Fred Federici – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico

The federal courts along the U.S.-Mexico border are among the most overworked in the country.  This Las Cruces-based judgeship in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico has been vacant since 2018, after an attempt to fill it in 2019 failed.  Now, the White House is trying again with apolitical attorney Fred Federici.

Background

Fred Joseph Federici III was born in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1965.  Federici attended the College of William and Mary,, graduating in 1988.[1]  He moved immediately to the University of Virginia School of Law, getting his J.D. in 1991.

After graduation, Federici spent four year with the Washington D.C. office of Venable, Baetjer, Howard & Civiletti.  In 1995, Federici became a federal prosecutor in New Mexico, where he has served since.[2]  He has served as First Assistant (the second in command role) in the office since 2018.  

In 2010, Federici was one of 11 candidates interviewed by New Mexico’s Democratic Senators for consideration to be U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico in the Obama Administration.[3]  However, Federici’s colleague Kenneth Gonzalez was nominated for the position instead.  Gonzalez later went on to become a federal district judge for the District of New Mexico.

In 2017, Federici was recommended by Udall and Heinrich to be U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico, but John C. Anderson was nominated instead.

History of the Seat

Federici has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico.  This seat opened on July 25, 2018, when Judge Robert Brack moved to senior status.  In May 2018, New Mexico’s Democratic Senators sent four candidates for the vacancy to the White House.[4]  In June 2019, the White House nominated Judge Kevin Sweazea, a U.S. Magistrate Judge in the District of New Mexico, to fill the vacancy.  However, by November, the Senators had withdrawn their support for Judge Sweazea’s candidacy, and he withdrew his name from consideration.[5]

In June 2019, Federici reached out to New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich to express his interest in a federal judgeship.[6]  In April 2020, Udall and Heinrich jointly recommended Federici’s name to the White House for the judgeship.[7]  Federici interviewed with the White House on April 8 2020 and was selected as a nominee on April 23, 2020.[8]  Federici was nominated on June 18, 2020.

Legal Career

Federici started his legal career as an Associate at Venable, Baetjer, Howard & Civiletti, where he practiced civil litigation.  However, the vast majority of his career has been as a federal prosecutor.  At the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico, Federici worked on a variety of criminal cases, including drug, white collar, and national security cases.[9]  Over his career, Federici has tried twelve cases before a jury.

In his most notable prosecution, Federici led the case against Los Alamos scientist Pedro Mascheroni, who had offered to build nuclear bombs for Venezuela.[10]  Mascheroni ended up pleading guilty to passing classified information to a federal agent posing as a Venezuelan official.[11] 

In another notable cases, Federici prosecuted Jamie Estrada, the former campaign manager of New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, for hacking into and stealing the Governor’s emails.[12]  Estrada received a nine-month sentence for the offense.[13] 

Overall Assessment

Strongly considered for nomination under both the Obama and Trump Administrations, Federici appears to be a fairly mainstream choice for the bench. However, as we are already in August of an election year, it remains unclear whether the Senate will process Federici’s nomination in the time it has left.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 116th Cong., Fred J. Federici: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] See SANTA FE, Governor Appoints Federici to Seventh District, Associated Press State & Local Wire, Feb. 23, 2001.

[3] See Joe Monahan, NM Senators Refuse to Release Names of US Attorney Candidates, New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan, Jan. 21, 2010, http://joemonahansnewmexico.blogspot.com/2010/01/nm-senators-refuse-to-release-names-of.html.  

[4] See Press Release, Office of Sen. Tom Udall, Udall, Heinrich, Pearce Recommend Candidates to Fill Two Vacancies on U.S. District Court (May 2, 2018).

[5] See Mike Gallagher, Judge Kevin Sweazea Withdraws Name From Consideration for Federal Job in Las Cruces, Las Cruces Sun News, Nov. 1, 2019, https://www.lcsun-news.com/story/news/local/new-mexico/2019/11/01/judge-kevin-sweazea-withdraws-name-consideration-federal-job/2496662001/.  

[6] See Federici, supra n. 1 at 20.

[7] See id.

[8] Id. at 20-21.

[9] See id. at 10.

[10] See Russell Contreras, Tape: Scientist Offers to Build Nuke Bomb Targeting New York, A.P. State & Local, Jan. 29, 2015.

[11] United States v. Mascheroni, et al., 612 F. App’x 504 (10th Cir. June 1, 2015).

[12] Rob Nikolewski, Miffed Aide Who Hacked into NM Governor’s Emails Gets 9-Month Sentence, New Mexico Watchdog, Oct. 9, 2014.

[13] See id.

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