Judge Susan Paradise Baxter – Nominee for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania

A well-respected magistrate judge with over twenty-two years on the bench, Judge Susan Paradise Baxter is a consensus nominee from the Trump Administration.  Her moderate background and support from senators of both parties, as well as her previous nomination from President Obama, should ensure a relatively smooth confirmation process.


A Western Pennsylvania native, Baxter was born Susan Rose Paradise on September 20, 1956, in Latrobe, in the Pittsburgh suburbs.[1]  Baxter attended Pennsylvania State University, overlapping with fellow nominee Marilyn Horan, and graduating with a B.S. in 1978.  Baxter went on to get a Masters in Education and then a Juris Doctor from Temple University.[2]

After graduating, Baxter joined Cole Raywid & Braverman (now Davis Wright & Tremaine LLP) in Washington D.C. as an associate.  In 1989, Baxter became a partner at the firm.

In 1994, Baxter returned to Pennsylvania to serve as a court solicitor for the Court of Common Pleas for Erie County.[3]  A year later, Baxter was named to be a federal magistrate judge for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.[4]  Baxter continues to serve in that position today.

History of the Seat

The seat Baxter has been nominated for opened on August 16, 2013, with the resignation of Judge Sean McLaughlin.  In August 2013, Baxter applied for a federal judgeship with the application committee set up by Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Pat Toomey (R-PA).[5]  Baxter interviewed with Casey and his staff in early 2015 and with Toomey in March of that year.[6]  In July 2015, Baxter was then nominated by President Obama for the vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.[7]

While Baxter had bipartisan support for the seat and was unanimously voted out of the Judiciary Committee in January 2016, she never received a floor vote and her nomination was returned at the end of the 114th Congress.

In January 2017, Toomey and Casey indicated their support for re-nominating Baxter for the Western District.  Baxter was officially re-nominated for the vacancy on December 20, 2017.[8]

Legal Experience

From 1983 to 1992, Baxter worked as an associate and a partner at Cole Raywid & Braverman in Washington D.C.  At the firm, Baxter handled approximately 100 cases, going to trial in ten cases.[9]  Among the most significant matters that Baxter handled at the firm, she represented a class of over one hundred former employees and stockholders of U.S. News & World Report in bringing an ERISA action.[10]  In 1994, Baxter’s family moved to Erie and Baxter worked as the Solicitor to the Erie County Court of Common Pleas, representing the judges on the court .[11]


Baxter has served as a federal magistrate judge for the last twenty two years.  During this time, Baxter handles pretrial matters in criminal and civil cases, as well as offering reports and recommendations to district court judges.[12]  Baxter also presides over civil cases with the consent of both parties, handling 20 cases to verdict and judgment over her tenure on the bench.[13]  Baxter has also written over 1300 opinions.[14]

Among her more prominent cases, Baxter presided over a class action suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) challenging the lack of wheelchair ramps in many Erie intersections.[15]  Baxter certified the class of plaintiffs in the case, and presided over the entry of a consent decree to ensure compliance with the ADA.[16]  In another notable case, Baxter presided over unsuccessful settlement negotiations related to alleged Clean Air Act violations committed by the Erie Coke Corporation.[17]

Over the last twenty two years, Baxter has been reversed approximately nineteen times in over 1300 decisions she has made.[18]  In seventeen cases, Baxter’s report and recommendation was adopted by the district court, but the decision was ultimately reversed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.[19]  In two cases, Baxter’s report and recommendation was rejected by the district court, but was ultimately imposed by the Third Circuit.[20]

Political Activity

While Baxter is a Democrat, she has not been involved with any political party or campaign.[21]

Overall Assessment

Generally speaking, any nominee put forward by two administrations of different political parties is likely to be fairly uncontroversial.  Baxter is no different.  Her record on the bench reflects a close adherence to precedent and her low reversal rate suggests her relatively mainstream jurisprudence.  Furthermore, she has largely avoided controversial positions throughout her career and has the enthusiastic support of her home state senators (both of different political parties).  As such, Baxter will likely be confirmed swiftly with a strong bipartisan majority.

[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 114th Cong., Susan Paradise Baxter: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] See id.

[3] See id. at 2.

[4] See id. 

[5] See id. at 50-51.

[6] Id.

[7] Press Release, White House, President Obama Nominates Seven to Serve on the United States District Courts (July 30, 2015) (on file at https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov).

[8] Press Release, President Donald J. Trump Announces Ninth Wave of Judicial Nominees and Tenth Wave of United States Attorney Nominees (December 20, 2017) (on file at www.whitehouse.gov/thepressoffice).

[9] See Baxter, supra  n. 1 at 43.

[10] See Foltz v. U.S. News & World Report, Inc., Case No. 84-447 (D.D.C.).

[11] See Baxter, supra n. 1 at 43.

[12] See Baxter, supra n. 1 at 17.

[13] See id.

[14] Id.

[15] See Barrier Busters v. City of Erie, Civil Action No. 02-203 Erie.

[16] See id.

[17] Lisa Thompson, Erie Coke, Regulators Reach No Settlement: Erie Coke Case Goes to Judge After Settlement Negotiations Stall, Erie Times-News, Apr. 1, 2010.

[18] See Baxter, supra n. 1 at 33-37.

[19] See Haskell v. Superintendent Greene, SCI, Civil Action 10-249 Erie, 2015 WL 5227855 (W.D. Pa. Sept. 8, 2015), rev’d, 866 F.3d 139 (3d Cir. 2017) (reversing district court denial of writ of habeas corpus based on the state’s use of perjured testimony); Byrd v. Aaron’s, Inc., Civil Action 11-101 Erie, 2014 WL 1316055 (W.D. Pa. Mar. 31, 2014), rev’d and remanded, 784 F.3d 1154 (3d Cir. 2015) (reversing denial of class certification); Henry v. City of Erie, Civil Action 10-260 Erie, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 110562 (W.D. Pa. Sept. 28, 2011), rev’d and remanded, 728 F.3d 275 (3d Cir. 2013) (reversing denial of motion to dismiss based on qualified immunity); Tindell v. Penn., Civil Action 11-173 Erie (decision to revoke prisoner’s in forma pauperis due to three-strikes rule reversed by 3d Circuit); Torrence v. Sobina, Civil Action 10-217 Erie, 2011 WL 4473122 (W.D. Pa. Sept. 11, 2011), vacated and remanded, 455 Fed. Appx. 140 (3d Cir. Dec. 27, 2011) (reversed denial of plaintiff’s claims based on Eleventh Amendment immunity and remanded to dismiss for failure to exhaust); Mutschler v. SCI Albion CHCA, Civil Action 09-265 Erie, 2010 WL 3809849 (W.D. Pa. Sept. 23, 2010), aff’d in part and rev’d in part, 445 Fed. Appx. 617 (3d Cir. Sept. 27, 2011) (reversing dismissal of Eighth Amendment claim of deliberate indifference); DiLauri v. Mullen, Civil Action 09-198 Erie, 2011 WL 1428092 (W.D. Pa. Apr. 13, 2011), adopted by 2011 WL 2415243 (W.D. Pa. June 13, 2011), aff’d in part and vacated in part, 477 Fed. Appx. 944 (3d Cir. 2012) (reversing dismissal of plaintiff’s claims based on failure to plead involvement of defendants); Cauvel v. Schwan Home Servs. Inc., Civil Action 08-134 Erie, 2010 WL 5476698 (W.D. Pa. Dec. 31, 2010), rev’d and remanded, 458 Fed. Appx. 131 (3d Cir. Jan. 20, 2012) (reversing grant of summary judgment where genuine issue of material fact existed); Royster v. United States, Civil Action 07-228 Erie, 2010 WL 936764 (W.D. Pa. Mar. 11, 2010), rev’d and remanded, 475 Fed. Appx. 417 (3d Cir. Mar. 30, 2012) (reversing dismissal of FTCA claim for failure to exhaust); Nicholas v. Corbett, Civil Action 06-129 Erie, 2007 WL 1163694 (W.D. Pa. Apr. 18, 2007); Alston v. Forsyth, Civil Action 05-168 Erie, 2010 WL 95089 (W.D. Pa. Jan. 6, 2010), rev’d and remanded, 379 Fed. Appx. 126 (3d Cir. 2010) (reversing grant of summary judgment to defendant); Grier v. Klem, Civil Action 05-05 Erie, rev’d and remanded, 591 F.3d 672 (3d Cir. Jan. 12, 2010) (reversing dismissal of 1983 action based on intervening Supreme Court jurisprudence); Davila-Bajana v. Holohan, Civil Action 04-253 Erie, rev’d and remanded, 309 Fed. Appx. 606 (3d Cir. Feb. 5, 2009) (reversing dismissal of Eighth Amendment claim due to failure to exhaust); Armann v. Warden-McKean, Civil Action 04-118 Erie, 2006 WL 2882954 (W.D. Pa. Oct. 6, 2006), adopted by 2007 WL 1576407 (W.D. Pa. May 31, 2007), rev’d, 549 F.3d 279 (3d Cir. 2008) (reversing recommendation for evidentiary hearing in military tribunal challenge); Cooleen v. LaManna, Civil Action 04-63 Erie, rev’d and remanded, 248 Fed. Appx. 357 (3d Cir. 2007) (reversing dismissal of Eighth Amendment claim); Camp v. Brennan, Civil Action 98-180 Erie, aff’d in part and rev’d in part, 219 F.3d 279 (3d Cir. 2000) (reversing dismissal for failure to exhaust); Nelson v. Jashurek, Civil Action 95-97 Erie, rev’d and remanded, 109 F.3d 142 (3d Cir. 1997) (reversing dismissal of excessive force claim).

[20] See UPS Freight v. Nat’l Union Fire Ins. Co., Civil Action 06-137 Erie, 2007 WL 1880962 (W.D. Pa. June 26, 2007), vacated by 428 Fed. Appx. 168 (3d Cir. 2011); Jewell v. Reno, 297 F.3d 305 (3d Cir. 2002) (rejecting district court dismissal, contrary to magistrate recommendation, of plaintiff’s as-applied challenge).

[21] See Baxter, supra n. 1 at 40-41.


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