Claria Horn Boom – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky & the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky

Claria Horn Boom has a relatively low profile for a federal judicial candidate.  Unlike other nominees put forward by the Trump Administration, Horn Boom hasn’t written extensively on her judicial philosophy, participated in the conservative legal movement, or built a strong litigation record.  In a confirmation process often marred by controversy, Horn Boom’s lack of a paper trail may serve her well.  However, it makes it difficult for litigants to anticipate the type of judge she will be.

Background

A native Kentuckyian, Horn Boom grew up in a Republican family in a small town in East Kentucky, where her mother served as county clerk for Martin County.[1]  Horn Boom attended Transylvania University in Lexington, graduating summa cum laude in 1991.  Horn Boom then attended Vanderbilt University Law School, graduating in 1994 with the Order of the Coif.  Horn Boom went on to clerk for Judge Pierce Lively on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

In 1995, Horn Boom joined the Atlanta office of King & Spalding, focusing on product liability and tort cases.  In 1998, Horn Boom returned to Kentucky as a federal prosecutor, focusing on the prosecution of financial crimes.  In 2005, Horn Boom became the first executive director of the Kentucky Equine Education Project, which advocates for the horse industry.[2]

In 2006, Horn Boom joined the Lexington office of Frost, Brown, Todd LLC., one of the largest midwestern law firms.  As a partner, Horn Boom focuses on advising businesses and financial institutions on matters, including real estate, regulations and litigation.

History of the Seat

Horn Boom has been nominated to a shared seat for the U.S. District Courts for the Eastern District of Kentucky and the Western District of Kentucky.  This seat opened on January 8, 2013, with the retirement of Clinton appointee Judge Jennifer Coffman.  While Coffman’s retirement was announced in 2012,[3] President Obama never sent a nominee to the Senate for the vacancy.  While the exact reason for the nominee is unclear, it is likely that Obama was unable to agree on a nominee with Kentucky Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul.  The Obama Administration did vet Courtney Baxter, a commonwealth’s attorney in Eastern Kentucky, and a Republican, for the vacancy, but ultimately decided against nominating her.[4]

Horn Boom’s name was first floated for the vacancy early in the Trump Presidency.[5]  She was ultimately nominated for the seat on June 7, 2017.

Legal Experience

Horn Boom has spent the majority of her legal career focused on advising and defending corporations and financial institutions.  As an associate at King & Spalding, however, Horn Boom represented General Motors in successfully defending a consent agreement granting the corporation credits against future taxes.[6]  Similarly, as a partner in Lexington, Horn Boom successfully defended Central Bank against a suit alleging violations of the Right to Financial Privacy Act.[7]  Horn Boom also helped implement a “$90 million acquisition of coal terminals and coal mines in Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia.”[8]

During her time as an AUSA, Horn Boom worked on financial crimes, including the prosecution of Gary Douglas Burks for a kickback scheme involving defense contracts.[9]  Horn Boom also successfully argued that the U.S. Attorney’s Office was not required to recuse itself in a case where the defendant had been represented by the newly appointed U.S. Attorney in his previous capacity.[10]

Political Activity

Horn Boom, who comes from a Republican family,[11] has a record of support for Republican candidates.[12]  Between 2001 and 2016, Horn Boom has donated approximately $4900 to Kentucky Republicans, including $1450 to McConnell and $1000 to Paul.[13]  Horn Boom also retweeted a message in support of Rep. Ryan Zinke’s candidacy for Secretary of the Interior.[14]

Overall Assessment

Unlike almost every other Trump judicial nomination, Horn Boom had a minority of ABA Standing Committee rate her “Not Qualified” for a federal judgeship.[15]  Typically, such ratings reflect either the relative youth of the candidate, lack of relevant experience, or ethical and temperament issues.  As Horn Boom is in her late 40s, and doesn’t seem to have any major ethical issues, it is possible that the low rating is based on Horn Boom’s focus on transactional law rather than litigation in the federal courts.

While Horn Boom has practiced as a federal prosecutor for several years, a search of both Westlaw and LexisNexis yields only a handful of cases where she is the counsel of record.  Furthermore, even her official profile at Frost Brown & Todd suggests that her primary expertise is in transactional law, not litigation.[16]

None of this suggests that Horn Boom is unqualified for the bench, or that she should not be confirmed.  Horn Boom is, by all accounts, an intelligent and non-ideological candidate.  Nevertheless, it is the responsibility of the Senate Judiciary Committee to probe Horn Boom’s background and judicial philosophy before voting to confirm.


[1] Andrew Wolfson, Two Women in Line for Federal Bench in Kentucky, Which Now Only Has One Female Judge out of 13, The Courier-Journal, May 9, 2017, http://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/2017/05/09/two-women-line-federal-bench-kentucky-which-now-only-has-one-female-judge-out-13/314847001/.

[2] See id.

[3] Jennifer Hewlett, U.S. District Judge Jennifer Coffman to Retire from the Bench, Lexington Herald Leader, March 7, 2012, http://www.kentucky.com/news/local/crime/article44159211.html.  

[4] See Andrew Wolfson, Baxter Being Vetted for Federal Bench, Clerk Says, The Courier-Journal, April 15, 2014, http://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/politics/2014/04/15/baxter-vetted-federal-bench-clerk-says/7755619/.

[5] See Wolfson, supra n. 1.

[6] See Fulton Cnty. Tax. Comm’r. v. General Motors Corp., 507 S.E.2d 772 (Ga. App. 1998).

[7] See Coffman v. Centr. Bank & Trust Co., 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 136757 (E.D. Ky., Sept. 25, 2012).

[9] See United States v. Burks, 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24481 at *18 n.10 (W.D. Ky. Aug. 10, 2001). See also Former Executive Admits Role in Kickback Scheme, The Courier-Journal, July 1, 2000, https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/110487250/.  

[10] See United States v. Huff, 2002 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15480 (W.D. Ky. Aug. 13, 2002).

[11] See Wolfson, supra n. 1.

[13] See id.

[15] See ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, Ratings of Article III and Article IV Judicial Nominees, 115th Cong., https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/uncategorized/GAO/Web%20rating%20Chart%20Trump%20115.authcheckdam.pdf.

3 Comments

  1. Pingback: Michael Lawrence Brown – Nominee for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia | The Vetting Room

  2. Pingback: “Chip” Campbell – Nominee for the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee | The Vetting Room

  3. Pingback: Eli Richardson – Nominee for the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee | The Vetting Room

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