Tiffany Cunningham – Nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals in the Federal Circuit

The Federal Circuit is the only federal appellate court that has never had an African American judge serving on it.  President Biden’s nomination of Chicago litigator Tiffany Cunningham, however, fixes this aberration while adding a seasoned patent litigator to the court.

Background

Tiffany P. Cunningham received a B. Sc. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1998 and received a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2001.  After graduating, Cunningham clerked for Judge Timothy Dyk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

After her clerkship, Cunningham joined the Chicago office of Kirkland & Ellis as an Associate.  In 2007, Cunningham became a Partner with the firm.  In 2014, she shifted to become a Partner with Perkins Coie, where she currently works.

History of the Seat

Cunningham has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.  The seat will open on May 31, 2021 when Judge Evan Wallach moves to senior status.

Political Activity

As of 2021, Cunningham has donated relatively rarely to political candidates, making a contribution to President Obama in 2012, and to Hillary Clinton in 2016.[1]

Legal Career

After her clerkship on the Federal Circuit, Cunningham has spent the next twenty years of her career as a patent litigator, serving this role both at Kirkland & Ellis and at Perkins Coie.  Between these two positions, Cunningham has represented plaintiffs and defendants across the country in patent litigation.  

For example, while at Kirkland & Ellis, Cunningham was part of the legal team for Caterpillar, Inc. who successfully persuaded the Federal Circuit to reverse a jury decision finding that the company had misappropriated trade secrets and breached its contract.[2]  On the district court level, Cunningham defended Syngenta Crop Protection LLC in a patent infringement lawsuit brought by Bayer Cropscience Inc.[3]  

Similarly, while at Perkins Coie, Cunningham represented Intel Corp. before the Delaware Chancery Court in a dispute over the technology used in Wi-Fi products.[4]  

Overall Assessment

Perhaps because of the court’s specialized docket, nominees to the Federal Circuit don’t usually attract the same degree of controversy as nominees to the other courts of appeals.  Cunningham, who has extensive experience in the court’s IP-heavy docket, is unlikely to break this pattern, and will likely be confirmed with broad support.

[1]Center for Responsive Politics, https://www.opensecrets.org/donor-lookup/results?name=Tiffany+Cunningham&cycle=&state=IL&zip=&employ=&cand= (last visited Apr. 3, 2021).

[2]See Caterpillar Inc. v. Sturman Indus., 387 F.3d 1358 (Fed. Cir. 2004).

[3] See Bayer Cropscience, Inc. v. Syngenta Crop Prot. LLC, 979 F. Supp. 2d 653 (M.D.N.C. 2013).

[4] See Jeff Montgomery, Intel Wins Early Round in Chancery Suit Over Sanyo License, Law 360, Mar. 1, 2021. See also Sanyo Elec. Co. Ltd. v. Intel. Corp., C.A. No. 2018-0723-MTZ, 2021 Del. Ch. LEXIS 35 (Del. Ch. Feb. 26, 2021).

Judge Deborah Boardman – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland

In 2019, Judge Stephanie Gallagher, a magistrate judge in the District of Maryland, was confirmed to the federal bench.  She was replaced as a magistrate judge by federal public defender Deborah Boardman.  Boardman herself is now a nominee to join Gallagher on the Maryland District Court.

Background

The 46-year-old Boardman was born in Silver Spring, Maryland and grew up in nearby Frederick.  Boardman received a B.A. summa cum laude from Villanova University in 1996, and then spent a year in Amman, Jordan, on a Fulbright Scholarship.  Boardman then obtained a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law in 2000.

After graduation, Boardman clerked for Judge James Cacheris on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. She then joined the D.C. office of Hogan & Hartson as an associate.  In 2008, Boardman left the firm to become a federal public defender in Maryland. 

In 2019, when Gallagher was elevated to be a U.S. District Judge, Boardman was appointed to replace her as a U.S. Magistrate Judge, where she currently serves.

History of the Seat

Boardman has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.  While the exact seat has not been specified, Boardman will likely fill the seat opened by Judge Richard Bennett’s move to senior status upon the confirmation of his successor.

Legal Career

Boardman began her legal career as a law clerk on the Eastern District of Virginia.  From 2001 to 2008, she worked as an associate at Hogan & Hartson in Washington D.C.  During her tenure there, Boardman worked on the legal team for Derek Tice, a former Navy officer who had been convicted of rape and murder in Norfolk.[1]  Boardman was able to convince Judge Everett Martin to overturn Tice’s conviction based on violations of his right against self-incrimination.[2] However, Martin’s decision was overturned by the Virginia Supreme Court (in a decision written by future Fourth Circuit Judge Barbara Keenan).

From 2008 to 2019, Boardman worked as a Federal Public Defender in Maryland, where she represented indigent defendants in federal court.  Among her notable matters there, Boardman represented Thomas Drake, an employee of the National Security Agency charged with mishandling classified information.[3]  The prosecution ended with the dropping of all charges in exchange for a plea on a single misdemeanor.  Boardman also represented Anthony McIntosh, a Prince George’s County jail worker who was charged with failing to seek medical attention when coming across an inmate who was found “hanging from a sheet in his cell.”[4] 

Political Activity

Boardman has a couple of political donations under her belt.  In 2007, Boardman gave $500 to the Presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, while in 2008, she gave $300 to Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign.

Jurisprudence 

Boardman has served as a U.S. Magistrate judge in Maryland since her appointment in 2019.  In this role, she handles settlement, discovery, and makes recommendations on dispositive motions.  She also presides over cases where the parties consent.

Given her short tenure as a magistrate, Boardman has relatively few substantive decisions under her belt, generally involving issues of pretrial release and detention.  For example, Boardman denied the government’s motion to hold Michael Davis, who was charged with drug and firearm related offenses, finding that Davis has no history of violence and there were conditions other than detention that could protect the community.[5]

In another case, Boardman granted an inmate’s motion for pretrial release, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic materially changed the circumstances of his detention and that additional conditions could ensure the safety of the community.[6]  

Overall Assessment

With two decades of litigation experience, and a relatively uncontroversial background, Boardman should, barring the unexpected, see a relatively comfortable confirmation to the District of Maryland.

[1]See Matt Reed, Judge Overturns Conviction in 1997 Norfolk Murder Case, A.P., Nov. 30, 2006.

[2]Id.

[3] See Alex Dominguez, Motion to Drop Charges in NSA Leaks Case Denied, A.P., March 31, 2011.

[4] See Brian White, Man Pleads Guilty in Case Involving Inmate Death, A.P., Jan. 4, 2013.

[5]United States v. Davis, 449 F. Supp. 3d 532 (D. Md. 2020).

[6] United States v. Shaheed, 455 F. Supp. 225 (D. Md. 2020).

Judge Lydia Griggsby – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland

Judge Lydia Griggsby, nominated to be a federal trial judge in Maryland, should have a short learning curve for her new role, given that she has served as a trial judge on the specialized Court of Federal Claims for the last seven years.

Background

A native Marylander, Lydia Kay Griggsby was born on January 16, 1968 in Baltimore.  Griggsby received a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1990, and then obtained a J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center in 1993.[1]

After graduation, Griggsby worked for the Baltimore office of DLA Piper for two years before joining the U.S. Department of Justice as a trial attorney. [2]  In 1998, Griggsby became a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.

In 2004, Griggsby left to become Counsel for the Senate Committee on Ethics.  In 2006, she became Counsel to Sen. Patrick Leahy at the Senate Judiciary Committee, working on privacy and technology issues.[3]

In 2014, Griggsby was nominated by President Obama to be a Judge on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, replacing Judge Francis Allegra.  Griggsby was confirmed by voice vote on December 5, 2014, and has served in that position ever since.

History of the Seat

Griggsby has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.  While the exact seat has not been specified, Griggsby will likely fill the seat opened by Judge Ellen Lipton Hollander’s move to senior status upon the confirmation of her successor.

Legal Career

Griggsby has held a number of positions throughout her career, including work in private practice, for the federal government, and as a staffer for the U.S. Senate.  Interestingly, by her own description, most of these roles did not involve Griggsby working on litigation, and Griggsby did not actively try any cases except on the pleadings.[4]

Nonetheless, Griggsby has worked on a number of complex cases.  For example, Griggsby worked as part of the federal government in negotiating a consent decree requiring better environmental protections in vehicles produced by Toyota. [5]  She also defended the Bureau of Prisons against a constitutional lawsuit challenging regulations governing the inmates’ use of mail.[6] 

Political Activity

Griggsby has a fairly short political history, consisting primarily of two stints conducting voter protection for the Obama campaigns in 2008 and 2012.[7]

Jurisprudence 

Griggsby has served as a U.S. Court of Federal Claims judge since her appointment in 2014.  In this role, she adjudicates suits involving monetary claims against the federal government as well as specialized cases, including vaccine injury suits.  Among her notable rulings on the Court of Federal Claims, Griggsby ruled, in a decision upheld by the Federal Circuit, that a protester to the award of a government contract did not have standing to file a challenge if the protester was unable to perform the contract.[8]  

Overall Assessment

Seven years ago, Griggsby was confirmed unanimously for a seat on the Court of Federal Claims.  Given the lack of controversy in her background, there is little reason to think that her confirmation to the District of Maryland will be too different.

[1]See Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 113rd Cong., Lydia Griggsby: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2]Id. at 2.

[3] See id.

[4] Id. at 14-15.

[5]See United States v. Toyota Motor Corp., No. 99-018888 (D.D.C. July 1, 2003).

[6] McCain v. Reno, 98 F. Supp. 2d 5 (D.D.C. 2000).

[7] See Griggsby, supra n. 1 at 11.

[8] See Stuart Turner and Nathaniel Castellano, Fed. Circ. Ruling Highlights Bid Protester Standing Issues, Mondaq, Sept. 28, 2018.

Judge Florence Pan – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

In 2016, D.C. Superior Court Judge Florence Pan became the first Asian woman tapped for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.  Despite a favorable recommendation from the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee, Pan’s nomination was never confirmed.  Now, more than four years later, Pan has a second chance to join the federal bench.     

Background

Born in 1966, Florence Yu Pan graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania in 1988 and then received her J.D. cum laude from Stanford Law School in 1993. 

After graduating, Pan clerked for Judge Michael Mukasey on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and for Judge Ralph Winter on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit before joining the Department of Justice as a Bristow Fellow in the Office of the Solicitor General.  Pan then worked in the Department of Treasury between 1998 and 1999.

In 1999, Pan became a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.  She stayed with the office until her appointment by President Obama to the D.C. Superior Court in 2009.  

On April 28, 2016, Pan was nominated by President Barack Obama to become a U.S. District Judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, replacing Judge Reggie Walton.  However, her nomination was not confirmed by the U.S. Senate, which was then under Republican control, and after President Donald Trump was elected, he nominated Dabney Freidrich to fill the vacancy.

History of the Seat

The seat Pan has been nominated for will open upon the confirmation of Judge Ketanji Jackson to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.  

Legal Experience

Pan started her legal career as a clerk to Judge Michael Mukasey on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and then for Judge Ralph Winter on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.  Since then, Pan worked for the federal government until her appointment to the D.C. Superior Court, going from the Department of Justice to the Department of the Treasury to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.  During her tenure, Pan tried around forty cases, half of which were jury trials. 

Among the significant matters that she worked on, Pan argued before the en banc D.C. Circuit in support of the police partially unzipping the jacket of a suspect during a Terry stop. See U.S. v. Askew, 529 F.3d 1119 (D.C. Cir. 2008) (en banc).  The D.C. Circuit ruled against her on the issue, finding that the facts surrounding the stop did not create reasonable suspicion for unzipping the jacket. See id.

Pan also argued in front of the D.C. Court of Appeals in defending a conviction against a defendant alleging an insanity defense to killing her child. See McNeil v. United States, 933 A.2d 354 (D.C. 2007).  The D.C. Court of Appeals overturned the conviction, finding that the prosecutor below improperly used the defendant’s invocation of her Miranda rights to argue that she was sane. See id. at 369.

Judicial Experience

Since her confirmation in 2009, Pan has served as a Judge on the D.C. Superior Court.  She started her time in the court on a Felony docket, but has since served on the Family, Misdemeanor, and Civil dockets as well.     

While serving on the Felony docket, Pan presided over a number of prosecutions of violent offenders, frequently handing out significant sentences, including a 15-year-sentence for a man who assaulted a victim in LeDroit Park, a 12-year-sentence for a man who stabbed the victim in Southeast D.C., and a 60-year-sentence to Antwon Pitt, who sexually assaulted a woman in Southeast D.C. as part of two home invasions.  On the civil side, Pan dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Center for Inquiry against Walmart for selling homeopathic medicines.

In her twelve years on the bench, a handful of Pan’s rulings have been reversed by the D.C. Court of Appeals.  In two cases, Pan presided over convictions for assault with significant bodily injury that were reversed because the Court of Appeals found insufficient evidence of significant injury. Compare In re D.P., 122 A.3d 903 (D.C. 2015) with Quintanilla v. United States, 62 A.3d 1261 (D.C. 2013).  On the civil side, in 2020, the D.C. Court of Appeals reversed Pan’s decision not to award treble damages in a wage-and-hour suit, finding that she had no discretion not to award the damages. Sivaraman v. Guizzetti & Associates., 228 A.3d 1066 (D.C. 2020).

Political Activity

Pan made a $500 contribution to the Presidential Campaign of John Kerry in 2004, her only contribution of record.  

Overall Assessment

This will be the third time that Pan has faced the U.S. Senate. In 2009, she was confirmed unanimously by a Democratic-controlled Senate. In 2016, she was approved by a Republican-controlled Committee but ultimately did not receive a confirmation vote before the U.S. Senate. Today, with a relatively uncontroversial moderate-liberal record, Pan is favored for a bipartisan confirmation.