Aileen Cannon – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida

39-year-old AUSA Aileen Cannon is President Trump’s fifth nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, and would be the first woman to join the court under his tenure as President.


Aileen Cannon received her B.A. in Public Policy Studies from Duke University in 2003 and her J.D. magna cum laude from the University of Michigan Law School in 2007.  In between undergraduate and law school, Cannon spent two years as a paralegal with the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice.  After receiving her J.D., Cannon clerked for Judge Steven Colloton on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

After finishing her clerkship, Cannon became an associate with Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP.  In 2013, she became a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, where she continues to work there to this day.

History of the Seat

Cannon has been nominated for a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.  This seat opened when Judge Kenneth Marra moved to senior status on August 1, 2017.  

Legal Experience

Cannon’s legal career can be divided into two primary segments: working as an associate at Gibson Dunn, and being a federal prosecutor.  In the former role, Cannon primarily practiced civil litigation.  However, in the latter capacity, Cannon developed most of her legal experience, working with the Major Crimes division on criminal prosecutions and appeals.  Among her more prominent cases, Cannon prosecuted perpetrators of identity thefts who were rampant throughout Southern Florida.[1] 

Cannon currently works with the appellate division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.  Among the more prominent appeals, Cannon has argued successfully that evidence obtained against a defendant through a wiretap was consistent with the Fourth Amendment.[2]  Cannon has also been called upon to defend sentencing decisions made by U.S. District Court judges, including decisions which have been reversed by the Eleventh Circuit.[3]

Overall Assessment

As of this point, the Trump Administration has made an art form of finding attorneys who barely squeeze in under the twelve year practice requirement that the American Bar Association seeks for judges. Cannon, while still under forty, has practiced for approximately twelve years (including her clerkship) and has experience with civil and criminal litigation.  As there are few controversies in her background, she will likely be confirmed comfortably for the federal bench, and will be a prime candidate to fill a Florida vacancy on the Eleventh Circuit in the future.

[1] See Press Release, Office of the U.S. Attorney, Southern District of Florida, Defendants Charged in Separate Fraud Schemes That Resulted in Thousands of Identities Stolen and Used to Commit Fraud Crimes, US Fed News, Apr. 9, 2015.

[2] See United States v. Maxi, 886 F.3d 1318 (11th Cir. 2018).

[3] See, e.g., United States v. McCloud, 818 F.3d 591 (11th Cir. 2016) (reversing sentencing for treating prior armed robbery convictions as separate offenses under the Armed Career Criminal Act).  See also United States v. Charles, 757 F.3d 1222 (11th Cir. 2014) (reversing application of sentencing enhancement to increase sentence).

Jennifer Rearden – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York

The relationship between New York’s Democratic senators and the Trump Administration has often been tense and combative.  This has occasionally manifested itself in conflicts over New York’s federal bench.  However, the nomination of Jennifer Rearden should be a point of agreement from all sides.


50-year-old Jennifer Hutchison Rearden received her B.A. from Yale University in 1992 and a J.D. in 1996 from New York University School of Law.  After law school, Hutchison joined Davis Polk & Wardwell, before moving to the Atlanta office of King & Spalding.  Since 2003, Rearden has been a Partner with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in New York City.

History of the Seat

Reardon has been nominated to the vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York vacated on October 25, 2018 by Judge Richard Sullivan’s elevation to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Political Activity

Rearden has been an active political donor, having made over thirty political contributions over the last thirteen years.[1]  While Rearden has given to politicians of both parties (her Republican donees include Rudolph Giuliani and Chris Christie), most of her donations have been to Democrats.[2]  She has contributed particularly to female Democratic senators and senate candidates, giving them almost $12000 in the 2016 cycle.[3]

Legal Career

Rearden has spent her entire career in private practice, working at various big law firms as a commercial litigator.  Specifically, Rearden has handled a number of complex commercial cases, including matters related to tax, contract, and compliance matters.[4]

Among her more prominent cases, Rearden represented Philip Morris Inc. and other tobacco companies in a suit against the City of New York challenging the City’s regulation of tobacco prices.[5]  She also represented Home Depot in an Arizona suit involving tax deductions.[6]

Notably, Rearden argued in New York State Court a suit seeking Worker’s Compensation benefits for an employee’s domestic partner (through a civil union).[7]  The Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court found, in a divided opinion, that statutory provisions supporting worker’s compensation benefits for surviving spouses did not cover partners in a civil union.[8]


Rearden has been a fairly prolific author, frequently writing articles on various legal issues, including issues of civil practice, procedure, and substantive law.

For example, Rearden has written on the Columbia Pictures v. Bunnell ruling in the Central District of California, which held that random access memory (RAM) could be discoverable material that needed to be preserved in preparation for litigation.[9]  She has similarly expounded on a similar decision by Judge Shira Scheindlin on production of metadata during discovery.[10] 

Overall Assessment

With both the Trump Administration and New York Democrats behind her candidacy, Rearden is likely to sail through the confirmation process.  Barring objections from Republican senators, Rearden is likely to be confirmed comfortably.

[2] See id.

[3] Id.

[5] See Nat’l Ass’n of Tobacco Outlets v. City of New York, 27 F. Supp. 3d 415 (S.D.N.Y. 2014).

[6] Home Depot USA, Inc. v. Ariz. Dep’t of Rev., 230 Ariz. 498 (Ariz. Ct. App. Div. 1 2012).

[7] Matter of Langan v. State Farm Fire & Cas., 48 A.D.3d 76 (N.Y. Sup. App. Div. 2007).

[8] See id. at 78-79.

[9] Jennifer H. Rearden and Farrah Pepper, Oh No, Ephemeral Data, N.Y. Law Journal, Mar. 22, 2010,  

[10] Jennifer Rearden, Farrah Pepper, and Adam Jantzi, Scheindlin’s ‘Day Laborer’ Decision: Much Ado About Metadata, Law Technology News, Feb. 22, 2011,

Saritha Komatireddy – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York

A prominent federal prosecutor and former clerk to Justice Brett Kavanaugh (on the D.C. Circuit), Saritha Komatireddy would (if she lapped current nominee Diane Gujarati) be the first Indian American judge on the Eastern District and the first Telugu American judge on the federal bench.[1]


Saritha Komatireddy grew up in Missouri, the daughter of doctors who had immigrated from Telangana in India, making her the first nominee from a Telugu background.[2]  As a child, Komatireddy was honored as a Presidential Scholar in 2001.[3]  Komatireddy attended Harvard University and Harvard Law School, getting her J.D. Magna Cum Laude in 2009.  Komatireddy then clerked for then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.  After her clerkship, Komatireddy spent a year as Counsel for the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.

In 2011, Komatireddy became an Associate at Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel PLLC.  In 2013, she was hired by U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch (later the U.S. Attorney General) as an Assistant U.S. Attorney.  Komatireddy currently works in that office as Deputy Chief of General Crimes.  

History of the Seat

Komatireddy has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.  While she has not been officially submitted to the Senate yet, she will likely fill the seat vacated by Judge Joseph Bianco’s elevation to the Second Circuit, which is the longest pending vacancy on the Eastern District without a nominee, having opened in May 17, 2019.

Legal Experience

While Komatireddy has held a few different legal positions, her most prominent role has been as a federal prosecutor.  In the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, Komatireddy has prosecuted a number of challenging and complex cases, including pornography and terrorism.

For example, Komatireddy prosecuted Roy Naim, an immigration activist featured in Time magazine, for child pornography charges.[4]  Naim ended up with a 15 year sentence from Judge Nicholas Garaufis.[5]  In another case, Komatireddy prosecuted Phil Kenner for defrauding NHL players and other investors in a vast criminal enterprise.[6] 

Komatireddy’s most notable cases, however, involved the prosecutions of individuals for terrorism-related charges.  For example, Komatireddy secured a 16 year sentence against Agron Hasbajrami for attempting to join radical terrorist groups in Pakistan.[7]  Komatireddy also tried Muhanad Mahmoud Al Farekh, a U.S. citizen charged with involvement in attacks on U.S. bases in Afghanistan.[8]  Al Farekh was convicted and sentenced to 45 years in prison.  More recently, Komatireddy is prosecuting Ruslan Maratovich Asainov, who is alleged to be a sniper for ISIS, and who threatened to commit acts of terror if allowed to be free on bond.[9]

Additionally, Komatireddy was involved in a legal battle over Apple’s refusal to provide backdoors to the federal government to bypass password protections for their iPhones.[10]  The issue arose after Apple refused to unlock the iPhone of a defendant charged with drug distribution, leaving Komatireddy “clearly stunned.”[11]  Ultimately, a judge sided with Apple, arguing that the federal government could not compel the disclosure.[12] 


As a law student, Komatireddy authored an article discussing the recent Supreme Court case, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly.[13]  The article critiques the decision, noting that it dramatically changes previous standards on pleading, and “seems to have created a more stringent pleading standard.”[14]  The Supreme Court later affirmed this reading of Twombly in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, expressly laying out a stricter pleading standard.[15] 

In other matters, Komatireddy wrote in support of Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, joining a letter by former Kavanaugh clerks praising the Justice.[16]  In another statement, Komatireddy described Kavanaugh as a man with “fundamental respect for the law and a complete commitment to getting it right.”[17]  Notably, unlike fellow appointees Justin Walker and Sarah Pitlyk, Komatireddy did not make public statements in relation to the sexual assault allegations made by Prof. Christine Blasey Ford.

Overall Assessment

For the most part, assuming she keeps the support of Sens. Schumer and Gillibrand, Komatireddy will be confirmed comfortably.  If she faces any issues in the confirmation process, it’d likely be from two sources.  The first would be from opponents of Justice Kavanaugh who would object to her praise of his nomination.  The second would be from civil libertarians who object to Komatireddy’s role in seeking backdoor access to iPhones.  From her supporters, both arguments have viable counters: Komatireddy did not address Dr. Ford’s testimony and only praised Kavanaugh for his role as a D.C. Circuit judge; and Komatireddy has not the decisionmaker behind the “backdoor” program but merely sought to use a legal mechanism that Apple had acquiesced to in 70+ cases to assist in prosecutions.  Assuming such explanations carry the day, Komatireddy should expect confirmation before the end of the year.

[1] The Telugu American community, consisting of immigrants from the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh states in India, make up half a million in the U.S., including the author of this article.

[2] See Lawyer with Telangana Roots Posted as Judge in US District Court, Times of India, Feb. 23, 2020.

[3] Three Missouri Students Named as Presidential Scholars, A.P. State & Local Wire, May 16, 2001.

[4] See Ryan Gorman, Roy Naim, the ‘Jewish Face of the Immigration Reform Struggle’ Featured in Time Magazine, Arrested on Child Porn Charges and Denied Bail, MailOnline, Sept. 21, 2013.

[5] See John Marzulli, Time for Jail Cover Guy Gets 15 Years – Preyed on Cancer Kid, N.Y. Daily News, May 19, 2016.

[6] Michael O’Keeffe, Alleged Con Man Takes the Stand, Says NHLers, Others Got Testimony Wrong, N.Y. Daily News, June 18, 2015. 

[7] Press Release, Department of Justice, Albanian National Sentenced to 16 Years’ Imprisonment for Attempting to Support Terrorism, US Official News, Aug. 19, 2015.

[8] Tom Hays, Jury Hears Openings at Trial of American Terror Suspect, A.P. State & Local, Sept. 12, 2017.

[9] See Ruth Weissmann, NY ‘ISIS’: Free Me At Your Peril, N.Y. Post, Sept. 12, 2019.

[10] See Todd C. Frankel, Ellen Nakashima, Showdown over iPhone Reignites Privacy Debate, Wash. Post, Feb. 21, 2016.

[11] See id.

[12] Katie Benner and Joseph Goldstein, Judge Rules for Apple in New York iPhone Case, N.Y. Times, Mar. 1, 2016.

[13] Saritha Komatireddy Tice, A ‘Plausible’ Explanation of Pleading Standards: Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S. Ct. 1955 (2007), 31 Harv. J.L.  & Pub. Pol’y 827 (Spring 2008).

[14] Id. at 832.

[15] See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009).

[16] See Press Release, Office of Sen. Charles Grassley, Judge Kavanaugh Clerks Laud Nomination to Supreme Court, July 11, 2018.

[17] Press Release, Office of the Press Secretary, White House, The Legal Community is Giving Rave Reviews to Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Nomination to the Supreme Court, July 12, 2018.

Judge Sandy Leal – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California

Judge Sandy Leal currently serves on the Orange County Superior Court.  While Leal’s experience on the bench is fairly brief, she has extensive experience as a federal prosecutor.


Sandy Nunes Leal was born in Longview Washington in 1972.  Leal got an B.A. from the University of Washington in 1995, and a J.D. from Boston College Law School in 1989.[1]  After graduating, Leal joined the Immigration and Naturalization Service as an assistant district counsel.[2] 

In 2004, Leal joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California as a federal prosecutor.  She stayed with the Office until her appointment to the bench.

In 2018, Leal was named by Gov. Jerry Brown to the Orange Superior Court, where she currently serves.[3] 

History of the Seat

Leal has been nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, to a seat vacated on November 23, 2016 by Judge Christina Snyder.

In February 2019, Leal was contacted by the White House Counsel’s Office to gauge her interest in a federal judgeship.[4]  After interviews with the Judicial Advisory Commission set up by Senators Feinstein and Harris, Leal was nominated on October 17, 2019.

Legal Experience

For the first few years of her career, Leal worked for INS, where she appeared in immigration court on removal proceedings, asylum hearings, and appeals.[5]  From 2004 to 2018, Leal has worked as a federal prosecutor, where she worked primarily on immigration and human trafficking matters.

As a federal prosecutor, Leal prosecuted Robert Ornelas, an Orange County teacher, who traveled to the Philippines to engage in sexual conduct with minors and produce child pornography.[6]  Ornelas was tried and convicted by a jury and was sentenced by Judge Cormac Carney to 190 years in prison.[7]  Leal also prosecuted Roshaun (“Kevin”) Nakia Porter for trafficking victims to engage in commercial sex acts.[8] 


Since 2018, Leal has served as a judge on the Orange County Superior Court.  In this role, Leal presides over trial court matters in criminal, civil, family, and other state law matters.  By her estimation, Leal has not authored any opinions during her tenure on the bench.[9]  Among the cases that Leal has presided over, they are primarily cases of family and domestic law, including petitions for dissolution,[10] request for restraining orders,[11] and child custody orders.[12]

Overall Assessment

Despite, or perhaps because of, her limited judicial record, there is little in Leal’s background that should cause trouble through the confirmation process.  When confirmed, she would be a fairly middle of the road judge on the Central District.

[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 116th Cong., Sandy Nunes Leal: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] See Press Release, Office of Gov. Edmund G. Brown, Brown Names Aide, Five Others to Superior Courts, Dec. 18, 2018 (available at  

[3] See id. 

[4] See Leal, supra n. 1 at 26.

[5] See id. at 15.

[6] Press Release, Justice Department, Former Orange County Teacher in Sex Tourism Case Found Guilty of Traveling to Phillipines to Molest Young Girls and Filiming the Abuse, (Nov. 18, 2016).

[7] See United States v. Ornelas, SA CR 14-183-CJC (C.D. Cal.).

[8] See United States v. Porter, SA CR 12-97-JLS (C.D. Cal.).

[9] See Leal, supra n. 1 at 7.

[10] See, e.g., Campbell v. Campbell, No. 16D001563 (O.C. Sup. Ct.).

[11] See, e.g., Y.A. v. O.T., No. 19P000051 (O.C. Sup. Ct.).

[12] See, e.g., C.D. v. G.D., No.18D006591 (O.C. Sup. Ct.).