Christine O’Hearn – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey

Camden-based labor and employment attorney Christine O’Hearn is President Biden’s third nominee to the District of New Jersey, a short-staffed court with a number of vacancies that need filling.

Background

Born on June 26, 1969 in Camden, New Jersey, Christine P. O’Hearn received a B.A. from the University of Delaware in 1990 and a J.D. cum laude from Temple University School of Law in 1993.  O’Hearn has been at the firm of Brown & Connery since her graduation, and currently works as a Partner in their Labor and Employment and Litigation groups.

History of the Seat

The seat O’Hearn has been nominated for opened on November 2, 2018, with Judge Robert Kugler’s move to senior status.  Due to a dispute over nominees between New Jersey Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker and the Trump Administration, no nominee to fill a district court vacancy in New Jersey was put forward by Trump.  O’Hearn was nominated to fill the vacancy on April 29, 2021.

Legal Experience

O’Hearn has spent her entire career at Brown & Connery, where she worked primarily in labor and employment litigation, while also taking some cases involving negligence and professional liability matters.  Among her notable matters, O’Hearn represented the parents of John Fiocco Jr., a student at the College of New Jersey who passed away and whose body was found in a Bucks County landfill, in a suit against the College and the State of New Jersey.  The suit ended in a settlement for $425,000.

On the employment side, O’Hearn generally represented employers in suits brought by employees.  For example, O’Hearn defended against a suit brought by former Gloucester County Sheriff Sharon Illas, who alleged that she had been sexually assaulted by one of her supervisors.  The suit concluded in a settlement, which included a statement by Illas retracting the allegation and clearing the County of any wrongdoing.  In a media statement, O’Hearn described the lawsuit as “the most frivolous case I have encountered.”  O’Hearn also noted that “[a]llegations of sexual assault which are knowingly false cause[] irreparable harm to the accused…A letter of apology does not erase that damage.” 

Political Activity

O’Hearn has a few political contributions to her name, all to Democrats, including Menendez and former Rep. Rob Andrews.

Overall Assessment

As a private practice attorney with plenty of experience in federal practice, O’Hearn is a conventional, if a bit safe, choice for the federal bench.  However, there is little in her experience or background that is likely to draw controversy, and she will likely receive bipartisan support on the way to confirmation.

9 Comments

  1. The NJ selections have been well below par. To start with Neals and O’Hearn are simply too old. O’Hearn is absolutely atrocious. Attorneys who have consistently represented employers in labor/employment cases should be summarily disqualified from consideration from judicial appointments for a Democratic administration. (And if/when the Democrats hold the Senate in a GOP administration, they should not get a hearing.)

    Progressive Democrats in the Senate should treat O’Hearn like Regina Rodriguez. If there are 35-40 Republicans to vote no here, progressive Democrats should join them and sink the nominee.

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  2. Senators Booker & Menendez did a great job leaving six district court judgeships vacant during the Trump presidency. Unfortunately they have not done as good of a job with their recommendations to President Biden for those vacancies. They need to do a better job finding younger & more progressive nominees. I am hard pressed to say even two of the first four nominees meet that criteria. I am hoping for much better picks for the final two New Jersey district court vacancies.

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    • This is probably Biden’s worst pick that was not a previous Obama nominee that didn’t get a vote. The problem with progressives forming a block to vote her down is I have no confidence in Senator Menendez recommending a better nominee & all we will have to show for it is losing over 3 months of time. Prior to Biden being sworn in it was reported that Senator Menendez was considering recommending a New Jersey state judge who is Latino (Which is great) that is 65 years old (Which is horrible for a federal judge). I think at this point the better fight would be on the two remaining vacancies on the NJ district court.

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      • No, I think a message needs to be sent right here, and if there are 40 GOP no votes, this nomination should be tanked. I really feel that we would be better off with an empty seat than this nominee. O’Hearn is really that horrible, and honestly we wouldn’t have done much worse with a Trump nominee.

        I actually think the Biden admin was fooled into thinking that O’Hearn was employee-side labor/employment attorney. No Democratic President should nominate a management attorney for a judgeship and no Democratic Senate should hold a hearing for a management attorney appointed by the GOP.

        “When O’Hearn’s nomination was announced, Menendez and Booker put out a glowing statement incongruously describing her as someone who had “spent much of her career advocating for women in the workplace and defending the rights of workers against employee discrimination, harassment and a hostile work environment.”

        https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2021/06/joe-biden-new-jersey-christine-ohearn.html

        Another important point, Bob Menendez is a corrupt criminal of the highest order who has been tried for corruption multiple times and has escaped with hung juries. This is someone who should be expelled from the Senate. I would personally reject any nominee he puts up.

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  3. Karen Williams may be the second worst, non Obama re-nominated Biden nominee so far. She’s not as brutally bad as O’Hearn but six years older. I’ll give Julien Neals a pass as he should have been confirmed under Obama & I am thrilled to have our nations first Muslim federal judge in Zahid Quraishi, but so far the other 2 nominees from New Jersey have been awful for a Biden administration. I’m almost afraid at who will be nominated for the final 2 vacancies

    https://prospect.org/justice/bidens-jekyll-and-hyde-judicial-nominations/

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  4. Pingback: Where We Stand: Assessing Vacancies and Nominations in the Federal Judiciary – The Atlantic Coast | The Vetting Room

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