Douglas Cole – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio

A former Ohio State Solicitor General and attorney in private practice, Douglas Cole would join the bench with over twenty years of practice experience.


Cole was born in Janesville, WI in 1964.[1]  Cole received a B.A. from Ripon College in 1985, a B.S.E.E. from the University of Wisconsin College of Engineering in 1988 and his J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School in 1993.[2]  Following his graduation, Cole clerked for Judge Frank Easterbrook on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.[3]

After his clerkship, Cole joined the Chicago office of Kirkland & Ellis as an associate.  Cole left in 1997 to become a Visiting Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Oklahoma College of Law and then, in 1998, joined Zeiger & Carpenter in Columbus as Of Counsel.[4]

In 2000, Cole became an Assistant Professor of Law at the Ohio State University Moritz School of Law.[5]  In 2003, he left when he was appointed State Solicitor General in Ohio.  Cole left the Solicitor General’s Office in 2006 when the Attorney General’s Office was taken over by Democrats, and joined the Columbus office of Jones Day as a Partner.[6]  In 2011, Cole left to become a Partner at Organ Cole in Columbus, where he still needs.

History of the Seat

Cole has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.  This seat was vacated on May 31, 2018, when Judge Sandra Dlott moved to senior status.  However, he previously interviewed with the White House in 2017 in connection with the vacancy created by Judge Gregory Frost’s retirement.[7]  That seat was ultimately filled by Judge Sarah Morrison.

Cole reapplied for the Dlott vacancy with a selection commission put together by Ohio Senators Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, and Rob Portman, a Republican.[8]  Cole interviewed with the Commission in late August of 2018, and with Portman in September.[9]  He was nominated in May 2019.  

Legal Experience

Cole has fairly extensive experience with litigation, having worked both in private practice and as Ohio’s Solicitor General.  Cole has practiced in state and federal court through his career, having tried eleven cases to verdict.[10] 

Private Practice

At the firms of Kirkland & Ellis, Zeiger & Carpenter, Jones Day, and Organ Cole, Cole has primarily worked in commercial litigation.  Notably, Cole represented Uber in a suit seeking to allow the company to operate in Hillsborough County.[11]  He also represented ProMedica in a suit seeking to invalidate a Federal Trade Commission ruling undoing a hospital acquisition in Toledo.[12]

State Solicitor General

From 2003 to 2006, Cole served as Ohio’s Solicitor General, working under Republican Attorney General Jim Petro.  In this role, Cole argued five cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, winning three,[13] and losing two.[14]  The most notable of these cases was Cutter v. Wilkinson, in which Cole brought, on behalf of Ohio, a First Amendment challenge to the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).[15]  In the challenge, Cole argued that RLUIPA, by requiring all restrictions on the religious rights of state prisoners to be justified by a “compelling state interest” elevated religion above nonreligion and violated the First Amendment.  The Court rejected this argument in a unanimous opinion by Justice Ginsburg.[16]

Political Activity

Cole has been a generous donor to Republicans over the last 10-12 years.[17]  Notably, Cole gave $10,000 to Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign in 2012, and $7700 to Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel (who ran against Sen. Sherrod Brown in 2012).[18]

Overall Assessment

With over twenty years of practicing law, Cole certainly meets the base level of qualifications for the federal bench.  Overall, given the stamp of approval from Sen. Brown, Cole is favored to be confirmed before the end of the year.

[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 115th Cong., Douglas R Cole: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] Id. 

[3] Id. at 2.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id. 

[7] Id. at 36.

[8] Id. 

[9] See id.

[10] Id. at 18.

[11] See Hillsborough Cnty. PTC v. Uber Tech., Case No. 15-CA-3097 (Circuit Ct, Hillsborough Cnty., Florida).

[12] ProMedica Health Sys. v. FTC, 749 F.3d 559 (6th Cir. 2014).

[13] DaimlerChrysler Corp. v. Cuno, 547 U.S. 332 (2006) (holding that plaintiffs lack standing to challenge economic development plan by Ohio); Bradshaw v. Stumpf, 545 U.S. 175 (2005) (upholding guilty plea by Ohio inmate but reversing and remanding sentence); City of Littleton v. Z.J. Gifts D-4, LLC, 541 U.S. 774 (2004) (holding that due process rights of adult business barred from operating in Littleton was not violated).

[14] Cutter v. Wilkinson, 544 U.S. 709 (2005) (holding that the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act does not violate the First Amendment); Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74 (2004) (holding that prisoners may raise challenges to their parole hearings in a 1983 suit).

[15] Cutter v. Wilkinson, 544 U.S. 709 (2005).

[16] Id.

[18] Id.

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