Judge Hala Jarbou – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan

In 2019, the Trump Administration negotiated an agreement over two district nominees with Michigan’s Democratic senators.  Ironically, the Republican half of the agreement, Michael Bogren, withdrew due to opposition from Republican senators, while the Democratic half, Judge Stephanie Davis, sailed to confirmation.  Now, Bogren has been replaced as a nominee by Judge Hala Jarbou, who would, if confirmed, be the first Chaldean-American on the federal bench.[1]

Background

The 48-year-old Jarbou was born in Iraq as a member of the Chaldean Christian community.[2]  Her family moved to the United States when she was a child.[3]  Jarbou received her Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Michigan and her J.D. from Wayne State University Law School.[4]  After graduation, Jarbou started her career as an assistant prosecuting county with the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office and then moved onto the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan in 2010 under newly appointed U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade.[5] 

In 2015, Jarbou was appointed as an Oakland County Circuit Judge by Governor Rick Snyder.  She still serves on the court.

History of the Seat

Jarbou has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan.  This seat opened on January 31, 2017, when Judge Robert Bell moved to senior status.  After extensive negotiations, Trump nominated attorney Michael Bogren on March 11, 2019.  However, Bogren’s nomination ran into opposition from Republican Senators on the Judiciary Committee, who objected to Bogren’s advocacy on behalf of the City of Grand Rapids in enforcing its anti-discrimination ordinances.[6]  While Bogren likely had enough support to advance, he chose to withdraw his nomination.[7]

On March 18, 2020, Jarbou’s nomination was submitted to the U.S. Senate by the Trump Administration to replace Bogren.

Legal Career

Jarbou has held two primary positions in her pre-bench career.  From 1997 to 2010, Jarbou worked as an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney with the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office, where she prosecuted sexual and violent crimes.  For example, Jarbou prosecuted boxing coach Ruben Flores for allegedly fondling the breast of a 16-year-old girl.[8]

Then, from 2010 to 2015, Jarbou worked as a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan. At the office, Jarbou handled a wide variety of cases, from narcotics cases to corruption.  For example, Jarbou prosecuted Lorris Capshaw, a clerk with the Wayne County Clerk’s Office, for accepting bribes in exchange for Concealed Pistol licenses.[9]

Political Activity

Jarbou is a Republican with one political contribution of record, a 2007 contribution to Republican Rep. Joe Knollenberg.[10]  In 2004, Jarbou was a supporter of President George W. Bush’s re-election.[11]  Jarbou has also been a member of the Federalist Society for Law & Policy since 2011.[12]

Jurisprudence

Jarbou has served as a state circuit judge since her appointment in 2015.  In her role as a trial judge, Jarbou notably presided over a land dispute between Holly Township and the Smith family.[13]  The fight involved a ten acre parcel of land that the town had seized from the family under foreclosure proceedings.[14]  Jarbou ultimately approved a consent decree that allowed the family to retain possession of the land.[15]  In another matter, Jarbou sentenced Brieanna Smart to a year in jail for hitting a police officer with her car while he attempted to arrest her for driving on a suspended license.[16]  Jarbou also presided over a defamation lawsuit brought by U.S. Rep. Kerry Bentvolio against fellow Republican Rocky Raczkowski.[17]

Overall Assessment

Like Bogren, Jarbou is a Republican with strongly conservative credentials.  But unlike Bogren, Jarbou doesn’t have any particular controversies in her background that might trigger Republican opposition.  As such, Jarbou is poised to become the first Chaldean American jurist on the federal bench.


[1] Paul Natinsky, Hala Jarbou is First Chaldean American Nominated for Federal Bench, Chaldean News, Mar. 27, 2020, https://www.chaldeannews.com/features-1/2020/3/27/hala-jarbou-is-first-chaldean-american-nominated-for-federal-bench.  

[2] See Charlie Cain, Cheney Questions Kerry’s Ability to Lead; He Tells Michigan Supporters Country Needs Bush At Helm, Detroit News, Sept. 22, 2004.

[3] See id.

[5] See id.

[6] Melissa Nann Burke, Michigan Judicial Nominee Bogren Withdraws From Consideration, Detroit News, June 11, 2019, https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/politics/2019/06/11/michigan-federal-judicial-nominee-pulls-nomination/1423875001/.  

[7] See id.

[8] A.P., Boxing Coach Arraigned on Fondling Charges, A.P. State & Local Wire, Sept. 13, 2003.

[9] Press Release, Office for the Department of Justice, Former Employee at the Wayne County Clerk’s Office Pleads Guilty to Bribery, June 19, 2014.

[11] See Cain, supra n. 1.

[12] See Jarbou, supra n. 3.

[13] See Mike Martindale, Property Fight in Holly Twp. Adds Twist, Detroit News, Nov. 14, 2016.

[14] See id.

[15] Mike Martindale, Family Gets Deed, Will Return to Holly Twp. Land, Detroit News, Mar. 9, 2017.

[16] Woman Who Slammed Officer with Car in Detroit Area Gets Jail, The Daily Cardinal: University of Wisconsin – Madison, Dec. 18, 2015.

[17] Mike Martindale, Ex-Rep Sues Candidate for Defamation, Detroit News, May 17, 2018.

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