John Holcomb – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California

An intellectual property lawyer based in Orange County, John Holcomb is one of several California nominees recommended by Democratic Senators and approved by the Administration.


John William Holcomb was born in Olean, NY in 1963.  Holcomb attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology, getting an S.B. in civil engineering in 1984.[1]  He then spent five years in the U.S. Navy.  He then received a J.D. and M.B.A. from Harvard in 1993.  While in law school, Holcomb worked as a Research Assistant for a visiting professor named Elizabeth Warren (now a U.S. Senator and Democratic presidential contender).[2]

After law school, Holcomb clerked for U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Ronald Barliant before joining Irell & Manella LLP in Newport Beach as an Associate.[3]  In 1997, he moved to Knobbe, Martens, Olson & Bear LLP.  He became a Partner with the firm in 2002.

In 2019, Holcomb joined Greenberg Gross LLP in Costa Mesa as a Partner, where he currently serves.[4] 

History of the Seat

Holcomb has been nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, to a seat vacated on January 28, 2016, by Judge Dean Pregerson’s move to senior status.  On December 16, 2015, President Obama nominated Paul Abrams, a U.S. Magistrate Judge on the Central District to fill this vacancy.  However, while Abrams received a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 18, 2016, he was blocked from a confirmation vote by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Holcomb had broached his interest in a judicial appointment in October 2017 with the White House.[5]  He interviewed with selection committees set up by California’s Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris in 2017 and 2018.[6]  In March 2019, Holcomb interviewed with the White House and was selected as a nominee in September 2019. Holcomb was nominated on November 21, 2019.

Legal Experience

Holcomb has spent virtually his entire career focusing on intellectual property law, and has tried five cases throughout his career, including two jury trials.[7]  Notably, Holcomb represented Jean Sprengel, a physician who sought copyright protections over her book, which provided advice to cancer patients.[8]  Holcomb represented Dr. Sprengel in a bench trial in front of Judge Michael Fitzgerald who held that Dr. Sprengel retained the sole right to create derivative works from the book.[9]

Political Activity

Holcomb’s political history is fairly mixed.  While Holcomb has been a member of the Federalist Society since 1992, his only political contribution of record is to Rep. Matt Cartwright, a Democrat from Pennsylvania.[10]

Overall Assessment

Holcomb’s history with intellectual property law and his relatively uncontroversial history should ensure a smooth confirmation and a relatively moderate presence on the Central District.

[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 116th Cong., John Holcomb: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] Id. at 2-3.

[3] See id. at 2.

[4] See id. 

[5] See id. at 31.

[6] Id.

[7] Id. at 20.

[8] Sprengel v. Mohr, 2013 WL 645532 (C.D. Cal. 2013).

[9] Jason Frankovitz, Apple Patent Trial Goes to Jury: Why Fight When You Can License, TechZulu, Nov. 20, 2013.

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