Judge Roderick Young – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia

A former federal prosecutor and U.S. Magistrate Judge, Judge Roderick Young is Trump’s latest nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Background

A native Virginian, Roderick Charles Young was born in the majority-black city of Petersburg in 1966.  He received a B.A. from George Mason University in 1989 and then got a J.D. from West Virginia University College of Law in 1994.[1] 

After graduation, Young worked for two years in temporary legal work before becoming an Assistant Public Defender in Portsmouth.[2]  In 1998, Young became an Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney for the City of Richmond.[3]  In 2002, Young became a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, where he became Deputy Criminal Supervisor in 2012.

In 2014, Young was appointed as a U.S. Magistrate Judge in the Richmond Division of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.  He continues to serve there today.

History of the Seat

Young has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.  This seat opened on August 1, 2019, when Judge Rebecca Beach Smith moved to senior status.  While recommending Young and fellow U.S. Magistrate Judge Douglas Miller for the vacancy, Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both Democrats, suggested that Smith’s replacement come from the Newport News Division of the court.[4]  Nonetheless, the White House chose the Richmond-based Young over the Peninsula-based Miller on May 6, 2020.

Legal Experience

While Young started his career doing temporary legal work, his first substantive role was in the Portsmouth Public Defenders’ Office.  Young then switched to the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office in Richmond, prosecuting felonies and misdemeanors in the City of Richmond.  Notably, while a prosecutor there, Young prosecuted and secured a conviction against John Matthew Grant Jr. for the shooting death of Shawn Battle.[5] 

From 2002 to 2014, Young was a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, where he focused on federal capital cases, organized crime, violent crime, and narcotics prosecutions.  Notably, Young prosecuted MS-13 leader Jose Bran, securing a term of life in prison against him.[6]

Jurisprudence

Young has served as a U.S. Magistrate Judge since 2014.  In this capacity, Young oversees discovery, adjudicates cases where jurisdiction is consented to, and presides over settlement.  In his time as a magistrate, Young has presided over 4 bench trials, and one full jury trial.  Notably, Young has presided over a number of civil rights cases, including obtaining successful settlements in a number of suits involving prisoners and police officers.[7]

Over his six years on the bench, Young’s rulings have been partially reversed by higher courts eight times.  Notably, one of those reversals was in Deutsch Bank Nat’l Tr. Co. v. Fegely, in which Young ruled that the defendant’s answer to the plaintiff’s pleadings was insufficient and that the plaintiff was entitled to judgment on the pleadings.[8]  The Fourth Circuit reversed, finding that the answer had denied factual allegations in the complaint, and that this was enough to defeat judgment on the pleadings.[9]

Overall Assessment

Given that Young has already been recommended by Virginia’s Democratic Senators and the White House, the biggest obstacle of his confirmation is the upcoming election and the rapidly shrinking Senate calendar.  At this point, while it’s an even money shot whether the Senate will process Young’s nomination, there are few substantive barriers to his confirmation.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 116th Cong., Roderick C. Young Jr.: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] Id. at 2.

[3] Id. 

[4] Press Release, Office of Sen. Tim Kaine, Warner & Kaine Announce Eastern District of Virginia Judicial Recommendations (March 20, 2020) (available at https://www.kaine.senate.gov/press-releases/03/20/2020/warner-and-kaine-announce-eastern-district-of-virginia-judicial-recommendations).

[5] See Alan Cooper, 85 Years Given in Shooting; Man Has Addiction to Guns, Judge Says, Richmond Times Dispatch, Apr. 28, 1999.

[6] See United States v. Jose Bran et al., 776 F.3d 276 (4th Cir. 2015).

[7] See Canady v. Clarke et al., Civil Action No. 3:14CV420 (E.D. Va.); Howard v. Hunter, Civil Action No. 3:15CV461 (E.D. Va.); Quarles v. City of Colonial Heights et al., Civil Action No. 3:18CV593 (E.D. Va.).

[8] See 2018 WL 4524104 (E.D. va. July 11, 2018).

[9] See 767 F. App’x 582 (4th Cir. 2019).

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