Judge J.P. Boulee – Nominee for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia

Jones Day has generally been referred to as President Trump’s favorite law firm, given that they represented his campaign and many veterans have found spots in the Administration.  Additionally, a lot of Trump judicial nominees have Jones Day DNA.  J.P. Boulee, a state court judge tapped for the federal bench in Georgia is also a Jones Day alum.

Background

Jean-Paul Boulee was born in Kankakee, IL in 1971.  Boulee graduated magna cum laude from Washington & Lee University with a Bachelor of Arts degree, and continued on to UGA Law School graduating cum laude in 1996.[1]

After graduating, Boulee clerked for Judge Orinda Evans on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.  He then became a Judge Advocate with the U.S. Army, working for four years.

In 2001, Boulee joined the Atlanta Office of Jones Day as an Associate.[2]  He became a Partner in 2006.[3]  In 2015, Boulee was appointed by Republican Governor Nathan Deal to serve on the DeKalb County Superior Court to replace Judge Cynthia Becker.[4]  Boulee currently serves as a judge on that court.

In 2018, Boulee applied to fill vacancies on the Georgia Supreme Court created by Justice Britt Grant’s elevation to the Eleventh Circuit and Justice Harris Hines’ retirement.[5]  However, he withdrew his name upon nomination to the federal bench, and Sarah Hawkins Warren and Charlie Bethel were selected instead.

History of the Seat

The seat Boulee has been nominated for opened on July 1, 2018, with Judge William Duffey’s retirement.  In January 2018, Boulee applied for the vacancy with a Screening Committee set up by Georgia senators.  After interviewing with the Committee and the senators, Boulee was recommended to the White House in late March.  Boulee was nominated by the White House on August 28, 2018.

Legal Career

Boulee spent approximately fourteen years at the Atlanta office of Jones Day.  At the firm, Boulee focused on corporate, commercial litigation, and white collar defense.  Boulee also served in the JAG Corps of the U.S. Army, handling court-martials, both as a prosecutor and as a defense counsel.  As part of this latter duty, Boulee helped acquit a single mother accused of burning her child with a curling iron by explaining that the mother (who could not afford her heating bills) was using the iron under a blanket to help keep her son warm.[6]

Notably, while at Jones Day, Boulee represented Wilbur Ross (now the Secretary of Commerce) in a class action and derivative shareholder lawsuit challenging the merger of the International Textile Group and Safety Components International.[7]  Boulee worked on case strategy and the development of defense expert testimony for the case, which ultimately settled on the eve of trial.[8]

Jurisprudence

Boulee has served on the DeKalb County Superior Court since 2015, during which time, he presided over thirty-three jury trials, including twenty capital felonies.[9]  Notably, Boulee presided over the case of DeKalb County police officer Robert Olsen, who fatally shot Anthony Hill, an Afghanistan war veteran, who was “unarmed, unclothed and under severe mental duress.”[10]  Hill, who was African American, suffered from bipolar disorder, was nude and had his hands up when he was shot.[11]  While the officer argued that he had fired in self-defense, after Hill did not comply with instructions not to advance, Boulee declined to dismiss the murder charges, noting that the officer’s accounts had been inconsistent and that there was no evidence suggesting that Hill posed a threat of death or serious bodily harm to the officer.[12]

In his three years on the bench, Boulee has been reversed twice.[14]  In the first, Boulee was reversed for failing to grant a motion for a new trial to a defendant whose attorney had failed to request a relevant jury charge (Boulee found that the defendant had failed to show that the error had prejudiced him).[15]  In the second, Boulee was reversed for holding that a plaintiff’s voluntary dismissal without prejudice in response to a procedural defect barred the subsequent filing under the doctrine of res judicata.[16]

Political Activity

Boulee has been active with the Republican Party, maintaining membership in the Georgia Republican Party, the Republican National Lawyers Association, and other Republican groups until his ascension to the bench.[17]

Overall Assessment

Boulee’s record, both as an attorney and on the bench, reads as that of a moderate conservative.  However, it does not suggest that he is judicial activist or an extremist. To his credit, on a politically charged and sensitive case involving a police shooting, Boulee rejected the officer’s plea of self-defense where the evidence failed to support it.

As such, Boulee is unlikely to be a nominee that draws much partisan fire and will likely be confirmed early next year.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 115th Cong., J.P. Boulee: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] Id. at 2.

[3] Id.

[4] See Mark Niesse, 2 DeKalb Judges Appointed By Gov. Deal, Atlanta Journal Constitution, May 12, 2015, https://www.ajc.com/news/local-govt–politics/dekalb-judges-appointed-gov-deal/FtMIOvcgZT0TXqpk6M0KVL/.  

[5] Nick Watson, Judge Deal Withdraws Name From Ga. Supreme Court Consideration, The Times, Gainesville Ga., Aug. 2, 2018.

[6] United States v. Boelter (1st Jud. Cir.).

[7] In re Int’l Textile Grp., Inc., Inc. Merger Litig., C.A. No. 2009-CP-23-3346 (S.C. Ct. Common Pleas). 

[8] See Boulee, supra n.1 at 45.

[9] Id. at 19-20.

[10] Christian Boone, AJC Digging Deeper Police Shooting; Case Shows Challenge of Prosecuting Police, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 18, 2018.

[11] See id.

[12] See Christian Boone, AJC Continuing Coverage Police Shooting; Ex-Cop Will Stand Trial For Shooting Unarmed Veteran, Aug. 17, 2018.

[13] See id. at 793.

[14] See Burns v. State, 803 S.E.2d 79 (Ga. Ct. App. 2017); Wentz v. Emory Healthcare, Inc., No. A18A0908, 2018 WL 4403345 (Ga. Ct. App. Sept. 17, 2018).

[15] Burns v. State, 803 S.E.2d 79 (Ga. Ct. App. 2017).

[16] Wentz v. Emory Healthcare, Inc., No. A18A0908, 2018 WL 4403345 (Ga. Ct. App. Sept. 17, 2018).

[17] See Boulee, supra n. 1 at 38.

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