Sarala Vidya Nagala – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut

Sarala Vidya Nagala, a federal prosecutor in Connecticut, is one of three nominees put forward by the Biden Administration to fill vacancies on the District of Connecticut, in one of the biggest turnovers of the court since 1994.

Background

Nagala received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Stanford University in 2005 and her Juris Doctor from the University of California School of Law in 2008. After graduating law school, she clerked for U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Susan Graber on the Ninth Circuit, before joining the San Francisco office of Munger Tolles & Olson as an Associate. In 2012, Nagala moved to the public sector as an Assistant U.S. Attorney with the District of Connecticut, becoming Deputy Chief of the Major Crimes Unit in 2017. Nagala is still with the office.

History of the Seat

Nagala has been nominated to a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut opened by Judge Vanessa Lynne Bryant’s move to senior status on February 1, 2021.

Legal Career

Nagala started her legal career at the firm of Munger Tolles & Olson, a firm that has produced many prominent federal judges, including Justice Brett Kavanaugh and four sitting Ninth Circuit judges. At the firm, Nagala was part of the legal team representing Bank of America in seeking damages arising from financial fraud orchestrated by the Taylor, Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corp. See Bank of Am, N.A. v. FDIC, 908 F. Supp. 2d 60 (D.D.C. 2012). On the pro-bono side, Nagala was part of the legal team, along with the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, challenging a gang injunction imposed by Orange County. Vasquez v. Rackaukas, 203 F. Supp. 3d 1061 (C.D. Cal. 2011).

Nagala has spent the last nine years as a federal prosecutor in Connecticut, rising to become Deputy Chief of the Major Crimes Division. Among the notable cases that she has handled with the office, Nagala prosecuted Stavros Ganias for tax evasion. United States v. Ganias, 755 F.3d 125 (2d Cir. 2014). Ganias challenged his conviction on two grounds: that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated when law enforcement copied three of his hard drives pursuant to a search warrant and then improperly retained materials beyond the scope of the warrant; and that his Sixth Amendment rights were violated by a juror’s Facebook activity. A divided panel of the Second Circuit reversed the conviction on the basis of the Fourth Amendment argument. However, Nagala petitioned for en banc rehearing, and the full Second Circuit reversed the decision based on Judge Peter Hall’s dissent, finding that, while the Defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated, the “good faith” exception precluded suppression of the evidence. See United States v. Ganias, 824 F.3d 199 (2d Cir. 2016) (en banc). In other matters, Nagala is currently prosecuting New Britain resident Steven Knox for stealing 43 tires from the U.S. Postal Service. Don Stacom, Man Charged in Theft of 43 Tires From U.S. Postal Service Garage; Investigators: Suspect Admitted to Using Access Card He Kept From Repair Shop Job, Hartford Courant, June 10, 2021.

Overall Assessment

Despite being in her 30s, Nagala has already gained experience in both civil and criminal litigation. While some senators may raise questions about Nagala’s age, such inquiries are likely to be blunted by the relative youth of a number of Trump appointees. As such, one can expect Nagala to be confirmed in due course and make history as the first Indian-American judge on the Connecticut federal bench.

1 Comment

  1. Munger Tolles & Olson seems to be a breeding ground for federal judges over the past decade. With this pick being a history making pick as the first Indian-American judge in Connecticut on the federal bench & her being in her late 30’s, seems to be a solid pick. The two senators from Connecticut did a great job filling their vacancies with their recommendations.

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