Matthew Solomson – Nominee to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims

The U.S. Court of Federal Claims (CFC) is currently severely hampered by vacancies.  The CFC is intended to have sixteen judgeships but is down to just five that are filled.  There are multiple reasons behind the high number of vacancies, including the obstruction of five qualified nominees under President Obama.  Furthermore, the Trump Administration has been slow to nominate judges to the CFC.  Additionally, three of the nominees the Administration has put forward have withdrawn before confirmation.  In comparison, Matthew Solomson, the latest nominee, looks to have a brighter future.

Background

Matthew Hillel Solomson was born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1974.  Solomson graduated cum laude from Brandeis University in 1995 and received a joint JD/MBA from the University of Maryland Law School/School of Business in 2002.[1]

After graduating law school, Solomson clerked on the CFC for Judge Francis Allegra, and then joined the D.C. office of Arnold & Porter as a Government Contracts Associate, where he stayed until 2007 (barring a year at Skadden Arps doing patent work).  In 2007, Solomson joined the Commercial Litigation Branch of the Department of Justice.[2]

In 2011, Solomson joined Sidley Austin as Counsel and a year later moved to Booz Allen Hamilton as Associate General Counsel.  Since 2015, Solomson has served as Chief Legal Officer of Federal Governmental Solutions at Anthem, Inc., a health insurance company.[3]

History of the Seat

Solomson has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims (CFC), an Article I court that hears monetary claims against the federal government.  Judges to the CFC are appointed for 15-year terms, and can be reappointed.  The seat Solomson was nominated for opened up on October 21, 2013, with the retirement of Judge Emily Hewitt.  On May 21, 2014, President Obama nominated Patricia McCarthy, a lawyer with the U.S. Department of Justice, to fill the vacancy.[4]  While McCarthy and four other nominees to the CFC were approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously on February 26, 2015, the nominations were blocked by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), who argued that the CFC did not need any more judges.[5]  Despite rebuttals from federal claims attorneys and Chief Judge Patricia Campbell-Smith, Cotton maintained his blockade, and the Obama Administration was unable to fill any more vacancies on the Court, leaving six of the sixteen judgeships vacant by the end of the 114th Congress.[6]

In late 2016, Solomson submitted his resume to the Presidential Transition team, expressing his interest in an appointment to the CFC.[7]  Solomson interviewed with the White House in April 2017, and was selected for further vetting in April 2018.[8]  Solomson was officially nominated on March 5, 2019.

Legal Experience

Solomson’s specialty is government contracts law.  Throughout his career, Solomson has focused on procurements, regulatory compliance, and other areas involved in government contracts at Sidley Austin, Booz Allen, and Anthem.  Over his career, Solomson has tried four cases, including two as counsel of record.[9]

Among his more prominent cases, Solomson successfully argued before the Federal Circuit that a federal employee’s due process rights were violated when he was removed without having an opportunity to challenge ex parte communications against him.[10]

Political Activity

Solomson has a limited political history, having donated $1000 to then candidate Mitt Romney in 2012.[11]

Overall Assessment

Given Solomson’s focus on government contracts law, and his lack of a paper trail on controversial issues, he is unlikely to draw the same degree of controversy as other CFC nominees.  However, given the general lack of emphasis on CFC nominations under the Administration and the Senate, I wouldn’t expect a quick confirmation for Solomson.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 115th Cong., Matthew Solomson: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] Id. at 2.

[3] See id.

[4] Press Release, White House, Presidential Nominations Sent to the Senate (May 21, 2014) (on file at https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office).

[5] Jordain Carney, Cotton Blocks Senate From Approving Federal Claims Judges, The Hill, July 14, 2015, http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/247934-cotton-blocks-senate-from-approving-federal-claims-judges.

[6] Daniel Wilson, Claims Court a Quiet Victim of Senate Nomination Deadlock, Law360, July 18, 2016, https://www.law360.com/articles/817931/claims-court-a-quiet-victim-of-senate-nomination-deadlock.

[7] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 115th Cong., Ryan T. Solomson: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 29-30.

[8] See id.

[9] Id. at 17.

[10] Young v. Dep’t of Hous. and Urban Dev., 706 F.3d 1372 (Fed. Cir. 2013).

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