Judge Robert Molloy – Nominee to the U.S. District Court of the Virgin Islands

The District Court of the Virgin Islands is a territorial court whose judges serve ten year terms.  Judge Curtis Gomez had his term expire in 2015, but is still sitting on the court due to the failure by Congress and the President to name a successor.  The nomination of Judge Robert Molloy offers the best chance in years for this court to gain a new judge.

Background

Robert Anthony Molloy was born in Christiansted, St. Croix in 1975.  Molloy received his B.S. from Hampton University in 1997, his J.D. from American University Washington College of Law in 2003 and his MBA from American University Kogod School of Business in 2004.[1]  After graduating, Molloy clerked on the Circuit Court of Arlington County and for Judge Raymond Finch on the U.S. District Court of the Virgin Islands.[2]

After his clerkships, Molloy worked as an Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Collective Bargaining with the Virgin Islands Government.[3]  In 2013, he was appointed by Gov. John de Jongh Jr. to the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands, where he currently serves.[4]

History of the Seat

The District Court of the Virgin Islands has two judgeships authorized.  Judge Jose Gomez, who was appointed by President Bush, saw his appointment expire in 2015.[5]  The Obama Administration declined to reappoint Gomez, but also refused to make another appointment, presumably due to unwillingness to expend energy on a pick likely to be blocked by the Republican Senate.[6]

In June 2018, Molloy was contacted by Anthony Ciolli, the President of the Virgin Islands Bar Association, to gauge his interest in the judgeship.[7]  After Molloy confirmed his interest, his nomination was sent to the White House by Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett, a Democrat.[8]  Molloy was nominated on May 29, 2019.

Political Activity

As a prosecutor in 2008, Molloy donated in support of the campaign of President Obama, giving $658.[9] 

Legal Experience

Molloy has spent his pre-bench legal career handling labor and employment matters for the Territorial Government as an Assistant Attorney General.  During his career, Molloy has tried 83 cases to verdict in bench trials but has not handled any jury trials.[10]  Notably, Molloy was part of the defense team that successfully argued that a Virgin Islands statute instituting an eight percent salary reduction on many territorial employees did not violate the Constitution.[11]

Jurisprudence

Molloy has served on the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands since 2013, where he has heard criminal, civil, and administrative cases.[12]  Molloy has also sat by designation with the Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands 10 times and has also sat with the Appellate Division of the District Court of the Virgin Islands.[13]  According to Molloy, he has presided over nineteen cases that proceeded to verdict or judgment, including thirteen jury trials.[14]

Among the most notable cases he handled, Molloy oversaw the first prosecution in the Virgin Islands for a prison guard having sexual relations with an inmate.[15]  In the case, Molloy upheld the statute criminalizing such conduct and held that it was not unconstitutionally vague.[16]  In another case, Molloy denied a motion to dismiss a class action based on a fungus infestation of plaintiffs’ property, holding that such an action was not preempted by federal law.[17]

Overall Assessment

Molloy has accomplished much in his relatively short legal career.  Despite not even being 45, Molloy has already served the better part of a decade on the territorial bench and is poised for elevation to the federal bench.  Given his political contributors and his backers, Molloy is likely a Democrat.  Nevertheless, the political cost to the Administration for nominating a Democrat is the least when it comes to a territorial court.  As such, Molloy’s expected confirmation should allow Gomez, who has now served four years past the end of his term, a chance to take a break and step down.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 115th Cong., Robert A. Molloy: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] Id. at 1-2.

[3] See id. at 2.

[4] Id.

[5] Bernetia Atkins, Undercurrents: At District Court, They Also Serve Who Wait – For Replacement, The St. Thomas Source, Feb. 29, 2016, https://stthomassource.com/content/2016/02/29/undercurrents-at-district-court-they-also-serve-who-wait-for-replacement/.  

[6] See id.

[7] See Molloy, supra n. 1 at 52-53.

[8] Press Release, Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett’s Statement Regarding The Appointment Of Judge Robert Molloy To The United States District Court Of The Virgin Islands (May 29, 2019) (on file at https://plaskett.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=3517).  

[10] See Molloy, supra n. 1 at 40-41.

[11] United Steelworkers, et al. v. Gov’t of the Virgin Islands, 66 V.I. 631 (2012), rev’d, 842 F.3d 201 (3d Cir. 2015).

[12] See Molloy, supra n. 1 at 9-10.

[13] See id. at 10.

[14] Id.

[15] People of the Virgin Islands v. Whyte, Super. Ct. Crim. No. SX-13-CR-026, 62 V.I. 95 (Super Ct. 2015).

[16] See id. 

[17] Alleyne, et al.v. Diageo USVI, Inc., et al., 63 V.I. 384 (Super Ct. 2015).

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