Jia Cobb – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

Relman Colfax Partner Jia Cobb, nominated for the federal district court in D.C., would come to the bench with extensive litigation experience on both the civil and the criminal side.


Jia Cobb received her B.A. from Northwestern University in 2002 and then received her J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School where she served as Coordinating Editor of the Harvard Law Review.

After graduating, Cobb clerked for Judge Diane Wood on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and joined the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. In 2010, she became a Partner at Relman Colfax, where she practices civil litigation and civil rights law.

History of the Seat

The seat Cobb has been nominated for opened on April 3, 2021, with Judge Emmett Sullivan’s move to senior status. Cobb was recommended by House Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton for the federal bench on March 25, 2021.

Legal Experience

Cobb started her legal career as a clerk to Judge Diane Wood on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. She then shifted to the Public Defender Service in D.C., where she represented indigent defendants in D.C. Superior Court and in the federal courts. Among her clients there, Cobb represented Christopher Timmons, who was charged with bringing a grenade and additional weapons near the U.S. Capitol complex. In his defense, Timmons claimed that he wanted to assist the police in their functions.

For the past eleven years, Cobb has served as a Partner at Relman Colfax, where she has practiced civil rights and civil litigation. Among her notable matters at the firm, Cobb represented an African-American bartender fired from Redline bar in Washington D.C. in an employment discrimination suit. The suit ended in a $687,000 judgment against the bar by a jury.

Additionally, in 2021, Cobb led the filing of lawsuits against the County of Stafford, the City of Fredericksburg, the District of Columbia, and other governmental organizations for allegedly infringing upon the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of Black Lives Matter protesters.

Statements and Writings

Throughout her career, Cobb has spoken out on issues of race, gender, and diversity, including from her college days. As a college sophomore at Northwestern, Cobb spoke as part of the school’s first conference on diversity on a panel on racial coverage at the Daily Northwestern. See Rebecca Orbach, Northwestern U. Holds School’s First Conference on Diversity, Daily Northwestern, Nov. 8, 1999. She also served on a committee reviewing the school’s University Sexual Assault Hearing and Appeals System. See Emily Bittner, Committee Reviews Northwestern U.’s Sexual Assault Hearing and Appeals System, Daily Northwestern, May 18, 2000. In another interview from college, Cobb noted that she wanted to speak for the disadvantaged to “honor[] those who have made sacrifices for her.” See Wailin Wong, DePaul Professor Praises King’s ‘Radical Legacy’ Despite Flaws, Daily Northwestern, Jan. 11, 2001.

Similarly, as a law student, Cobb co-authored a paper discussing the disparities in African Americans serving on law reviews. See Jia Cobb, Lauren Sudeall & Amanda Teo, Diversity on the Law Review, HARV. L. REC., May 2, 2005.

Overall Assessment

With an appellate clerkship, nearly two decades of criminal and civil litigation experience, and a lack of background in partisan politics, Cobb could be a fairly uncontroversial pick for the federal bench. However, she is likely to draw opposition primarily based on her work in criminal defense and civil rights, which opponents may argue reflects bias. She may also draw questions for her statements and writings on issues of race and diversity. Ultimately, as long as Democrats hold together, Cobb will likely be confirmed in due course.


  1. Absolutely an A+ nominee! This is the standard that Biden judicial appointments should be judged by.
    When Ketanji Brown Jackson moves up to the Supreme Court, hopefully this fall, Jia Cobb should replace her.


  2. Excellent pick. I wouldn’t have been upset had this been the choice for the vacant DC Circuit seat. This should be the model for future court vacancies, particularly in states with two Democrat senators.


    • I absolutely agree.

      Also today President Biden announced his 6th batch of judicial nominees. Look for John P. Howard III, who was announced today to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, to be considered for future circuit court vacancies as well. He looks like he was born in or around 1984 so his youth should keep him in the running for decades. Also he is the first Biden nominee that was previously nominated by President Trump so he could potentially gain bi-partisan support.


      • Frankly I’m a little disappointed in the nominees that Biden put up today.

        We can do better than a 56 year old nominee in Vermont. She appears to have been a plaintiffs’ attorney defending injured workers (see link below), which is good. I’m glad she’s from the LGBTQ community and an attorney on LGBTQ cases (but ANY Dem appointed nominee from Vermont is good on LGBTQ issues. The differences come on labor/consumer/plaintiff cases and on criminal justice). One better option may have been Zephyr Teachout (who grew up in Vermont and has ties to the state) and is six years younger.

        Christine Sweeney is also ok. Not great due to her age (born in 1969), but certainly acceptable.

        We also can do far better than an AUSA in Washington state. I don’t know much about John Howard III, but I’m very unimpressed that he was nominated by Trump. Even if the judicial committee provided a list of only liberals and Democrats (quite likely in Washington DC), I would expect Trump to pick the worst one. So certainly we can do far better there.

        And as I’ve said before, I am strongly against nominating people who can get bipartisan support. We can nominate those kinds of people when the GOP has the Senate. Not now.


    • I too was a little disappointed in Beth Robinson because of her age but even more so because her seat on the Vermont Supreme Court will now be filled by the Republican governor.

      I wasn’t expecting much from Colorado’s two senators so I guess a fairly progressive LGBT Charlotte Sweeney born in the late 1960’s is about as good of a pick we were going to get from them. Even dating back to the Obama administration it seems like we can never find a progressive Democrat in their late 30’s or 40’s in the entire state to be a federal judge.

      I’m happy to see Theodore McKee announcing he will be taking senior status opening up a seat on the third circuit. I hope President Biden doesn’t just renominate Ross Haywood since she never got a vote in President Obama’s last year in office. Pennsylvania has plenty of younger & more progressive nominees that can be appointed.


      • Sweeney would have been a fantastic selection if she was even 5 years younger. She is a plaintiff-side employment attorney.

        As far as the 3rd Circuit seat; It’s too bad that Amanda Green-Hawkins, a Black labor lawyer who has argued many cases in the 3rd Circuit for the Steelworkers, narrowly lost in 2019 in the PA judicial elections by 0.3%. The PA Bar intentionally sabotaged her candidacy by giving her a “not qualified” rating supposedly because she didn’t have enough experience in the PA courts. We all know the real reason, she wasn’t part of the corporate/prosecutor club.
        I would still pick her for the 3rd Circuit, she’s a better fit for the federal courts anyway.

        This is why the ABA should NEVER get a veto power over nominees. I’m so glad that Biden refused to submit nominees to the ABA. Obama should have done this in 2009, as the ABA reportedly spiked a couple NAACP attorneys as potential judges.


  3. Biden refusing to go back to the ABA was a phenomenal decision along with the letter sent to senators in December emphasizing him wanting diverse nominees. I would love a nominee like Amanda Green-Hawkins or at least in that mold. I am not too confident however on the recommendations from Pennsylvania. I see their recommendations more in line with Colorado, slightly better then New Jersey’s. I truly hope Biden doesn’t give deference to the senators on the circuit court vacancies on this pick.


  4. Bob Casey will be advising Biden on this nomination. Toomey will likely not have any say as Casey objected to multiple of Trump’s picks for the 3rd Circuit.

    Casey is moderate on cultural issues, but he’s a strong pro-labor guy. He’s also quite close to Biden personally, so I think he’s far more likely to follow Biden’s request for more professional diversity than the NJ or CO senators. Green-Hawkins would be the kind of nominee that Casey would be quite comfortable with; economically progressive and party loyalist but not associated with socially liberal groups.


    • I sure hope your right. Ross Haywood, Cheryl Ann Krause or Luis Felipe Restrepo (Although I’m at least happy a Latino was confirmed to the third circuit) doesn’t exactly excite me. But I understand times were different during the Obama administration & Pat Toomey had blue slip privileges on appeal court nominees back then.


      • Restrepo wasn’t bad at all except for his age. He was actually a criminal defense and civil rights attorney in a law firm with now Philly DA Larry Krasner. I’m surprised that Toomey let him through. But Krasner didn’t hit the spotlight until 2017, after Restrepo was confirmed.


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