Judge Jennifer Togliatti – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada

Jennifer Togliatti, who retired as a state court judge last year, is President Trump’s first nominee to the U.S. District Court in Nevada.


Jennifer Paige Togliatti was born in 1967 in Waterbury, CT.  Togliatti graduated from the University of Nevada in 1989 and from California Western School of Law in 1993.[1]

After graduation, Togliatti joined the Clark County District Attorney’s Office as a criminal prosecutor.[2]  In 1999, she became a Justice of the Peace in Las Vegas Township.  In 2002, Gov. Kenny Guinn chose Togliatti to be a District Court with Nevada’s Eighth Judicial District.[3]  Togliatti stayed at that position until 2019 when she retired to become a private mediator.

History of the Seat

Togliatti has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada.  This seat opened on June 29, 2018, when Judge James Mahan moved to senior status.  

In April 2019, Togliatti was approached about the judgeship by U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto.[4]  Togliatti was then recommended, alongside other candidates by Cortez-Masto and Sen. Jacky Rosen.[5]  Togliatti interviewed with the White House Counsel’s Office in July 2019.[6]  President Trump announced Togliatti’s nomination on October 16, 2019.

Legal Career

While Togliatti has spent most of her legal career as a judge, she did have five years of experience as a state prosecutor before she joined the bench.  Her experience in this role was purely criminal and included prosecuting both misdemeanor and felony cases in Nevada state courts.

In addition, since 2019, Togliatti has been working as a mediator in private practice.  In this role, Togliatti notably was tasked with determining the damage disbursements to plaintiffs injured from the 2017 mass shooting in the Las Vegas strip.[7]


Togliatti served as a trial court judge in Nevada between 2002 and 2019, in which role, she presided over approximately 8500 cases.[8]  Two of her most notable cases are outlined below.

Death Penalty

Most notably, Togliatti reviewed the execution protocol for Scott Dozier, the first inmate scheduled to be executed in 11 years in Nevada.[9]  In an unusual posture, federal defenders challenged the execution protocol as cruel and painful, while Dozier pushed for the execution to be carried out.[10]  After multiple hearings, Togliatti blocked the use of Nevada’s three drug protocol, citing concerns about the use of cisatracurium, a paralytic drug included in the cocktail.[11]  However, Togliatti’s decision was overruled by the Nevada Supreme Court.[12]  In a sad epilogue, Dozier died by his own hand before his execution.[13]

Discrimination in Prosecutions

In 2000, as a Justice of the Peace, Togliatti reviewed a challenge to Clark County policies criminalizing prostitution and solicitation, which were alleged to discriminate against women by allowing male offenders to complete classes for dismissal but not allowing the same option for women.[14]  Togliatti rejected the challenge, finding that the policy did not discriminate based on gender, but rather differentiated between “buyers” and “sellers” in the prostitution industry.[15]  Togliatti’s ruling was ultimately upheld by the Nevada Supreme Court.[16]  However, the Court also criticized Togliatti for involving other judges in a “collective” decision to authorize continued prosecution, finding the process “flawed.”[17]

Overall Assessment

With twenty years of judicial experience, Togliatti would  not have a learning curve to develop a judicial persona.  Additionally, nominated with the support of the Administration and Nevada’s Democratic senators, Togliatti would likely secure a bipartisan majority for confirmation.  However, Togliatti may draw attention from her decisions in the Dozier case and the prostitution challenge, both of which were criticized by the Nevada Supreme Court.  As such, Togliatti may see some negative votes from those cases.

[1] See Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 116th Cong., Jennifer Togliatti: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] Id. at 2.

[3] Id.

[4] Id. at 40.

[5] Nigel Jaquiss, Oregon Senators on a Collision Course with White House Over Openings on Federal Courts, Willamette Week, Feb. 12, 2018, https://www.wweek.com/news/2018/02/12/oregons-senators-on-a-collision-course-with-white-house-over-openings-on-federal-courts/.

[6] See Togliatti, supra n. 1 at 26.

[7] Marco Della Cava, Victims to Split $800M: What’s Their Pain Worth?, USA Today, Feb. 11, 2020.

[8] See Togliatti, supra n. 1 at 11.

[9] Ken Ritter, Death Row Inmate Says No Concerns About Painful Execution, A.P. State & Local, Aug. 17, 2017.

[10] See id.

[11] Danielle Haynes, Nevada Delays Execution of Murderer Who Opposes Method, UPI, Nov. 9, 2017.

[12] See Ken Ritter, Nevada Court OKs Execution, Rejects Challenges on Procedure.  See also Nevada Dep’t of Corr. v. Eighth Judicial Dist. Ct. of the State of Nevada, 417 P.3d 1117 (Nev. 2018).

[13] Daniel Uria, Nevada Death Row Inmate Scott Dozier Found Dead From Apparent Suicide, UPI, Jan. 6, 2019.

[14] A.P., County Prosecutorial Bias Alleged in Solicitation Cases, A.P. State & Local Wire, Oct. 5, 2000.

[15] See A.P., Las Vegas Judges OK Trials for Prostitutes While Johns Get Diversion, A.P. State & Local Wire, Dec. 28, 2000.

[16] See Salaiscooper v. Eighth Judicial District Court of the State of Nevada, 34 P.3d 509 (Nev. 2001).

[17] Brendan Riley, Nevada Supreme Court OKs Vegas Prostitution Prosecutions, A.P. State & Local Wire, Nov. 15, 2001.

R. Shireen Matthews – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California is currently short five judges.  The Trump Administration and California’s Democratic senators have settled on a package of five nominees to fill the vacancies.  One of the Democratic picks is Jones Day partner R. Shireen Matthews, who would be the first South Asian judge on the Southern District.


Matthews was born Rebecca Shireen Matthews in Arcadia CA in 1977.  Matthews attended Georgetown University and Duke University School of Law.[1]  Matthews then clerked for Judge Irma Gonzalez on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.[2]

After her clerkship, Matthews became an Associate with Latham & Watkins in San Diego.[3]  2008, she became a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California.[4]  In 2013, she moved to the San Diego office of Jones Day, where she has been a Partner since 2016.

History of the Seat

Matthews has been nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, to a seat vacated on January 23, 2019, by Judge Barry Moskowitz’s move to senior status.  

In 2018, Matthews applied for and interviewed with selection committees set up by California’s Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris.[5]  Matthews was selected as a nominee on March 11, 2019 and was nominated on October 17, 2019.

Legal Experience

Post clerkship, Matthews has held three legal positions, at Latham & Watkins, as a federal prosecutor, and at Jones Day.  Overall, throughout her career, Matthews has tried nine cases to verdict.[6] 

In her initial position at Latham & Watkins, Matthews was largely focused on civil litigation.  For example, Matthews represented Arthur Anderson LLP in defending a non-competition agreement before the California Supreme Court.[7]

At the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Matthews was a trial prosecutor, primarily focused on firearms, narcotics, human trafficking, and immigration cases.  Notably, Matthews prosecuted three defense contractors who stole more than $3 million in medical equipment from Camp Pendleton.[8]  She also prosecuted a trafficker for smuggling three illegal immigrants into the United States by concealing them in a Jet Ski.[9]

At Jones Day, Matthews has worked in both civil litigation and investigations.  Notably, Matthews represented Qualcomm in a breach of contract and trade secret suit against Apple Inc.[10]  Matthews also represented a metal plating company charged with violations of the Clean Water Act for introducing chemical particulates into sewer water.[11]

Overall Assessment

Like three of the other nominees put forward for the Southern District of California, Matthews has a background as a prosecutor (in comparison, only one comes from a defense background).  That being said, Matthews has the support of California’s Democratic senators and has an apolitical background.  As such, she will likely be confirmed with a bipartisan majority to the federal bench.

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

[2] See id.

[3] See id. at 2.

[4] See id. 

[5] Id.

[6] See id. At 14.

[7] Edwards v. Arthur Anderson LLP, 44 Cal. 4th 937 (Cal. 2008).

[8] United States v. Henry Bonilla, et al., 13-cr-0338-CAB (S.D. Cal.).

[9] United States v. Randall Cary Geiger, 08-cr-3681-BTM (S.D. Cal.).

[10] See Qualcomm, Inc. v. Apple, Inc., Case No. 37-2017-41389 (San Diego Super. Ct.).

[11] United States v. Southern California Plating Co., Case No. 15-cr-0946-H (S.D. Cal.).

John Cronan – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York

John Cronan, who currently serves as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice, was nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, with the support of New York’s Democratic Senators.  


John Peter Cronan was born in Teaneck, New Jersey in 1976.  Cronan graduated magna cum laude from Georgetown University and then received his J.D. from Yale Law School.[1] 

After graduating, Cronan clerked for Judge Barrington Daniels Parker and for Judge Robert Katzmann on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.[2]  Cronan then became a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.  In 2017, Cronan became the Chief of the Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit.

In 2017, Cronan moved to the Department of Justice to be Acting Assistant Attorney General and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General.  He is still with the Department.

History of the Seat

Cronan has been tapped for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to a seat vacated by Judge Richard Pauley, who moved to senior status on March 1, 2018.  In mid-2018, Cronan expressed his interest in the judgeship to the White House Counsel’s Office.[3]  Shortly after, Cronan interviewed with the White House Counsel’s Office for the judgeship.

In May 2019, Cronan’s nomination process restarted with a second interview.  Cronan was officially nominated on December 2, 2019.

Legal Career

After his clerkships, Cronan spent the rest of his career as a federal prosecutor and as the Department of Justice.

Cronan worked as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York between 2007 and 2017.  In that role, Cronan handled a wide variety of cases in both the Civil and Criminal Divisions of the Office, focusing in particular on terrorism cases.[4]  For example, Cronan prosecuted Sulaiman Abu Ghayth, a close associate of Osama Bin Laden, for conspiring to murder Americans and providing material support to terrorists.[5]  Cronan also prosecuted a number of other individuals for terrorism-related charges, including Abu Hamza al-Masri, Faisal Shahzad, and Mohammad Younis.

In his current role at the Department of Justice, Cronan led the pursuance of charges for precious metal market manipulation against HSBC, UBS, and Deutsche Bank.[6]  Cronan also testified before Congress regarding the Justice Department’s civil asset forfeiture policies, where he faced criticism for the delay in returning seized assets to taxpayers.[7]


While Cronan hasn’t written much for most of his career, he was particularly prodigious in his youth, writing a number of legal articles over the first few years of his career.  We’ve outlined some of the more significant below.

First Amendment

Cronan has been particularly prolific in writing about the First Amendment concept of “incitement,” which allows the government to punish speech that incites someone to “imminent lawless action.”  In a student note authored in 2000, Cronan discussed the incitement and related “threat” standard when applied to the Nuremberg Files, a “hit-list” of abortion doctors published on the internet.[8]  In the article, Cronan argues that the list did not constitute a “true threat” as it lacked both the language of the threat and the intent to carry out a threat.[9]  In a later article, Cronan suggests that the list could have risen to the level of incitement to lawless activity as several doctors on the list were later victims of violence and three were killed.[10]

Diversity and Multiculturalism

In 2001, Cronan authored an article discussing affirmative action programs in higher education.[11]  Specifically, Cronan praised the overall goal of increasing diversity in higher education, but criticized both race-based affirmative action and race-blind affirmative action, instead proposing a hybrid scheme that considers both racial and non-racial factors.[12]

Overall Assessment

Despite his Federalist Society background and Trump Administration bona fides, Cronan is likely to attract more opposition from the right than from the left.  If so, such opposition would largely be motivated by his writings which reject conservative positions on issues of affirmative action, abortion rights, and First Amendment law.  As such, while Cronan is strongly favored for confirmation, it would not be surprising to see some “no” votes from Republican senators.

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

[2] See id. at 2.

[3] Id. at 76.

[4] See id. at 38.

[5] United States v. Abu Ghayth, S14 98 Cr. 1023 (LAK) (S.D.N.Y.).

[6] See Renae Merle, U.S. Regulator, DOJ Settle ‘Spoofing’ Charges Against European Banks; The Case is the Largest Crackdown, So Far, On What Wall Street Has Increasingly Complained Is Abuse Of Sophisticated Computer Algorithms to Illegally Place and Quickly Cancel Bids on Commodity Contracts, Wash. Post Blogs, Jan. 29, 2018. 

[7] Christopher Ingraham, The Justice Department Won’t Return Seized Cash to Hundreds of Taxpayers. Now House Republicans Are Stepping In.; “What Was Done Was Not Fair, Just or Right in Most Cases,” Lawmakers Say, Wash. Post Blogs, July 19, 2018.

[8] John P. Cronan, Free Speech on the Internet: Does the First Amendment Protect the “Nuremberg Files”?, 2 Yale Symp. L. & Tech. 5  (Spring 2000).

[9] Id. at 17.

[10] John P. Cronan, The Next Challenge for the First Amendment: The Framework for an Internet Incitement Standard, 51 Cath. U. L. Rev. 425, 446 (2002).

[11] The Diversity Justification in Higher Education: Evaluating Disadvantaged Status in School Admissions, 34 Suffolk U.L. Rev. 305 (2001).

[12] Such a scheme is fairly consistent with modern affirmative action schemes, which consider race but do not use it as a sole factor.

Adam Braverman – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California is currently short five judges.  The Trump Administration and California’s Democratic senators have settled on a package of five nominees to fill the vacancies.  One of the Republican picks is former U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman.


Adam Lorne Braverman was born in Columbus, OH in 1975.  Braverman attended the George Washington University and the George Washington University Law School.[1]  After graduating from law school, Braverman clerked for Judge Ann O’Regan Keary on the D.C. Superior Court, Judge Reggie Walton on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, and Judge Consuelo Callahan on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.[2]  In between his clerkships, Braverman spent a year working for William E. Artz, P.C. in Tysons Corner, and three years with Goodwin Proctor LLP in Washington D.C.[3]

In 2008, Braverman moved to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California.[4]  After the election of Donald Trump in 2016, Braverman was selected to serve as interim U.S. Attorney while the nomination process proceeded to permanently appoint him to the seat.[5]  However, the Administration and California Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris selected another candidate, Robert Brewer, to be the permanent U.S. Attorney.[6]  Since Brewer’s confirmation, Braverman has served as Associate Deputy Attorney General in Washington D.C.

History of the Seat

Braverman has been nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, to a seat vacated on December 31, 2017, by Judge Roger Benitez’s move to senior status.  As the seat opened with around four months left in the Obama Administration, they did not put forward a nomination to fill the seat.

In June 2018, Braverman submitted an application for the vacancy with selection committees set up by Feinstein and Harris.[7]   In March 2019, Braverman interviewed with the White House and then again with Feinstein’s office in April 2019 before his nomination on November 21, 2019.

Legal Experience

Braverman has spent almost his entire career, barring clerkships and a few years in private practice, as a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California.  As an Assistant U.S. Attorney, Braverman primarily prosecuted drug trafficking, including prosecuting the leaders of the Sinaloa cartel, including Chino Antrax.[8]  His record on this matter led to his selection as interim U.S. Attorney, where Braverman made waves on a number of fronts.

Duncan Hunter 

As interim U.S. Attorney, Braverman authorized the indictment of Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and his wife for using campaign contributions on personal expenses.[9]  Hunter responded by criticizing the prosecution as motivated by political bias, which many commenters noted was unfounded, pointing to Braverman’s approval of the indictment.[10]  Hunter ultimately plead guilty to one count and was sentenced to 11 months in prison.[11]

Border Crossings and Immigration

In 2018, then Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to adopt a zero-tolerance policy on individuals in the U.S. without documentation, ordering criminal charges to be filed against each one.[12]  In seeking to implement the massive increase in caseload that this would bring, Braverman asked the federal court to implement Operation Streamline, a streamlined process for handling immigration violation cases.[13]  Operation Streamline has drawn criticism from civil rights and human rights organizations, as well as from federal judges, for the over-criminalization of migrants and denial of due process.[14]  While other prosecutors have criticized the program as ineffective, some have noted that, as an interim U.S. Attorney, Braverman had no authority to push back against Sessions’ directive.[15]

Drug Prosecutions

Another area where Braverman was called upon to implement Sessions’ priorities was with marijuana enforcement.  Specifically, despite a push to legalize recreational and medical use of marijuana in the states, Sessions ordered U.S. Attorneys to pursue federal marijuana related cases, even in jurisdictions where they were legal under state laws.[16]  For his part, Braverman was generally supportive of Sessions’ policy.[17]  He also laid out a policy of prosecuting drug dealers for the deaths caused by drug overdoses.[18]

Overall Assessment

The fact that Braverman has been nominated means that he has been cleared by the selection committees set out by Feinstein and Harris, and likely has their approval as well.  That being said, Braverman may well attract opposition from the left and the right.  For liberals and civil libertarians, Braverman’s decisions to push aggressively on drug and immigration prosecutions under Sessions’ directive may raise grounds for opposition (although Braverman was generally bound to follow policy dictates from DOJ).  For conservatives, some may blame Braverman for Hunter’s prosecution and for not taking the charges of political bias among his line prosecutors more seriously.  As long as Braverman retains the support of his home-state senators, however, he is still favored to join the federal bench this year.

[1] See Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 116th Cong., Adam Braverman: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] See id. at 2.

[3] Id.

[4] See id. 

[5] Kristina Davis, Braverman Appointed Interim U.S. Attorney for S.D., San Diego Union Tribune, Nov. 18, 2017.

[6] Kristina Davis, Trump Selects, San Diego Union Tribune, June 21, 2018.

[7] See Braverman, supra n. 1 at 40.

[8] Kristina David, Border Could Be Key In Selection, San Diego Union Tribune, Sept. 18, 2017.

[9] Matt Zapotosky, Dan Lamothe, Rep. Duncan Hunter, Wife Charged With Spending Campaign Money on Personal Expenses, Wash. Post, Aug. 21, 2018.

[10] See, e.g., James Hohmann, Duncan Hunter Embraces the Smash-Mouth Tactics Trump Learned From Roy Cohn, Wash. Post, Aug. 23, 2018.

[11] A.P., Ex-California Rep. Duncan Hunter Gets 11 Months in Prison, KPBS, Mar. 17, 2020, https://www.kpbs.org/news/2020/mar/17/ex-california-rep-duncan-hunter-gets-11-months-pri/.

[12] James Stiven, Mass Criminalization of Migrants is Not Justice, San Diego Union Tribune, June 22, 2018.

[13] See id.

[14] Id.

[15] Astrid Galvan, California, Long a Holdout, Adopts Mass Immigration Hearings, East Bay Times, July 9, 2018.

[16] See Paige Winfield Cunningham, U.S. Crackdown on Pot Seen As Unlikely, Wash. Post, Jan. 9, 2018.

[17] See id.

[18] Kristina Davis, Charging Drug Dealers in Deaths, San Diego Union Tribune, Feb. 18, 2018.

Thomas Cullen – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia

U.S. Attorney Thomas Cullen built his reputation on the aggressive response to the 2017 Charlottesville attacks and his subsequent calling out of far-right terrorism.  As such, despite his conservative background, Cullen looks poised to be elevated to the federal bench with bipartisan support.


A native Virginian, Thomas Tullidge Cullen was born in Richmond in 1977, the son of former Virginia Republican Attorney General Richard Cullen.[1]  Cullen attended Furman University and William and Mary School of Law, where he graduated Order of the Coif.  He then clerked for Judge Robert Payne on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia and for Judge Roger Gregory on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.  

After his clerkships, Cullen became a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina, and then moved to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia.[2] 

In 2013, Cullen moved to Woods Rogers PLC in Roanoke as a Partner.[3]  In 2018, upon the recommendation of U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, he was appointed by President Trump to be the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia.[4]

History of the Seat

Cullen has been nominated for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia.  This seat opened on December 11, 2017, when Judge Glen Conrad moved to senior status.  In November 2018, Warner and Kaine recommended U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Ballou and Scott County Circuit Court Judge John Kilgore to fill the vacancy.[5] 

Meanwhile, in May 2019, the Trump Administration broached the nomination with Cullen, instead of nominating either Ballou or Kilgore.[6]  However, Warner and Kaine refused to back Cullen unless he was vetted through the same process as Ballou and Kilgore.[7]  After the White House indicated that neither Ballou nor Kilgore would get the nomination, Warner and Kaine reopened the nomination process.[8]  This time, Cullen applied and was selected through the nomination process.  He was nominated in December 2019.

Legal Experience

Despite his relative youth, Cullen has fairly extensive experience, particularly in criminal law.  In particular, Cullen started his career as a federal prosecutor, then moved to private practice, and now serves as the U.S. Attorney.

Federal Prosecutor

Cullen had two stints as an Assistant U.S. Attorney: first in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina from 2006 to 2010; and then in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia from 2010 to 2013.  In these offices, Cullen worked on both appellate and trial level criminal cases.  Notably, Cullen prosecuted Jean-Claude Bridges, for the arson of a predominantly African American church in Henry County, Virginia.[9] 

Private Practice

Cullen was a Partner with WoodsRogers PLC in Roanoke between 2013 and 2018.  At the firm, Cullen worked primarily on defending individuals and corporations charged with white collar crimes.

Notably, Cullen represented Republican Delegate Terry Kilgore, who was under investigation for hiring Democratic State Sen. Phil Puckett at the State Tobacco Commission, a move that ended Democratic control of the State Senate and doomed Medicaid expansion.[10] 

U.S. Attorney

Since 2018, Cullen has served as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia.  During his tenure, Cullen notably led the prosecutions relating to the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, including for the death of Heather Heyer, who was killed by White supremacist James Fields.[11]  Fields was charged federally related to the death of Heyer and plead guilty to 29 hate crimes.[12]  Cullen also prosecuted the Rise Above Movement, a white supremacist movement, for violence caused in rioting in Charlottesville.[13] 


While Cullen has occasionally written on the law and politics, two of the articles he authored as a U.S. Attorney are particularly notable.

In 2018, Cullen authored an article commending the Albemarle-Charlottesville Jail Authority Board (ACJAB) for cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).[14]  In particular, Cullen was critical of groups who urged local prosecutors not to cooperate with ICE, arguing that ICE-notification implicates public safety as there are “numerous recent examples of unlawful aliens committing serious crimes after being released from sanctuary jails.”[15]

Additionally, after his prosecutions related demonstrations and attacks in Charlottesville by far-right protestors, Cullen authored an article critical of far-right extremism.[16]  In the article, Cullen wrote that “white supremacy and far-right extremism are among the greatest domestic-security threats facing the United States.[17]  He also urged Congress to pass stricter hate crime laws to help prosecutors address the rise of far-right extremism.[18]

Overall Assessment

From his work prosecuting an arsonist targeting an African-American church to his handling of the Charlottesville attacks and subsequent prosecutions, to his writings, Cullen has built his reputation combating far-right extremism.  As such, despite his youth and lack of judicial experience, Cullen is likely to have a smooth confirmation process.

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

[2] Id. at 2.

[3] See id.

[4] See id.

[5] See Jeff Sturgeon, Ballou, Kilgore Recommended for Federal Judgeship, Ronaoke Times, Nov. 21, 2018, https://www.roanoke.com/news/local/ballou-kilgore-recommended-for-federal-judgeship/article_ceb919e5-a5e4-5316-ad6b-d54b9bd1bca2.html.

[6] See Cullen, supra n. 1 at 48.

[7] See Jeff Schapiro, Judge Trouble for a Familiar Virginia Name, Sept. 15, 2019, https://www.pressreader.com/usa/richmond-times-dispatch-weekend/20190915/284077733332137.  

[8] Henri Gendreau, Virginia Senators Reopen Search For Roanoke-Based Federal Judge, Roanoke Times, Sept. 18, 2019, https://www.roanoke.com/news/local/virginia-senators-reopen-search-for-roanoke-based-federal-judge/article_3051fc75-101b-5ba2-b7c5-e26812ab5581.html.  

[9] See United States v. Jean-Claude Bridges, No. 4:13CR260002 (W.D. Va.).

[10] See Laura Vozzella, Puckett Exit Undid Secret Medicaid Plan, Wash. Post, Nov. 23, 2014.

[11] See United States v. James Alex Fields, No. 3:18CR0011 (W.D. Va.).

[12] Id.

[13] See Katie Benner and Hawes Spencer, ‘Serial Rioters’ Charges in 2017 Protests, N.Y. Times, Oct. 3, 2018.

[14] Thomas T. Cullen, Standing Up For the Rule of Law?, Richmond Times Dispatch, Sept. 10, 2018.

[15] See id.

[16] Thomas T. Cullen, Rising Far-Right Extremism in America, N.Y. Times, Feb. 23, 2019.

[17] See id.

[18] Id.

Rick Richmond – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California

Longtime Federalist Society leader Rick Richmond has been flagged as a potential federal judicial nominee since 2017, but the extensive process of negotiation over California nominees is allowing his nomination to move now.


Rick Lloyd Richmond was born in Grand Junction, Colorado in 1959.  Richmond attended Brigham Young University, getting a B.S. in 1983.[1]  He then received a J.D. with Honors from the George Washington University Law School in 1986.[2]

After law school, Richmond clerked for Judge Harlington Wood on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit before joining the U.S. Department of Justice as an Appellate Attorney with the Civil Division.  After two years there, Richmond joined the D.C. office of Kirkland & Ellis, where he became a Partner in 1993.[3]  In 1997, Richmond moved to the Los Angeles office of Kirkland.  In 2009, Richmond moved to the Los Angeles office of Jenner & Block, where he currently works.

History of the Seat

Richmond has been nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, to a seat vacated on November 4, 2018 by Judge Manuel Real, the last judge appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson still serving in active status.[4] 

Richmond was recruited to be a judicial nominee by the White House and interviewed with them in August 2017.[5]  Richmond then applied and interviewed with selection committees set up by California’s Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris.[6]  On August 28, 2019, Richmond was nominated by the White House.

Legal Experience

Richmond has practiced commercial litigation for over thirty years, with experience in contract cases, intellectual property, and class actions.  Over the course of his career, Richmond has tried 31 cases and has argued approximately 20 appeals.[7]  Notably, Richmond has briefed several cases at the U.S. Supreme Court, including Morse v. Frederick, in which Richmond represented a school district seeking to prohibit students from displaying pro-marijuana messages.[8]  The court sided with Richmond’s client on a 5-4 basis.[9]

Among other cases, Richmond represented the credit card company Discover in successfully enforcing arbitration agreements that prevented consumers from pursuing class actions to recovering interest and penalties.[10]  He also represented Louisiana citizens in challenging a black-majority Louisiana congressional district as an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.[11]

Political Activity

In addition to being a longtime member of the Federalist Society, Richmond has frequently donated to support Republican presidential and congressional candidates.  Richmond has been particularly generous in donating to Sen. Mitt Romney’s campaign for the Presidency, giving $5000 directly to the campaign and an additional $500 to Romney’s SuperPAC in 2012.[12]

Overall Assessment

Given his generally conservative record, Richmond’s greatest obstacle to confirmation is the return of blue slips from California’s Democratic senators.  However, given that Richmond was nominated as a part of a package of nominees which includes others chosen by the Senators, it is likely that he will be confirmed, albeit with some negative votes.

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

[2] See id.

[3] See id. at 2.

[4] Judge Real passed away in 2019.

[5] See id. at 37.

[6] Id.

[7] Id. at 24.

[8] Morse v. Frederick, 551 U.S. 393 (2007).

[9] Id.

[10] W.A. Lee, Discover’s Legal Win May Be Industry’s, The American Banker, Jan. 21, 2003.

[11] Hays v. Louisiana, Nos. CV92-1522S & CV95-1241 (W.D. La. 1995).