Judge Zahid Quraishi – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey

When President Biden released his list of 11 judicial nominees, they were described by many as “history-making.”  That moniker certainly holds for his nomination of New Jersey Magistrate Judge Zahid Quraishi, who would be, if confirmed the first Muslim American (as well as the first Pakistani American) Article III judge.

Background

Zahid Nisar Quraishi was born in 1975 in New York City and grew up in Fanwood, NJ in an immigrant family from Pakistan.[1]  Quraishi graduated from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 1997 and then attended Rutgers University School of Law, getting his J.D in 2000.

After graduating, Quraishi clerked on the Superior Court of New Jersey and then joined the Newark office of LeBouef, Lamb, Greene & MacRae, LLP.  In 2003, Quraishi left the firm to join the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General Corps. (JAG).  

In 2007, Quraishi joined the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as Assistant Chief Counsel and then became a federal prosecutor in New Jersey in 2008.  In 2013, Quraishi became a Partner at Riker Danzig.  Since 2019, Quraishi has been serving as a U.S. Magistrate Judge based in Trenton.

History of the Seat

The seat Quraishi has been nominated for opened on June 14, 2018, with Judge Peter Sheridan’s move to senior status.  The Trump Administration never put forward a nominee to fill this vacancy. For his part, Quraishi had been in contact with Sen. Cory Booker regarding this vacancy since February 2020 but his nomination only started to move after the election of President Biden, who nominated him on March 30, 2021.

Legal Experience

Quraishi has held a number of different positions throughout his career, including working in private practice, working as a federal government, and working as a JAG officer.  Throughout these positions, Quraishi has gained litigation experience in both criminal and civil law.  

Among the notable cases he has handled, Quraishi prosecuted New Jersey State Senator Wayne Bryant for honest services mail fraud, bribery, and extortion.[2] After a bench trial, U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson found Bryant “Not Guilty” of all charges, finding that the government had failed to prove that Bryant accepted payments in exchange for an official act.[3] 

On the defense side, Quraishi represented Apple employee Toni Ann Branca, who was convicted of embezzlement for double-billed Apple for expenses on her company credit card.[4]  Branca was sentenced to prison and paid $95,000 in restitution.[5]   

Judicial Experience

Quraishi has served as a U.S. Magistrate judge in New Jersey since his appointment in 2019.  In this role, he handles settlement, discovery, and makes recommendations on dispositive motions.  He also presides over cases where the parties consent.

Due to his relatively short tenure on the bench, Quraishi has not had many substantive matters under his belt.  However, in one notable case, Quraishi presided over a lawsuit alleging fraud on the part of Caesars Interactive, which operated an online poker platform.[6]  The suit concluded when Quraishi granted summary judgment to Caesars on all of the plaintiff’s claims.[7]

Overall Assessment

As we have previously noted, the District of New Jersey is desperately short-handed.  As Quraishi has a wide spectrum of legal experience, and little controversial about his background, he is poised to join the bench in due course.

[1] See Carl Glassman, Nisar Quraishi, 73, Longtime Tribeca MD, ‘Gave His Life to What He Loved’, The Tribeca Tribune, Apr. 19, 2020, http://www.tribecatrib.com/content/nisar-quraishi-73-longtime-tribeca-md-gave-his-life-what-he-loved.

[2] See United States v. Bryant, 885 F. Supp. 2d 749 (D.N.J. 2012).

[3] See id. at 751.

[4] See Michael Tanenbaum, Former New Jersey Apple Employee Gets Prison for Embezzling $243,000, The Philadelphia Voice, June 1, 2018, https://www.phillyvoice.com/new-jersey-apple-employee-embezzlement-sentenced-prison/

[5] See id.

[6] Shah v. Caesars Interactive Entm’t, Civil Action No. 18-14108 (FLW) (ZNQ), 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 185354 (D.N.J. Oct. 6, 2020).

[7] See id.

4 Comments

  1. Good pick & congratulations to the nominee for the history making pick as the first Muslim federal judge in the nations history once he is confirmed. Hopefully President Biden will nominate others such as Abid Qureshi, who never received a hearing or vote after President Obama nominated him.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Pennsylvania Member of Congress Tracking Report - 06.13.21

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