1995 and 2018, at McConnell Valde in San Juan. At the firm, she primarily engaged in employment litigation. For example, Antongiorgi-Jordan represented Bristol Myers Squibb in defending against a discrimination action brought by a former employee. See Dilcia Ocasio Berrios v. Bristol Myers Squibb, 73 F. Supp. 2d 171 (D.P.R. 1999). Her work has also included appellate litigation before the First Circuit, including defending a grant of summary judgment in favor of Wyeth Pharmaceuticals in a military service discrimination case. Vega-Colon v. Wyeth Pharms., 625 F.3d 22 (1st Cir. 2010).

Since 2018, Antongiorgi-Jordan has served with the clerk’s office for the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico. In this role, she worked with then Chief Judge Gelpi on the District’s plan to adjust its operations to the Covid-19 pandemic. See Federal Court Ready For Face-to-Face Cases, CE Noticias Financerias English, Mar. 12, 2021.

Overall Assessment

Nominations to the District of Puerto Rico have rarely brought the same degree of partisan fervor as those to other courts. Antongiorgi-Jordan’s nomination is unlikely to be too different. While her background as a clerk is unusual for a judicial nominee, Antongiorgi-Jordan also brings extensive litigation experience on both the trial and appellate levels to the bench, and will likely be able to hit the ground running as a federal judge.

Judge Doris Pryor – Nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Judge Doris Pryor, who has served as a federal magistrate judge on the Southern District of Indiana for the past five years, has been tapped for an appellate judgeship on the Seventh Circuit.

Background

Born in Hope, Arkansas, Pryor attended the University of Central Arkansas, getting a B.Sc. in 1999. She continued on to Indiana University Maurer School of Law, getting her J.D. in 2003.

After graduating law school, Pryor clerked for Judge Lavenski Smith on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit and for Judge J. Leon Holmes on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas. Pryor then spent a year as a public defender in Arkansas before becoming a federal prosecutor with the Southern District of Indiana.

In 2017, Pryor was appointed to be a U.S. Magistrate Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.

History of the Seat

Pryor has been nominated for an Indiana seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. This seat opened when Judge David Hamilton indicated his intention to take senior status upon confirmation of a successor.

Legal Career

Other than a year as a public defender, Pryor has spent her entire career pre-bench as a federal prosecutor in Southern Indiana.

Among the notable cases she has handled, Pryor has handled a number of appeals before the Seventh Circuit. See United States v. Hawkins, 480 F.3d 476 (7th Cir. 2007). For example, Pryor unsuccessfully sought to defend an Armed Career Criminal Act enhancement for a defendant convicted of felon in possession. United States v. Smith, 544 F.3d 781 (7th Cir. 2008). In another case that Pryor presented to the Seventh Circuit, the court remanded for further fact-finding on a Batson challenge after the only two African American jurors on a venire were struck. See United States v. Rutledge, 648 F.3d 555 (7th Cir. 2011).

Political Activity

Pryor has a single political contribution to her name, to Indiana gubernatorial candidate John Gregg in 2016.

Jurisprudence & Reversals

Since 2017, Pryor has served as a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Indianapolis. In this role, she presides over settlement, preliminary hearings, bail, and any cases where the parties consent to her jurisdiction. Among the notable cases that Pryor has handled as a magistrate, she denied a motion by attorneys for the City of Indianapolis to strike expert testimony brought by a plaintiff who was attacked by a police dog while sitting in his backyard. See Mitchum v. City of Indianapolis, 534 F. Supp. 3d 1001 (S.D. Ind. 2021). In another case, she granted a defense motion to strike the testimony of the plaintiff’s expert, an oncologist who sought to discuss the standard of care in radiology. Lyons v. United States, 550 F. Supp. 3d 588 (S.D. Ind. 2021).

Overall Assessment

Judge Pryor enters the confirmation process with the support of Sen. Todd Young, one of Indiana’s Republican senators. This support should go a long way in smoothing the road for her, even if Indiana’s other senator, Sen. Michael Braun, chooses to oppose her.

As such, barring the unexpected, it is likely that Judge Pryor will be confirmed in the next few months.

Rachel Bloomekatz – Nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

In 2019, the Trump Administration nominated former Jones Day attorney Chad Readler to the Sixth Circuit. Now, the Biden Administration is seeking to tap one of Readler’s old associates, Columbus attorney Rachel Bloomekatz.

Background

Born December 3, 1982, Rachel Bloomekatz received a B.A. magna cum laude from Harvard University in 2004 and a J.D. from UCLA Law School in 2008 before clerking for Judge Guido Calabresi on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and for Chief Justice Margaret Marshall on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. She then spent a year at the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office before clerking for Justice Stephen Breyer on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Bloomekatz then spent two years at Jones Day before becoming a principal at the civil rights firm Gupta Wessler PLLC. Since 2019, Bloomekatz has been a solo practitioner at Bloomekatz Law LLC.

History of the Seat

Bloomekatz has been nominated for an Ohio seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. This seat opened in December 2021 with Judge Ransey Guy Cole’s announcement that he would move to senior status upon confirmation of a successor. Bloomekatz was nominated on May 25, 2022.

Legal Experience

Bloomekatz started her career as an associate at Jones Day. While at the firm, she worked with future Sixth Circuit Judge Chad Readler in challenging the granting of class certification to a series of suits brought against Proctor & Gamble for alleged deceptive marketing of probiotic digestive supplements. See Rikos v. P.G., 799 F.3d 497 (6th Cir. 2015). The grant was affirmed 2-1 by the Sixth Circuit. See id.

From 2016 to 2019, Bloomekatz worked as a principal at Gupta Wessler PLLC. At Gupta Wessler, Bloomekatz particularly worked on a number of election law cases, including successfully suing to allow 17 year olds to vote in the 2016 primary elections. See Tom LoBianco, In Victory for Sanders, Ohio Judge Says 17-Year-Olds Can Vote in Primary, CNN, Mar. 11, 2016. Bloomekatz’s expertise in election law also resulted in her appointment by the Sixth Circuit as amicus. See In re 2016 Primary Election, 836 F.3d 584, 586 (6th Cir. 2016) (Sutton, J.) (noting that Bloomekatz “admirably” defended the district court order after appointment from the court).

Additionally, Bloomekatz represented Brandon Moore in challenging a sentence of 112 years in prison for a series of convictions arising from an incident when he was 15 years old. Andrew Welsh-Huggins, Teen Rapist Given 112-Year Sentence Appeals to Top Court, A.P., Feb. 4, 2015. The Ohio Supreme Court struck down the sentence as unconstitutional in a 4-3 vote. See Andrew Welsh-Huggins, Ohio Supreme Court Rejects Teen Rapist’s 112-Year Sentence, A.P., Dec. 22, 2016.

Bloomekatz also represented the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network in multiple suits involving harms from tobacco, see Graham v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 857 F.3d 1169 (11th Cir. 2017), and beverages. See Am. Bev. Ass’n v. City & Cty. of San Francisco, 916 F.3d 749 (9th Cir. 2019) (en banc).

Since 2019, Bloomekatz has served as a solo practitioner based in Columbus. During her time as a solo practitioner, Bloomekatz has notably represented parents in a suit against the Madison Local School District over their plan to arm teachers without conducting law enforcement training otherwise required. See Gabbard v. Madison Local Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ., 153 N.E.3d 471 (Ohio App. 2020). The policy was ultimately struck down by the Ohio Supreme Court. See Louise Hall, Teachers Must Have Police Training to Carry Guns at School, Ohio’s Top Court Rules, The Independent, June 24, 2021. Bloomekatz has also filed suit against Ohio’s “Stand Your Ground” law for violating the state’s single-subject rule and three-day consideration provisions. See Anna Staver, Group Challenges Ohio’s Stand Your Ground Law, Columbus Dispatch, Sept. 10, 2021.

Statements and Writings

Like a number of other judicial nominees, Bloomekatz authored a law review note as a student. Her paper discusses the protections that immigrants have from employment discrimination and exploitation. See Rachel Bloomekatz, Rethinking Immigration Status Discrimination and Exploitation in the Low-Wage Workplace, 54 UCLA L. Rev. 1963 (August 2007). The comment discusses various applications of particular federal statutes on discrimination based on immigration status, including discrimination against U.S.-born workers. In the paper, Bloomekatz suggests that an expansion of Section 1981, which bars racial discrimination in contracting, to cover alienage discrimination, is the best legal tool to address such issues. Id. at 1989-90.

Political Activity

Bloomekatz has been a frequent political contributor throughout her career. Among the recipients of her donations are President Biden, Senator Sherrod Brown, and Hillary Clinton.

Additionally, Bloomekatz has worked as counsel for the campaigns of several Ohio Democrats, including Brown. Bloomekatz also served for the campaign of Danny O’Connor, who narrowly lost a house seat to Rep. Troy Balderson in 2018.

Overall Assessment

For her part, Bloomekatz, at 39, is the youngest Biden appointee to the federal appellate bench so far. However, her youth belies extensive experience with both trial and appellate litigation. Furthermore, given that a number of members of her clerk class at the Supreme Court were appointed to the federal bench under Trump, senators are unlikely to gain much traction by arguing that Bloomekatz is under-qualified for the federal bench.

This is not to say that Bloomekatz will not face strong opposition. Her role in election litigation, as well as her work on firearms regulations, are likely to draw particular fire, and Bloomekatz will likely face a hotly contested confirmation. Nonetheless, with the support of Sen. Sherrod Brown, Bloomekatz is nonetheless favored to join the bench before the end of the session.

Judge Florence Pan – Nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit

In 2021, D.C. Superior Court Judge Florence Pan joined the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, replacing Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was elevated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. With Jackson now joining the Supreme Court, Pan has been tapped to replace her on the appellate bench.

Background

Born in 1966, Florence Yu Pan graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania in 1988 and then received her J.D. cum laude from Stanford Law School in 1993.

After graduating, Pan clerked for Judge Michael Mukasey on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and for Judge Ralph Winter on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit before joining the Department of Justice as a Bristow Fellow in the Office of the Solicitor General. Pan then worked in the Department of Treasury between 1998 and 1999.

In 1999, Pan became a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. She stayed with the office until her appointment by President Obama to the D.C. Superior Court in 2009.

On April 28, 2016, Pan was nominated by President Barack Obama to become a U.S. District Judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, replacing Judge Reggie Walton. However, her nomination was not processed by the U.S. Senate, which was then under Republican control, and after President Donald Trump was elected, he nominated Dabney Freidrich to fill the vacancy.

On March 24, 2021, President Biden renominated Pan to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, replacing Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was being elevated to the D.C. Circuit. Pan was confirmed 68-30 on September 22, 2021 and has served on the court since.

History of the Seat

The seat Pan has been nominated for will open upon the end of the current Supreme Court term, when Judge Ketanji Jackson will leave her seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to replace Justice Stephen Breyer.

Legal Experience

Pan started her legal career as a clerk to Judge Michael Mukasey on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and then for Judge Ralph Winter on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Since then, Pan worked for the federal government until her appointment to the D.C. Superior Court, going from the Department of Justice to the Department of the Treasury to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. During her tenure, Pan tried around forty cases, half of which were jury trials.

Among the significant matters that she worked on, Pan argued before the en banc D.C. Circuit in support of the police partially unzipping the jacket of a suspect during a Terry stop. See U.S. v. Askew, 529 F.3d 1119 (D.C. Cir. 2008) (en banc). The D.C. Circuit ruled against her on the issue, finding that the facts surrounding the stop did not create reasonable suspicion for unzipping the jacket. See id.

Pan also argued in front of the D.C. Court of Appeals in defending a conviction against a defendant alleging an insanity defense to killing her child. See McNeil v. United States, 933 A.2d 354 (D.C. 2007). The D.C. Court of Appeals overturned the conviction, finding that the prosecutor below improperly used the defendant’s invocation of her Miranda rights to argue that she was sane. See id. at 369.

Judicial Experience

From 2009 to 2021, Pan has served as a Judge on the D.C. Superior Court. She started her time in the court on a Felony docket, but has since served on the Family, Misdemeanor, and Civil dockets as well.

While serving on the Felony docket, Pan presided over a number of prosecutions of violent offenders, frequently handing out significant sentences, including a 15-year-sentence for a man who assaulted a victim in LeDroit Park, a 12-year-sentence for a man who stabbed the victim in Southeast D.C., and a 60-year-sentence to Antwon Pitt, who sexually assaulted a woman in Southeast D.C. as part of two home invasions. On the civil side, Pan dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Center for Inquiry against Walmart for selling homeopathic medicines.

In her twelve years on the bench, a handful of Pan’s rulings have been reversed by the D.C. Court of Appeals. In two cases, Pan presided over convictions for assault with significant bodily injury that were reversed because the Court of Appeals found insufficient evidence of significant injury. Compare In re D.P., 122 A.3d 903 (D.C. 2015) with Quintanilla v. United States, 62 A.3d 1261 (D.C. 2013). On the civil side, in 2020, the D.C. Court of Appeals reversed Pan’s decision not to award treble damages in a wage-and-hour suit, finding that she had no discretion not to award the damages. Sivaraman v. Guizzetti & Associates., 228 A.3d 1066 (D.C. 2020).

Since September 23, 2021, Pan has been a judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Despite her relatively brief tenure on the court, Pan has nonetheless handled a number of prominent cases.

Most notably, Pan has sentenced a number of defendants as part of the January 6 prosecutions. For example, she sentenced James Wayne Entrekin, who plead guilty of entering the Capitol without permission, to 45 days in jail, rejecting a prosecutorial request for 105 days in jail and a defense request for probation. See Marisa Sarnoff, Man Who Dressed as ‘Captain Moroni’ from Mormon Sacred Text on Jan. 6 Tells Judge He Still Believes Election Results Were ‘Tampered’ With, Gets Jail Time, Newstex Blogs, May 6, 2022.

Among other matters, Pan denied an emergency injunction to Philip Morris, who was seeking to challenge an FDA regulation on cigarette warning labels, ruling that there was no imminent harm as the regulation would not kick in for another year. See Lauren Berg, Philip Morris Can’t Block Cig Warning Rule Set For Late 2022, Law360, Oct. 27, 2021. Pan also granted a request by the State of Washington to pause a lawsuit alleging that the state permitted a monopoly on gambling activity in the state. See Humberto J. Rocha, DC Judge Pauses Tribal ‘Monopoly’ Suit for Washington State, Law360, Mar. 17, 2022. She subsequently transferred the lawsuit to the Western District of Washington, ruling that she lacked personal jurisdiction over the state defendants. See Khorri Atkinson, DC Judge Lacks Jurisdiction in Tribal Gambling Monopoly Suit, Law360, Apr. 28, 2022.

Political Activity

Pan made a $500 contribution to the Presidential Campaign of John Kerry in 2004, her only contribution of record. Center for Responsive Politics, https://www.opensecrets.org/donor-lookup/results?name=florence+pan&cycle=&state=&zip=&employ=&cand= (last visited Apr. 1, 2021).

Overall Assessment

Pan’s 68-30 confirmation in 2021 was a landslide by the standards that most Biden Administration nominees have seen. Her nomination to the D.C. Circuit is likely intended to produce a similar comfortable confirmation for a seat that Administration must fill. While Pan is likely to face significantly more opposition for this seat, she will nonetheless likely be confirmed without too much controversy.

Judge Elizabeth Hanes – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia

Judge Elizabeth Hanes is, like Biden’s last nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, a former federal defender and U.S. Magistrate Judge.

Background

Elizabeth Wilson Hanes received her B.A. from the University of Richmond in 2000 and her J.D. from the University of Richmond School of Law in 2007.

After graduation, Hanes clerked for Judge Joseph Goodwin on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia and then for Judge Robert King on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Hanes then spent seven years as an assistant federal public defender in the Eastern District of Virginia before joining the firm Consumer Litigation Associates, P.C.

In 2020, Hanes was appointed as a U.S. Magistrate Judge in the Alexandria Division of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. She continues to serve there today.

History of the Seat

Hanes has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. This seat opened on November 1, 2021, when Judge John Gibney moved to senior status. Hanes was recommended, along with federal prosecutor Melissa O’Boyle, by Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine to the White House in November 2021.

Legal Experience

Outside of her clerkships, Hanes started her legal career as a federal defender in the Eastern District of Virginia. For example, Hanes represented James Edward May II, who was sentenced to thirty years in prison for production of child pornography. See Frank Green, Powhatan Man Receives 30 Years in Child Porn Case, Richmond Times Dispatch, Nov. 3, 2012. The position also allowed Hanes to argue before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. See, e.g., United States v. Winfield, 665 F.3d 107 (4th Cir. 2012).

From 2016 to 2020, Hanes practiced civil litigation at Consumer Litigation Associates, P.C. in Newport News. Among the matters she handled there, Hanes filed an amicus brief before the Fourth Circuit on behalf of the Federal Public Defender’s Office in a case holding whether the Federal Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 can be justified under Congress’ Commerce Clause power. See United States v. Hill, 927 F.3d 188 (4th Cir. 2019). The Fourth Circuit upheld the Act as a valid exercise of Congress’ Commerce power.

Jurisprudence

Hanes has served as a U.S. Magistrate Judge since 2020. In this capacity, Hanes oversees discovery, adjudicates cases where jurisdiction is consented to, and presides over settlement. She also oversees pretrial detention, and administrative appeals. See, e.g., Anthony A. v. Kijakazi, 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 61087 (E.D. Va. Mar. 30, 2022) (upholding ALJ decision not to consider the VA’s 100% disability determination).

Overall Assessment

Nominees to the federal bench in Virginia have generally not attracted much opposition, regardless of the president making the appointments. In fact, not since the nomination of Judge Glen Conrad to the Fourth Circuit has a Virginia federal nominee not been confirmed. Hanes is likely to maintain that trend.

Lara Montecalvo – Nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

Lara Montecalvo, appointed to be public defender in Rhode Island, after her predecessor was appointed to the bench, looks likely to follow suit.

Background

The 48-year-old Montecalvo received a B.A. from Swarthmore College in 1996 and her J.D. from Boston College Law School in 2000. After graduating, Montecalvo spent four years in the Tax Division of the United States Department of Justice before joining the Rhode Island Public Defender’s Office. Montecalvo joined the Office’s Appellate Division, and was appointed its head in 2014, and the official Public Defender in 2020.

History of the Seat

Montecalvo has been nominated for a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. This seat opened when Judge Ojetta Rogeriee Thompson announced her desire to take senior status upon the confirmation of a successor.

Legal Experience

While Montecalvo started her legal career at the Department of Justice where she worked primarily in bankrupctcy, see, e.g., In re. Claxton, 335 B.R. 680 (Bankr. N.D. Ill. 2002), she has spent the past 18 years at the Rhode Island Public Defender’s Office, where she has represented indigent defendants. Montecalvo started her time at the office as a trial attorney, representing Rachin McCoy, who was sentenced to life in prison for the death of his baby daughter, after he beat her under the influence of marijuana. See Mark Reynolds, Man Gets Life in Daughter’s Death, Providence Journal, Oct. 20, 2011.

Since 2010, Montecalvo has primarily handled appeals, including serving as Chief of the Appellate Division from 2014 to 2020, when Governor Gina Raimondo appointed Montecalvo to be Rhode Island’s Public Defender, replacing Mary McElroy, who was appointed to the federal bench. Donita Taylor, Masked R.I. Senate Panel Confirms Nominee for Public Defender, Providence Journal, May 28, 2020. Among the appeals, she has handled:

  • The Supreme Court overturned a conviction for Possession with Intent to Distribute based on a prosecutor cross-examining the Defendant based on false information about his criminal history. See State v. Price, 68 A.3d 440 (R.I. 2013). See also Tracy Breton, Drug Conviction Flawed, State’s High Court Rules, Providence Journal, June 24, 2013.
  • The Supreme Court overturned a murder conviction where the defendant had been improperly barred from cross-examining a detective who had interviewed him. State v. Arciliares, 108 A.3d 1040 (R.I. 2015).
  • The Supreme Court overturned a murder conviction, finding that evidence obtained through a warrantless search of the man’s home should have been suppressed. See State v. Gonzalez, 136 A.3d 1131 (R.I. 2016). See also Katie Mulvaney, Man’s Conviction in 2012 Warwick Murder Overturned in Court Ruling; State Supreme Court Says Search of Home, Arrest Were Both Faulty, Providence Journal, Mar. 30, 2016.
  • The Supreme Court upheld a conviction for sexual assault, finding that the defendant had validly waived his Miranda rights. State v. Sabourin, 161 A.3d 1132 (R.I. 2017).
  • The Supreme Court upheld a conviction for second degree murder, finding that the prosecutor’s reference to the defendant as a “scam artist” and a “career thief” were not improper given the defendant’s criminal history. State v. Lastarza, 203 A.3d 1159 (R.I. 2019).
  • The Supreme Court overturned a conviction after a prosecutor improperly claimed in closing arguments that the defendant “stared down” the victim in court. State v. Bozzo, 223 A.3d 755 (R.I. 2020). Barry Bridges, New Trial Required Due to Extraneous Closing Comments, Opinion Digest, Jan. 23, 2020.

Additionally, as Public Defender, Montecalvo has continued a partnership between her office and the Lifespan Transitions Clinic, which has worked since 2018 to help provide healthcare for individuals transitioning from prison into the community. Katie Mulvaney, Breaking the Cycle: First-of-its-Kind Partnership Aims to Help Repeat Offenders By Bringing Medical Perspective to Criminal Trials, Providence Journal, May 30, 2021.

Writings

In 2016, Montecalvo coauthored a paper with two other appellate attorneys in Rhode Island discussing the Rhode Island probation system. See Lara Montecalvo, Kara Maguire, and Angela Yingling, No Exit, No End: Probation in Rhode Island, 21 Roger Williams U. L. Rev. 316 (Spring 2016). The article discusses the challenges in the probation system in Rhode Island and recommends a number of legal and policy changes. Id. at 318. Among the changes it recommends, the article suggests that the burden of proof in probation hearings be raised from the “reasonable satisfaction” standard to “beyond a reasonable doubt” or “preponderance of the evidence.” Id. at 340-41. The article also recommends capping terms of probation. Id. at 351.

Overall Assessment

Biden’s judicial nominees have been particularly notable for their large proportion of public defenders, and Montecalvo joins that trend. Montecalvo’s record shows a strong understanding of Rhode Island criminal law, and, suggests little that would threaten a smooth Senate confirmation.

Anne Nardacci – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York

One of the oldest judicial vacancies in the country is on the Northern District of New York, open for approximately six years. After the two prior presidents failed to fill this seat, President Biden is taking a shot with Anne Nardacci.

Background

The 45-year-old Anne M. Nardacci got her Bachelor of Arts from Georgetown University in 1998 and, after a year on the staff of Congressman Michael McNulty, went on to earn her J.D. from Cornell Law School in 2002. After law school, Nardacci spent three years at the New York office of Skadden, Arps, Slate Meagher & Flom.

In 2005, Nardacci joined the Albany office of Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, where she still works.

History of the Seat

Nardacci has been nominated to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York. This seat opened on January 1, 2016, when Judge Gary Sharpe moved to senior status. While the seat opened with a year left in the Obama Administration, the Administration never extended a nominee for the vacancy and it was carried over into the Trump Administration. In October 2018, upon the recommendation of two Republican Congressmen in New York, Lee Zeldin and John Faso, President Trump nominated New York Judge Thomas Marcelle for the vacancy. Marcelle had also been nominated for a federal judgeship by President George W. Bush but was blocked by Senator Charles Schumer. Robert Gavin, Marcelle Seen in Line for Federal Judgeship, Houston Chronicle, May 4, 2018, https://www.chron.com/local/article/Marcelle-seen-in-line-for-federal-judgeship-12889507.php. This time around, Marcelle was blocked by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand over his record on abortion, and Marcelle withdrew his nomination in August 2019. Robert Gavin and Mike Goodwin, Gillibrand Blocks Area Judge’s Nomination, Albany Times Union, Aug. 30, 2019, https://www.pressreader.com/usa/albany-times-union/20190830/281535112661040. On August 12, 2020, McAllister was nominated in a second try to fill this seat. His nomination was also not processed before the end of the Trump Administration.

In November 2021, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer recommended Nardacci to fill this seat on the Northern District of New York. See Marco Poggio, Schumer Puts Forward Boies Schiller Partner for NY Court, Law360, Nov. 15, 2021. Nardacci was nominated on April 27, 2022.

Legal Experience

Nardacci has spent her entire career in private practice, starting at Skadden Arps, and then working at Boies Schiller in Albany. At Boies, Nardacci works primarily in antitrust litigation, both in defending companies, and on the affirmative side, working as outside counsel in state investigations and enforcement actions.

The notable cases that Nardacci participated in include antitrust litigation over cathode ray tubes in the Northern District of California. See In re Cathode Ray Tube Antritrust Litig. (N.D. Cal.) In another notable case, Nardacci represented AngioDynamics, a medical device manufacturer, in a suit alleging anticompetitive behavior by C.R. Bard, a rival company. See Caitlin Stefanik, AngioDynamics Lawsuit Alleges C.R. Bard is Violating Antitrust Laws, Harming Competition and Limiting Access, Financial Buzz, May 31, 2017. An attempt by C.R. Bard to dismiss the lawsuit for failure to state a claim was denied by Judge Brenda Sannes. See AngioDynamics, Inc. v. C.R. Bard, Inc., 1:17-cv-00598 (N.D.N.Y. Aug. 8, 2018) (J. Sannes).

Additionally, Nardacci represented a debtor in a class action lawsuit regarding whether the discharge provisions of the Bankruptcy Code conflict with the Federal Arbitration Act. See Vince Sullivan, High Court Won’t Hear Bank’s Bid to Arbitrate Ch. 7 Debt, Law360, Mar. 8, 2021. The suit ended in a Second Circuit judgment in the debtor’s favor and a denial of certiorari by the Supreme Court. See id.

Political Activity

Nardacci has been a frequent political donor, having given to the Presidential campaigns of Obama and Biden, as well as the Senate campaign of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

Overall Assessment

As a commercial and antitrust litigator, Nardacci has attracted little controversy over her career. Barring the unexpected, she should see a comfortable confirmation before the end of the year.

Judge Sarah Merriam – Nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

After only about six months on the federal district court bench, Judge Sarah Merriam is now poised for elevation to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Background

Sarah A.L. Merriam earned her B.A. from Georgetown University in 1993 and her J.D. from Yale Law School in 2000. After graduating law school, Merriam joined the Hartford office of Cowdery, Ecker, & Murphy as an Associate. In 2007, Merriam moved to the public sector as an Assistant Federal Defender, staying in the office for eight years. In 2015, Merriam was chosen to be a federal magistrate judge, replacing Judge Holly Fitzsimmons.

On June 15, 2021, President Joseph Biden nominated Merriam to the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut. Merriam was confirmed by the Senate on October 6, 2021 and has served as a U.S. District Court judge since.

History of the Seat

Merriam has been nominated to a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit for a seat to be vacated upon confirmation (likely by Judge Susan Carney).

Legal Career

Merriam started her legal career as an associate at Cowdery, Ecker, & Murphy, where she worked alongside partner Steven Ecker, who now serves on the Connecticut Supreme Court. Among the cases that Merriam and Ecker worked on together, they represented Directors of Reflexite Corp. in defending against a suit alleging that they violated their fiduciary duties to the corporation. See Frank v. LoVetere, 363 F. Supp. 2d 327 (D. Conn. 2005).

From 2007 to 2014, Merriam worked in the Office of the Federal Defender, representing indigent defendants in Connecticut federal court. Among the cases she handled with the office, Merriam represented Michael Danzi, one of two brothers charged with participating in a drug distribution ring importing marijuana from Canada. United States v. Danzi, 726 F. Supp. 2d 109 (D. Conn. 2009).

Jurisprudence

Merriam served as a U.S. Magistrate Judge since her appointment in 2015, where she handles detention, discovery disputes, misdemeanors, and social security/benefits cases. As an example of a matter she handled, Merriam affirmed an administrative decision denying disability benefits for Dana Poole, finding that substantial evidence supported the determination that Poole’s disabilities were not sufficiently severe to qualify her for the benefits. Poole v. Saul, 462 F. Supp.3d 137 (D. Conn. 2020).

In another notable decision, Merriam ruled against the Libertarian Party of Connecticut, finding that the plaintiffs had not shown that Connecticut’s petitioning requirements were overly burdensome on the party. Libertarian Party of Conn. v. Merrill, 470 F. Supp. 3d (D. Conn. 2020).

Since October 2021, Merriam has served as a U.S. District Judge. In her limited tenure as a District Judge, Merriam presided over the corruption trial of State Rep. Michael DiMassa, accused of embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars of epidemic relief money. See Chris Powell, Corruption in Connecticut Switches Political Parties, Manchester Journal Enquirer, Oct. 27, 2021. Merriam also presided over a suit by Yale Law students alleging retaliation for their refusal to lie in a faculty investigation, in which she declined to allow the plaintiffs to proceed pseudonymously.. See Eugene Volokh, No Pseudonymity in Yale Law School DinnerPartyGate Lawsuit, Volokh Conspiracy, Jan. 19, 2022.

In other rulings, Merriam found that a Federal Tort Claims Act suit brought by a Honduran immigrant was outside the statute of limitations. See Grace Dixon, Honduran Migrant’s Rape Case Against ICE Agent Too Late, Law360, Mar. 29, 2022.

Overall Assessment

Merriam’s initial confirmation to the bench was relatively uncontentious, even though she still drew opposition from the vast majority of Senate Republicans. While Merriam may draw 2-3 Republican votes for elevation at most, she is still favored for confirmation.