Judge Julia K. Munley – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania

The daughter of former federal judge James Munley, Julia K. Munley is poised to fill her father’s old seat on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.


The 57 year old Munley was born into a storied Pennsylvania family, with her great-grandfather, grandfather, and grandmother having served in the Pennsylvania General Assembly as Democrats. Munley attended Marywood University in Scranton, receiving a B.A. degree in 1987, and subsequently getting a law degree from Penn State Dickinson Law in 1992.

After graduating, Munley clerked for Judge Stephen McEwen with the Pennsylvania Superior Court and then joined Masterson, Braunfield, Maguire & Brown as an Associate. In 1995, Munley switched to Mazzoni & Karam, and in 2001, became a partner at Munley Law.

In 2016, Governor Tom Wolf appointed Munley to the Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County, where she currently serves.

History of the Seat

The seat Munley has been nominated for opened on September 30, 2022, with the move to senior status of Judge Robert Mariani. Mariani, in turn, replaced Munley’s father, Judge James Munley, in 2011.

Legal Experience

While she has shifted firms on occasion, Munley spent the first twenty five years of her career in private practice, practicing in state and federal court. Notably, Munley argued before the Third Circuit (with a panel including then-Judge Samuel Alito) on behalf of Wayne Stevens, who was accused of sexual harassment and won a four-day jury trial. See Johnson v. Elk Lake Sch. Dist., 283 F.3d 138 (3d Cir. 2002). The Third Circuit unanimously upheld the district court’s denial of the plaintiff’s motion for a new trial. See id. Munley also represented numerous Allstate agents in a suit against the insurance company alleging improper termination. See Romero v. Allstate Ins. Co., (E.D. Pa. July 6, 2016).

On the state court side, Munley has handled civil claims, including insurance litigation. See, e.g., Md. Casualty Co. v. McGrath, No. 355 MDA 2015 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2015).

Judicial Experience

From 2016, Munley has served as a Judge on the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas, which are the primary trial courts in Pennsylvania. As a judge, Munley presided over cases in civil and criminal matters, as well as domestic relations, juvenile, and family law matters. A number of Munley’s rulings in family law matters have been appealed to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, which has affirmed. See, e.g., In the Interest of MM-A, No. 928 MDA 2017 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2017); Jablonowski v. Jablonowski, No. 1481 MDA 2018 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2019); B.V. v. J.W., No. 746 MDA 2020 (Pa. Super. 2020); Jones v. Jones, No. 1647 MDA 2021 (Pa. Super. 2022).

In a notable opinion, Munley held that a plaintiff corporation could sue in Pennsylvania state court without registering with the state as it had sufficient activity within the state. See SMS Financial Ch., LLC v. Bolus Truck Parts & Towing, Inc., No. 542 MDA 2022 (Pa. Super. 2022). The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed Munley’s ruling, finding it to be “detailed and well-reasoned” and that it “accurately and thoroughly disposes of the standing issue.” See id.

Political Activity

Munley has donated extensively throughout her political career until her ascension to the bench. Her donations are exclusively to Democrats, including Wolf, President Biden, and former Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Overall Assessment

Munley is the first Pennsylvania nominee, since Senator Eastland made the blue slip a home-state veto, who would not need a blue slip from a Republican senator to reach the bench. That being said, her extensive home state contacts and legal experience, alongside her relative lack of controversy makes her a consensus nominee.

Susan K. DeClercq – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan

Ford Motor Executive Susan DeClercq has spent the last eighteen years in a civil role at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit. If confirmed, she would be the first judge of East Asian origin to join the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.


Susan K. DeClercq received a B.A. from the University of Michigan in 1995 and her J.D. magna cum laude from the Wayne State University School of Law in 1998.

After graduation, DeClercq clerked for Judge Avern Cohn on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan and then joined the D.C. office of Skadden Arps SLate Meagher & Flom as an associate. In 2004, DeClercq returned to Michigan to be a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan. In 2022, she left that position to go in-house with Ford Motor Company in Dearborn.

History of the Seat

DeClercq has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. This seat opened on June 14, 2022, when Judge Stephanie Dawkins Davis was elevated to the Sixth Circuit.

Legal Career

While DeClercq started her career at Skadden Arps in D.C., she has spent the vast majority of her career as an Assistant U.S. Attorney with the Eastern District of Michigan. During her time with the office, DeClercq rose to the Chief of the Civil Division and Chief of the Civil Rights Unit. In this role, DeClercq worked on civil cases, defending decisions made regarding social security benefits. See, e.g., Hyde v. Barnhart, 375 F. Supp. 2d 568 (E.D. Mich. 2005). See also Walters v. Leavitt, 376 F. Supp. 2d 746 (E.D. Mich. 2005) (challenging Medicaire benefits decisions by the Secretary of Health and Human Services). DeClercq also participated in affirmative civil cases, including suing the State of Michigan regarding alleged employment discrimination in the Department of Corrections. See United States v. Michigan, Civil Action No. 16-cv-12146 (E.D. Mich. July 12, 2018). Additionally, DeClercq also worked on immigration cases. See, e.g., Issa v. Mueller, 486 F. Supp. 2d 668 (E.D. Mich. 2007). Lucaj v. Dedvukaj, 749 F. Supp. 2d 601 (E.D. Mich. 2010) (seeking declaratory award of naturalization).

Notably, DeClercq led a suit against the City of Troy, challenging their zoning ordinance for discriminating against places of worship under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”). See United States v. City of Troy, 592 F. Supp. 3d 591 (E.D. Mich. 2022).

Over the last year, DeClercq has worked in-house with the Ford Motor Company, where she works as Director and Counsel for Special Investigations.

Political Activity

In 2022, DeClercq made a single donation to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, her only partisan donation of record.

Overall Assessment

There is little in DeClercq’s career that is likely to attract controversy in the confirmation process. Barring a poor performance at her confirmation hearing, she should be confirmed in due course.

Judge Vernon Oliver – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut

For the past fourteen years, Vernon D. Oliver has served as a judge on the Superior Court in Middlesex, Connecticut. Now, with the support of Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, Oliver has been nominated for the District of Connecticut.


Vernon D. Oliver earned his B.A. from the University of Connecticut in 1994 and his J.D. from the University of Connecticut Law School in 1997. After graduating law school, Oliver spent a year at Monstream & May LLP in Glastonbury before joining the State of Connecticut Division of Criminal Justice as an assistant state’s attorney. In 2004, Oliver joined the Connecticut Attorney General’s Office. In 2009, Gov. M. Jodi Rell appointed Oliver to be a judge on the Middlesex District Superior Court, where he currently serves.

History of the Seat

Oliver was nominated to a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut on May 4, 2023. The vacancy opened on November 1, 2022, with Judge Stefan Underhill’s move to senior status.

Legal Career

Oliver started his legal career in the Glastonbury office of Monstream and May, but became an assistant state’s attorney after just a year there. As an assistant state’s attorney, Oliver prosecuted a variety of crimes, including briefing cases before appellate courts. See, e.g., State v. Buddhu, 65 Conn. App. 104 (2001). That case involved a state appeal of a trial judge’s decision to dismiss the charge against the defendant by finding that the search warrant underlying the evidence was invalid. See id. The appellate court disagreed and affirmed. See id. at 106. In another notable case, Oliver was part of a legal team that successfully persuaded the Connecticut Supreme Court to reinstate a conviction thrown out by the appellate court. See State v. Ramos, 271 Conn. 785 (2004).

In 2004, Oliver shifted to Connecticut Attorney General’s Office, working under Blumenthal, who was then the elected Attorney General. While with the office, Oliver worked on child protection matters, also appearing before appellate courts. See, e.g., In re Stephen M., 953 A.2d 668 (Conn. App. 2008).


Oliver has served as a Judge on the Connecticut Superior Court since 2009, when he was appointed by Gov. M. Jodi Rell. In this role, Oliver has served as a trial court judge, presiding over criminal, civil, family, and housing cases. Among his rulings, Oliver rejected a habeas claim brought by a pro se inmate, who alleged that his constitutional rights were being violated by correctional staff by preventing him from mailing unauthorized items. See Dorlette v. Melendez, No. 3:15-cv-1856 (VAB) (D. Conn. Feb. 26, 2020). Oliver presided over a bench trial in the case and ruled against the plaintiff, which he failed to timely appeal. See id. Instead, the plaintiff filed a federal suit, where Judge Victor Bolden granted summary judgment to the defendants, essentially affirming Oliver’s ruling. See id.

Overall Assessment

Oliver has served on the state bench for fourteen years, and has an additional ten years of litigation experience with little controversy behind him. Barring the unexpected, he should be confirmed in due course.

Judge Loren AliKhan – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

D.C. Court of Appeals Judge Loren AliKhan has been tapped for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench. While AliKhan’s first Senate confirmation was relatively smooth, she will likely draw more opposition this time around.


Born June 24, 1983, Loren Linn AliKhan graduated from Bard’s College at Simon’s Rock in 2003 and then received her J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center in 2006.

After graduating, AliKhan clerked for Judge Louis Pollak on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and for Judge Thomas L. Ambro on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit before joining the Department of Justice as a Bristow Fellow in the Office of the Solicitor General. AliKhan then joined the Washington D.C. office of O’Melveny & Myers as an associate.

In 2013, AliKhan joined the D.C. Attorney General’s Office to work as Deputy Solicitor General. In 2018, she was appointed by Attorney General Karl Racine to be Solicitor General for the District of Columbia.

On September 30, 2021, AliKhan was nominated by President Biden to become a judge on the D.C. Court of Appeals (not to be confused with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit), replacing Judge John Fisher. AliKhan was confirmed to the position on February 8, 2022 by a 55-41 vote and has served on the D.C. Court of Appeals since February 18, 2022.

History of the Seat

The seat AliKhan has been nominated for opened on May 1, 2023 from Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s move to senior status.

Legal Experience

AliKhan started her legal career as a clerk to Judge Louis Pollak on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and then for Judge Thomas L. Ambro on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. After a brief stint with the Solicitor General’s office, AliKhan joined O’Melveny & Myers, where she litigated primarily in federal court. Notably, AliKhan was part of the legal team representing a noncitizen challenging a determination that his convictions for simple drug possession constituted “aggravated felonies” that warranted adverse immigration consequences. See Carachuri-Rosado v. Holder, 560 U.S. 563 (2010). In that case, AliKhan and O’Melveny worked with the University of Houston Law Center alongside the primary petitioner’s counsel Sri Srinivasan (currently a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit). Notably, AliKhan’s team was opposed by then-Solicitor General Elena Kagan (currently a Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court). The case ended with a unanimous ruling in favor of the petitioner. See id. AliKhan was also on the legal team representing Cheryl Perich, a teacher who successfully sought a judgment arguing that her religious employer had unlawfully fired her under federal antidiscrimination laws. See Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical v. EEOC, 565 U.S. 171 (2012). The Supreme Court ultimately sided in favor of the employer, finding that the ministerial exception to anti discrimination laws applies whenever an employer engages in hiring and firing of a “minister.” See id.

In 2013, AliKhan joined the D.C. Attorney General’s Office as Deputy Solicitor General. In this role, AliKhan was part of the legal team defending D.C.’s licensing requirements for tour guides within the city, which were struck down as violating the First Amendment. See Edwards v. District of Columbia, 755 F.3d 996 (D.C. Cir. 2014). Notably, AliKhan was part of the legal team defending against an unlawful arrest suit brought by partygoers who had been arrested for unlawful entry after being granted access by an individual who was not the property owner. See Wesby v. District of Columbia, 765 F.3d 13 (D.C. Cir. 2014). After the district court granted summary judgment to the plaintiffs and the D.C. Circuit affirmed 2-1, the Supreme Court unanimously reversed, finding that the arrests were supported by probable cause. See District of Columbia v. Wesby, 583 U.S. ___ (2018).

Additionally, as Deputy Solicitor General, AliKhan argued one case before the Supreme Court, arguing that a Title VII claim filed by a Department of Health code inspector was barred by the statute of limitations. See Artis v. District of Columbia, 583 U.S. ____ (2018). In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court reversed a lower court dismissal and found that a tolling provision in federal law benefited the plaintiff. See id.

In 2018, AliKhan became Solicitor General for the District of Columbia. In this role, AliKhan frequently joined other Democratic Attorneys General and Solicitors General in impact litigation around the country. Notably, AliKhan joined California in challenging a Texas suit seeking invalidation of the Affordable Care Act. See California v. Texas, 593 U.S. ___ (2021). The suit ended with a 7-2 Supreme Court ruling finding that Texas lacked standing to challenge the ACA individual mandate. See id.

Judicial Experience

Since her confirmation in 2022, AliKhan has served as a Judge on the D.C. Court of Appeals, overseeing appeals from the D.C. Superior Court. In her tenure on the court, AliKhan has, so far, authored ten opinions for the court. Of these opinions, all of which were unanimous, two involved challenges to criminal convictions. In one case, AliKhan affirmed the defendant’s conviction for first degree sexual abuse. In the other, AliKhan reversed convictions for second-degree murder and possession of a firearm due to the erroneous admission of testimony from a previous trial, finding error in the determination that the witness was unavailable.

An additional three cases involved professional misconduct by attorneys. In each case, AliKhan affirmed the finding of misconduct, although she reduced the penalty in one suit from a 90-day suspension to a 30-day suspension.

Two other cases involved family law. In one case, AliKhan affirmed a lower court award of sanctions against a father who filed frivolous adoption petitions for his children in Washington D.C. when a West Virginia court had already awarded custody to the mother. In the other, AliKhan reversed a lower court denial of a grandfather’s petition to intervene in a custody case involving his granddaughter, finding that the proper standard had not been applied.

The final three cases are civil in nature. In the first, AliKhan wrote for the court in ordering the dismissal of a judgment as moot. In the second, AliKhan affirmed a breach of contract judgment against a tenant but reversed the calculation of damages and sent the case back for recalculation. In the final case, AliKhan reversed a lower court decision finding that a rent contract failed to set adequately detailed price terms to be enforceable.

Overall Assessment

At 39, AliKhan has a significant record of legal achievements, including a Supreme Court argument. However, her involvement in a number of controversial cases, including Hosanna-Tabor and California v. Texas is likely to draw scrutiny. While AliKhan attracted the votes of seven Republicans the first time around, her second round is likely to be more contentious.

Judge Irma Carrillo Ramirez – Nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

U.S. Magistrate Judge Irma Carrillo Ramirez was tapped for the federal bench late in the Obama Administration. Despite support from Texas Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, Ramirez was never confirmed. Today, with Cornyn and Cruz supporting her again, President Biden has tapped Ramirez for the Fifth Circuit.


Born in 1964 to a family of immigrants from Mexico, Irma Carrillo Ramirez graduated from West Texas A&M University in 1986 and received a J.D. from the Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law in 1991.

After graduating, Ramirez spent four years at Locke Purnell Rain Harrell P.C. in Dallas (now Locke Lord LLP), before becoming a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas.

In 2002, Ramirez became a federal magistrate judge with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. She serves in that capacity today.

On March 15, 2016, President Obama nominated Ramirez to replace Judge Terry Means on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. While Ramirez received a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 7, 2016, the Committee never voted her nomination out, and Ramirez was never confirmed. President Trump did not renominate Ramirez, instead filling the seat with Judge Ada Brown.

History of the Seat

Ramirez has been nominated for a Texas seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. This seat opened on August 31, 2022 with Judge Gregg Costa’s resignation from the court. Ramirez, who is eight years older than Costa, was recommended for the position by Texas senators Cornyn and Cruz.

Legal Career

Ramirez started her career in private practice in Dallas, primarily practicing commercial and employment litigation. For example, Ramirez was part of the legal team defending the Service Merchandise Company in a employment discrimination lawsuit brought by a plaintiff who was fired for allegedly harassing female employees. See Manison v. Service Merchandise Co., No. 3:02-cv-909-R (N.D. Tex.) (Buchmeyer, J.).

From 1995 to 2002, Ramirez worked as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Dallas, starting in the Civil Division and then moving to the Criminal Division. On the civil side, Ramirez defended the Department of the Interior in a multi-plaintiff reverse race and gender discrimination lawsuit, which ended with a jury verdict in favor of the plaintiffs. See Arnold, et al. v. Babbitt, 213 F.3d 193 (5th Cir. 2000) (appeal from jury trial verdict on attorney’s fees). On the criminal side, Ramirez led the prosecution of ten codefendants for the manufacturing and distributing of methamphetamines. See United States v. Adds, et al., No. 3:01-CR-93-P (N.D. Tex.) (Solis, J.).


For the past twenty years, Ramirez has served as a magistrate judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. In this role, Ramirez has presided over discovery disputes, as well as making reports and recommendations and handling agency appeals. Ramirez also presides over civil cases with the consent of the parties. Notably, Ramirez presided over a three-day bench trial over a failure to police lawsuit brought against the City of Dallas, ultimately ruling for the defendants, a decision that was affirmed on appeal. See Cox v. City of Dallas, 430 F.3d 734 (5th Cir. 2005), reh’g en banc denied, 160 F. App’x 163 (5th Cir. 2005), cert. denied, 547 U.S. 1130 (2006). In another trial, Ramirez presided over a breach of contract bench trial and awarded judgment to the plaintiff on primary claims and to the defendant on a counterclaim. See Always at Market, Inc. v. Girardi, et al., 2009 WL 1033650 (N.D. Tex. Apr. 16, 2009).

In more recent decisions, Ramirez recommended the dismissal of a wrongful death lawsuit filed against the City of Dallas by the family of Botham Jean, who was shot and killed by Amber Guyger, then serving as a Dallas police officer. See Jim Schutze, Dallas Can Grieve for Botham jean Without Bowing to Shame, Dallas Observer, Oct. 9, 2019, https://www.dallasobserver.com/news/grief-for-botham-jean-does-not-require-shame-from-dallas-11775689. Ramirez found that the complaint failed to allege a sufficient policy and pattern of behavior to overcome immunity from liability. See id.

Most of Ramirez’s decisions have been adopted and affirmed by district court judges and by the Fifth Circuit. Among her reversals, the Fifth Circuit reversed Ramirez’s ruling that overturned a final arbitration award in a contract dispute, ruling for the defendant that the arbitration award should be confirmed. See OMG, LP v. Heritage Auctions Inc., 11 F. Supp. 3d. 740 (N.D. Tex. 2014), aff’d in part, rev’d in part and remanded by 612 F. App’x 207 (5th Cir. 2015).

Overall Assessment

With over three decades of legal experience and two decades on the bench, Ramirez has developed strong ties to the Dallas legal community. With the support of her home-state senators, she can expect a fairly smooth confirmation.

Judge Ana de Alba – Nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

In December 2022, Judge Paul Watford shocked the legal community by announcing that, at the age of 55, he was stepping off the prestigious U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to return to private practice. The Biden Administration, however, has put forward a nomination fairly quickly, Judge Ana de Alba.


Born Ana Isabel de Alba in 1979, the daughter of immigrant farmworkers, de Alba received her B.A. from the University of California Berkeley in 2002 and her J.D. in 2007 from the UC Berkeley School of Law. While a law student, de Alba worked with elementary and middle school students on mock trials. See Minerva Perez, Pupils Convene Court, Los Banos Enterprise, Mar. 30, 2007 After law school, de Alba joined Lang Richet & Patch PC. She also continued her work with mock trial. Thaddeus Miller, Mock Trial Enlightens View of Future for Los Banos Sixth-Graders, Los Banos Enterprise, Mar. 16, 2012. In 2018, de Alba was appointed to the Fresno County Superior Court by Governor Jerry Brown. On January 19, 2022, President Biden nominated de Alba to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. She was confirmed on June 21, 2022, and has served on the Eastern District since.

History of the Seat

de Alba has been nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, to a seat that will be vacated by the resignation of Judge Paul Watford on May 31, 2023.

Legal Experience

Other than a brief stint at the ACLU Immigrants Rights Project, de Alba spent her entire career before becoming a judge at Lang Richet & Patch PC. Among her work there, de Alba represented a credit union in a suit by borrowers alleging promissory fraud that went up to the California Supreme Court. See Riverisland Cold Storage Inc. v. Fresno-Madera Product, 55 Cal. 4th 1169 (Cal. 2013). The California Supreme Court overruled a prior ruling limiting the use of “parol evidence” (evidence of verbal or written agreements outside the language of a contract) in cases of promissory fraud. See id. at 1172. Additionally, while at the firm, de Alba received the Jack Berman Award of Achievement from the California Young Lawyers’ Association in 2012 for her pro bono work, including serving on the Board of Directors for Central California Legal Services, Inc. California Lawyers, Judges to Receive Awards for Legal Service and Excellence, Targeted News Service, Oct. 4, 2012.


State Court

Since 2018, de Alba has served as a Superior Court judge in Fresno County. In this role, she presides over civil, criminal, and domestic cases. Among the matters she handled on the bench, de Alba presided over a suit by the American Chemistry Council alleging that California had improperly listed SPF systems using methylene diphenyl diisocynates (MDI) as priority products for the state’s green chemistry program, restricting their commercial use. See Judge Questions Core ACC Claim in Suit Over DTSC Spray Foam Listing, Inside Cal/EPA, Jan. 15, 2021. de Alba ordered the delisting of the challenged products, while rejecting three other challenges. Judge Scraps California DTSC’s Spray Polyeurethane Foam Listing, Inside Cal/EPA, Apr. 2, 2021. California’s appeal of the ruling is currently pending. California Urges Appellate Court to Uphold Green Chemistry Product Listing, Inside Cal/EPA, Feb. 4, 2022.

Additionally, during the COVID-19 pandemic, de Alba gained some news attention for her rulings relating to scheduling and court compliance. In one ruling, de Alba refused to extend or excuse deadlines for a defendant’s community service, noting that she had seen no evidence that the defendant had worked towards the service before the pandemic hit. See Jeannette Parada, COVID-19 or No COVID-19, Fresno Judge Wants Defendant’s Community Service Done – Or It’s Jail, The People’s Vanguard of Davis, June 29, 2020. In another case, de Alba withdrew bench warrants that had been issued for defendants who failed to appear, noting that they did not have access to steady housing or transportation, and allowed them to participate virtually. See Phoebe Glick, Coronavirus Court Precautions Can Lead to Unforeseen Complications, The People’s Vanguard of Davis, Aug. 7, 2020.

In other rulings, de Alba found probable cause that a defendant had committed an act of domestic violence based on the testimony of the reporting officer. See Angelina Caplanis, Defender Argues Victim Lied on 911 Call; Judge Still Finds Probable Cause for Arrest, The People’s Vanguard of Davis, July 15, 2020.

Federal Court

Since her confirmation in June 2022, de Alba has served as a U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of California. In this role, de Alba has handled both civil and criminal cases. Among the civil cases she has handled, de Alba adopted a magistrate’s recommendation and declined to grant summary judgment against a pro se civil rights plaintiff for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. See Tran v. Smith, Case No. 1:19-cv-00148-ADA-SAB (PC). de Alba also granted a plaintiff’s motion to amend a breach of contract lawsuit against the City of Fresno. See David Taub, Granite Park Operator Adds New Accusations in Lawsuit vs. City, Elected Leaders, GV Wire, Feb. 8, 2023, https://gvwire.com/2023/02/08/granite-park-operator-adds-new-accusations-in-lawsuit-vs-city-elected-leaders/.

In a notable dispute, defendants sought to have de Alba thrown off presiding over a wage theft class action suit brought against Anthony Vineyards, Inc., arguing that de Alba’s past legal work on behalf of farmworkers would render her biased. See Jane Mundy, California Ranch Operator Says Judge is Biased in Second Wage Theft Class Action, Lawyers and Settlements.com, Feb. 9, 2023, https://www.lawyersandsettlements.com/legal-news/california_labor_law/california-ranch-operator-says-judge-biased-in-second-wage-theft-23686.html. However, their motion was ultimately denied. See Jennifer Bennett, Judge’s Past Employment Work Not Disqualifying in Wage Case, Bloomberg Law, Feb. 22, 2023, https://news.bloomberglaw.com/litigation/judges-past-employment-law-work-not-disqualifying-in-wage-case.

It appears that only one of de Alba’s opinions has received appellate review in her short tenure. In the opinion in question, the Ninth Circuit affirmed de Alba’s revocation of a defendant’s supervised release and her sentence of nine months. See United States v. Martinez, No. 22-10274 (9th Cir. Apr. 26, 2023).

Overall Assessment

Last year, de Alba had a relatively comfortable confirmation process, with few questions being raised and three Republican senators crossing party lines to support her. Based largely on her relatively uncontroversial tenure on the district court, there is little reason that her elevation should be different. However, appellate nominations always carry more contention and the absence of Senator Dianne Feinstein may slow down de Alba’s nomination somewhat. Nonetheless, Democrats still have more votes today than they did when de Alba was first confirmed, and she is strongly favored to be confirmed comfortably.

Judge Matthew Maddox – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.

The District Court of Maryland has a history of elevating magistrates to lifetime appointments, with Judges Stephanie Gallagher and Deborah Boardman elevated in the last few years. Two more have now been nominated, including Judge Matthew Maddox.


Matthew James Maddox received a B.A. summa cum laude from Morgan State University in 1999, and subsequently was selected as a Fulbright Scholar, while also spending some time in the Teach for America program. Maddox subsequently obtained a J.D. from Yale Law School in 2011.

After graduation, Maddox clerked for Judge Gerald Bruce Lee on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia and then for Judge Andre Davis on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Maddox subsequently spent two years at Hollard & Knight LLP before becoming a federal prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland.

In 2022, Maddox was appointed to be a U.S. Magistrate Judge for the District of Maryland to replace Judge Thomas DiGirolamo, where he currently serves.

History of the Seat

Maddox has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland to replace Judge Paul Grimm, who took senior status on December 11, 2022.

Legal Career

Maddox began his legal career as a law clerk on the Eastern District of Virginia and then on the Fourth Circuit. After his clerkships,she worked as an associate at Holland & Knight. During his tenure there, Maddox represented the video distribution service Sky Angel in a breach of contract action against Discovery Communications LLC. See Sky Angel U.S., LLC v. Discovery Communications, LLC. et al., 28 F. Supp. 3d 465 (D. Md. 2014).

From 2015 to 2022, Maddox worked as a federal prosecutor in Maryland. In his role, Maddox represented the United States in federal prosecutions before both the district and appellate courts. For example, Maddox argued before the Fourth Circuit where the Defendant challenged the seizure of his MacBook Pro, iPhone, and iPod at an airport, and the subsequent warrantless search of the devices. See United States v. Aigbekaen, 943 F.3d 713 (4th Cir. 2019). The Fourth Circuit found, contrary to Maddox’s arguments, that the searches were not justified under the “border search” exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement. See id. at 723. However, the Court nonetheless ruled in the government’s favor under the “good faith” exception. See id. at 725. Judge Jay Richardson concurred, finding that he would have found the search justified under the “border search” exception. See id. at 726 (Richardson, J., concurring).


Maddox has served as a U.S. Magistrate judge in Maryland since his appointment in 2022. In this role, he handles settlement, discovery, and makes recommendations on dispositive motions, while presiding over cases where the parties consent.

Maddox’s short tenure as a magistrate has left him with few substantive decisions under his belt. In the context of reviewing administrative denials of social security benefits, Maddox affirmed an ALJ decision that a plaintiff’s seizure disorder was not of a seriousness that prevented him from working and caused him to be disabled. See James L. v. Comm’r, Civil No. MJM-21-1718 (D. Md. Sept. 30, 2022). Maddox also granted summary judgment to Walmart in a slip-and-fall case, noting that it was not disputed between the parties that the store lacked actual or constructive knowledge of the hazard that caused the plaintiff’s injury. See McLaughlin v. Walmart, Inc., Civil Action MJM-21-1305 (D. Md. Mar. 20, 2023).

Maddox also presided over a bench trial in a case alleging damages after an EKG technician allegedly walked in on a female patient’s medical examination without permission. See Neal v. United States, Civil Action No. MJM 19-1033 (D. Md. Jan. 23, 2023). Maddox found in favor of the plaintiff on claims of professional negligence and negligent supervision, awarding $5000 in compensatory damages. See id. (Memorandum of Decision). Maddox found in favor of the defendants on the other claims. See id.

Overall Assessment

Compared to fellow nominee Hurson, Maddox should have the easier path to confirmation. There is little in his background that should cause controversy, although, as other experienced nominees have learned, the Judiciary Committee hearing can snag even those otherwise poised for confirmation.

Judge Brendan Hurson – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland

The District Court of Maryland has a history of elevating magistrates to lifetime appointments, with Judges Stephanie Gallagher and Deborah Boardman elevated in the last few years. Two more have now been nominated, including Judge Brendan Hurson.


Hurson received a B.A. cum laude from Providence College in 2000, and subsequently obtained a J.D. from the University of Maryland School of Law in 2005.

After graduation, Hurson clerked for Judge Margaret Seymour on the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina. After a year at the firm of Schulman, Hershfield & Gilden, P.A. in Baltimore, Hurson became a federal public defender in Maryland, where he stayed until 2022, except for a year as a public defender in the Virgin Islands.

In 2022, Hurson was appointed to be a U.S. Magistrate Judge for the District of Maryland to replace Boardman, who was elevated to a lifetime appointment. Hurson currently serves in that capacity.

History of the Seat

Hurson has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland to replace Judge George Hazel, who resigned from the bench on February 24, 2023.

Legal Career

Setting aside a short stint in private practice, Hurson has spent his pre-bench legal career as a federal public defender, representing indigent defendants in federal court. Among the defendants Hurson represented was Master Giddins, who was charged with bank robbery and conspiracy. See United States v. Giddins, 57 F. Supp. 3d 481 (D. Md. 2014). While in the Virgin Islands, Hurson was also able to represent Dequan Forde, who was charged with smuggling marijuana into the Virgin Islands. See United States v. Forde, Criminal Action No. 2018-0004 (D.V.I. Jan. 8, 2019). Hurson also had the opportunity to argue cases before the federal courts of appeal. See, e.g., United States v. James, No. 17-2536 (3d Cir. Apr. 23, 2018).


Hurson has served as a U.S. Magistrate judge in Maryland since his appointment in 2022. In this role, he handles settlement, discovery, and makes recommendations on dispositive motions as well as presiding over cases where the parties consent.

Given his short tenure as a magistrate, Hurson has not had an opportunity to create a firm jurisprudential record. A significant number of the cases that Hurson has handled consist of appeals of denials of social security benefits and discovery disputes. See, e.g., XL Specialty Insurance Co. v. Bighorn Construction & Reclamation LLC et al., Civil No. 21-3068-BAH (D. Md. Mar. 14, 2023) (Order Granting Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel DIscovery). In one exception, Hurson denied to dismiss a 1983 action and related claims against the Prince George’s Police Department and the owner of Largo Liquors as a sanction for failing to comply with the court’s orders, finding the grant of partial summary judgment on some claims and a remand of the remaining claims to state court to be a sufficient sanction. See Davis v. Kim, Civil No. 19-3605-BAH (D. Md. Sept. 16, 2022).

Overall Assessment

His two predecessors on the magistrate judge, Gallagher and Boardman, both had tortured paths to lifetime appointments but were ultimately able to be confirmed. While Hurson will likely face opposition for his experience in indigent defense, he is nonetheless favored to join the bench before the August recess.

Jeremy Daniel – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois

The Dirksen Courthouse - where the Northern District of Illinois sits.

Federal prosecutor Jeremy Daniel is the fifth of seven recommendations made by Illinois Senators to the Northern District bench to be nominated.


Jeremy Christen Daniel graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University in 2000 and got a J.D. from Loyola University Chicago School of Law in 2007.

After graduation, Daniel worked at Katten Muchin Rosenman’s Chicago office. In 2013, Daniel left to clerk for Judge Virginia Kendall on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Since 2014, Daniel has been a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois.

History of the Seat

Daniel has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. This seat opened on December 31, 2022 when Judge Gary Feinerman resigned to return to private practice.

Legal Career

Daniel started his legal career at the Chicago office of Katten Muchin Rosenman. While there, Daniel handled intellectual property cases, including defending a patent infringement action involving a portable screwdriver. See Easypower Corp. v. Jore Corp., 747 F. Supp. 2d 997 (N.D. Ill. 2010). He also represented defendant Apotex Corp. in defending a patent infringement suit against a series of generic drug manufacturers by AstraZeneca Corporation. See In re Rosuvastatin Calcium Patent Litig., 719 F. Supp. 2d 388 (D. Del. 2010).

Since 2014, Daniel has worked as a federal prosecutor. In that role, Daniel represents the United States before the Northern District of Illinois in criminal prosecutions. See, e.g., United States v. Fausto Lopez, No. 16 CR 169 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 13, 2016).

Notably, Daniel tried Chawain Lowe over three days for possession of a firearm. See United States v. Lowe, 502 F. Supp. 3d 1332 (N.D. Ill. 2020). Subsequent to the verdict, Judge Elaine Bucklo denied the defendant’s motion to overturn the verdict. See id.

Overall Assessment

As far as judicial nominees go, Jeremy Daniel has a fairly conventional background. There seems to be little that is likely to trip Daniel up during his confirmation process.

Darrel Papillion – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana

Longtime Baton Rouge attorney Darrel Papillion has extensive experience and cross-party bona fides going for him as he hopes to be the first Democratic appointee to the Louisiana federal trial bench since Judge John DeGravelles was appointed nine years ago.


Born in 1968, Darrel J. Papillion grew up in St. Landry parish in South-central Louisiana. He attended Louisiana State University, graduating in 1990 and then received a law degree from the Paul M. Hebert Law Center at LSU in 1994.

After graduation, Papillion clerked for Justice Catherine “Kitty” Kimball on the Louisiana Supreme Court. After completing his clerkship with Kimball, Papillion joined McGlinchey Stafford A.P.L.C. He shifted in 1999 to Moore, Walters & Thompson A.P.L.C. and again in 2001 to became a name partner in Moore, Walters, Thompson, Thomas, Papillion, & Cullens, A.P.L.C. In 2009, the firm shifted to be Moore, Papillion, Thomas & Cullens, LLC, where he currently serves as partner.

Papillion is a past president of the Louisiana Bar Association.

History of the Seat

Papillion has been nominated for a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. This seat was opened by the move of Judge Carl Barbier to senior status on January 1, 2023. Papillion has received support for his nomination from Republican Senator Bill Cassidy.

Legal Experience

Papillion has spent his career largely working in civil and commercial litigation, albeit in a number of different practices. Early in his career, Papillion persuaded the Louisiana Supreme Court to reverse an adverse judgment on a legal malpractice case against an Alabama attorney. See Alonso v. Line, 846 So.2d 745 (La. 2003).

More recently, Papillion has represented Louisiana Insurance Commissioner James Donelon in a suit alleging breach of contract and professional negligence by the Louisiana Health Cooperative. See Donelon v. Shilling, No. 2017 CW 1545 (La. Ct. App. 1st Cir. Feb. 28, 2019).

Notably, Papillion represented, alongside attorneys from the Elias Law Firm, plaintiffs challenging the configuration of Louisiana’s Congressional Districts as violating the U.S. and Louisiana constitutions. See English v. Ardoin, 335 So. 3d 272 (La. Ct. App. 4th Cir. 2022).


Papillion has written a number of articles on the law over the course of his career. Early on, Papillion coauthored a paper discussing deference to the trial court’s determinations in the appellate process. See Edward J. Walters Jr. & Darrel J. Papillion, Appellate Review of Mixed Questions of Law and Fact: Due Deference to the Fact Finder, 60 La. L. Rev. 541 (1999-2000). More recently, Papillion has expounded on professionalism in the legal community. See Darrel J. Papillion, Professionalism: Things That Will Happen to Do and What to Do When They Do, 64 Ann. Inst. on Min. L. 225 (2018).

Political Activity

Throughout his legal career, Papillion has donated extensively to political candidates. The vast majority of Papillion’s political donations have been to Democrats, including President Biden in 2020 as well as former President Barack Obama and Rep. Maxine Waters. However, Papillion also has a few donations to Republicans, including Rep. Garret Graves, gubernatorial candidate Eddie Rispone, and Supreme Court Justice (and now federal district judge) Greg Guidry.

Overall Assessment

Over the course of his career, Papillion has built a reputation as an experienced and knowledgeable litigator. Additionally, he is also well-connected on both sides of the aisle and should be poised for a comfortable confirmation as long as he maintains the support of his home-state senators.