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.
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.
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.