Judge Jinsook Ohta – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California is currently short seven judges, with the shortfall affecting caseloads and dockets. As such, the Biden Administration’s nomination of San Diego Superior Court Judge Jinsook Ohta likely couldn’t come soon enough.

Background

Jinsook Ohta attended Yale University and New York University Law School before clerking for Judge Barry Moskowitz on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

After her clerkship, Ohta became an Associate with O’Melveny & Myers and then with Sheppard Mullin. In 2011, Ohta became an Assistant Attorney General with the California Attorney General’s Office, staying with the Office until Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed her to the San Diego County Superior Court in 2020. Ohta is currently a judge with the court.

History of the Seat

Ohta has been nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, to a seat vacated on January 23, 2019, by Judge Barry Moskowitz’s move to senior status.

Upon the recommendation of California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, on October 17, 2019, the Trump Administration nominated Jones Day Partner Shireen Matthews to fill this vacancy. While Matthews was unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in July 2020, her nomination was never given a floor vote by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, leaving the vacancy open to this day.

Legal Experience

Ohta started her career as a clerk for Judge Barry Moskowitz on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. After that role, Ohta moved to the firms of O’Melveny & Myers and Sheppard Mullin.

However, Ohta spent the most significant portion of her career in the Consumer Protection Division of the California Attorney General’s Office. Among the matters she handled there, Ohta was able to negotiate a $90 million judgment against GlaxoSmithKline for deceptive claims made while marketing GSK Diabetes Products. See People v. GlaxoSmithKline, LLC, 2012 Cal. App. LEXIS 1355.

In one of the most notable cases she handled with the office, Ohta secured a $344 million judgment against Johnson & Johnson for deceptive marketing regarding the dangers of mesh vaginal implants. The judgment was the result of a bench trial in front of Superior Court Judge Eddie Sturgeon.

In another notable matter, Ohta secured a $280 million judgment against Dish Network for violating federal and state Do-Not-Call laws. See United States v. Dish Network LLC, 256 F. Supp. 3d 810 (C.D. Ill. 2017). The judgment was largely affirmed by the Seventh Circuit on appeal. United States v. Dish Network LLC, 954 F.3d 970 (7th Cir. 2020).

Jurisprudence

Since 2020, Ohta has served as a judge on the San Diego Superior Court. In this role, Ohta presides over trial court matters in criminal, civil, family, and other state law matters. Ohta’s brief tenure does not reveal enough about her judicial philosophy.

Overall Assessment

There is little in Ohta’s background that is likely to cause controversy. As such, one can expect that she will likely be confirmed comfortably, likely in early 2022.

23 Comments

  1. While there were most certainly more progressive nominees that could have been recommended to The White House, this is decisively a better pick then prosecutor Rebecca Shireen Matthews would have been had the Senators Feinstein and Harris not kept the seat open. With 7 vacancies on the bench in this district, I hope to see some non state court judges also put fourth that have a proven progressive record. But this is a good start to filling the 7 vacancies.

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    • In my opinion. seems like Dale Ho has generated the most excitement as a judicial nominee…

      I’m surprised that Dale Ho wasn’t nominated for the DC Circuit vacancy or perhaps one of the 2nd Circuit seats open……While SDNY is probably the most high profile District Court seat, he would probably be a better choice for one of the Court of Appeals vacancies….

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      • I 1000% agree & actually wrote the same on other article on this website. Now that judge Pooler has announced she is taking senior status, opening up another 2nd circuit vacancy, I would have withdrew Dale Ho’s district court nomination & resubmitted it for her seat. He has already been vetted so no time would need to be wasted in doing such.

        I know some people would argue Pooler is an “upstate seat” but I wouldn’t care about that or I would just have Dale Ho commit to moving to Syracuse. I’m sure he would if it meant an appeals court seat & almost guaranteed placement on the short list of any second Biden SCOTUs vacancy.

        My personal favorite pick would have been to put Dale Ho on the DC Circuit as well to replace judge Tatel. Unfortunately it looks like Biden is only considering DC area lawyers for that court which I think is not a good decision. If I had to guess who will be picked for that seat I would put my money on Deepak Gupta.

        I personally would rather see a young progressive Latino such as Adriel I. Cepeda Derieux, senior staff attorney in the ACLU Voting Rights Project. Biden would make history as nominating the first Hispanic to the second highest court in the land. But as mentioned earlier he is from New York so unless the administration ditches only considering DC area lawyers, his only chance of assentation to the bench would be the New York Southern or Eastern district courts, the Pooler seat on the 2nd circuit or one of the 3 vacant seats on the Puerto Rican district court.

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  2. Your 2nd paragraph talking about where a seat is, reminded of the long standing feud that CA & ID senators had over a 9th Circuit nominee Stephen Trott…..I forget the exact specifics but Idaho’s senators tried to claim it was an Idaho seat when it was clearly a California seat…..And it only took 10 years to fill when John Owens (Obama nominee) got the seat…

    Speaking of 9th Circuit, I was somewhat surprised Goodwin Liu was not offered one of the recent vacancies……He would get confirmed now, no more 60 votes needed…..Manchin voted AYE on his cloture vote back in 2011, and I think would certainly support him again….

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    • Correct, Idaho senators tried to claim the 9th circuit seat for two reasons. First, because they wanted a second judge. But second & probably more important, they knew they could get a MUCH more conservative judge if the judge came from Idaho instead of California with (As you mentioned) blue slips being in play back then for appeals court nominees.

      We actually spoke about none of the 9th circuit seats going to Goodwin Liu, Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar or Leondra Kruger also on another article on this website…

      The California supreme court is probably the one state court in the country that is almost (If not equal to) as powerful as an appeals court. If the premise is anybody Biden nominates to an appeals court should be considered for a later SCOTUS vacancy, there really isn’t a need to waste a confirmation hearing & floor time on nominating any of those three because they could realistically be nominated for a SCOTUS seat directly from the California supreme court.

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  3. I wish the Obama admin would have focused more on judicial nominees in 2009-10 when they had between 58-60 seats in senate (there was Franken race that took forever to certify, Kennedy was not in senate from Jan-Aug, then after he died, his replacement was there until Scott Brown won in 2010)….Democrats finally invoked nuclear option on judges in 2013, but they should have done it in 2009…

    People talk about how McConnell stole the Scalia seat, but he also refused to confirm many Circuit and District Court seats in 2015-16….There were only 2 Circuit Court confirmations in that period and one of those was the Federal Circuit, which mainly deals in patent law….

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    • Obama getting a late start on focusing on the judiciary is one of his biggest mistakes. I would put it at #3 for his first term.

      My #2 would be before he took office him not going down to Georgia to campaign for the Democrat in the Georgia run off. Had he went down their during the height of his popularity he might have been able to win that senate seat so Kennedy’s death would have still kept the senate at 60.

      My #1 would have to be not finally making DC a state while we had 60 votes. Had they done that so much would be different including now as we would have 52 senators. Senators Manchin & Sinema wouldn’t be able to hold anything up. I doubt we will ever have 60 senators again in my lifetime.

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      • Neither your #1 or #2 would have happened frankly. There were no more that 55 senators in 2009 to make DC a state. There were several Democratic senators who were more conservative than Joe Manchin in 2009; DC statehood was a nonstarter. As far as the Georgia Senate race, Obama lost the state by 5% in 2008. The internal polling showed the Democrat in the Senate race down by around 10, and the GOP was explicitly campaigning on “not giving the Democrats full control”. Obama going down there wouldn’t have changed the race that much.

        OTOH, judicial picks were something that Obama could have pushed harder. That was in his control.

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    • “Democrats finally invoked nuclear option on judges in 2013, but they should have done it in 2009…”

      In retrospect, the Democrats should have just let the GOP do the nuclear option in 2005. But the Dems were down 55-45 in the Senate in 2005, at the time it looked to be an uphill battle to get the Senate in 2006. The calculation was to keep the use of the filibuster alive for 2007-2008 when the GOP would only have 51 or 52 seats.

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      • I don’t buy neither making DC a state or Jim Martin beating senator Saxby Chambliss was impossible in 2009. Hard, yes. Very hard, yes. But not impossible.

        President-elect Obama was at the height of his popularity in December 2008. He had just come off a historic election win & even won Ohio, Indiana & North Carolina. Had Obama made the runoff’s the focal point of his post win/pre-inaugural platform, I think it was very much in reach to mobilize the African American, growing Latino & white liberal vote. The same talking points about keeping the senate at 59 should have been used by Democrats at getting it to 60.

        Jim Martin lost the run off by 318,110 votes. Between the general & the runoff, Martin lost 847,470 votes. There’s no way you can tell me a full throttled Obama one month non stop campaign in Georgia couldn’t have gotten half of the people that voted for Martin in the general that didn’t vote in the run off to get out & vote just two months after a historic election.

        As for DC becoming a state, I actually think passing health care & ending the filibuster was a harder sell then making DC a state. And the opposition would have been a less heated.

        I truly believe both could have been done.

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  4. Great point about making DC a state….Along with an Immigration Bill and a public option and that would have been outstanding accomplishments…

    Any best guesstimates as to when White House will release next slate of nominees?…..I think there are about 12 Circuit Court openings….

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    • They have been averaging about 1 per month since they begun (Albeit two of them only had 3 nominees). However September they had two skates announced so I would guess the next one will come by the end of next week early November.

      The last skate had zero appeals court nominees which was surprising. I would expect the next slate to include multiple appeals court nominees. If I had to guess it will include any or all for the DC circuit, 3rd, 6th & 11th circuits. Also if they did what I suggested earlier it could include the 2nd circuit NY seat if they withdrew Dale Ho from the district court & nominated him there instead since he’s already been vetted. But I doubt they are.

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      • I hope Durbin doesn’t return to blue slips for Circuit nominees, as there are several openings in red states that will never get filled if blue slips are in play…..

        Which Obama District Court nominees could you see being elevated to Circuit Courts?….My guesses :

        Jennifer Dorsey – Nevada District – 9th ?
        Jesse Furman – SDNY – 2nd ?
        Allison Nathan – SDNY – 2nd?
        John J McConnell – Rhode Island – 1st (though he may be too old for further nomination)
        Vince Chhibria – Northern District CA – 9th?

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      • Durbin already said he will not allow blue slips for appeals courts just like Republicans & he will monitor them for district courts but for now keep them in place.

        Besides Neals, Rodriguez, Pan & Koch which have already been nominated, I would guess Edward Stanton (He never received a vote) for the 6th circuit & Childs for the 4th circuit (Although I really hope Biden can talk Rep. Clyburn into a younger nominee but if he really pushes for Childs Biden will almost certainly nominate her even in her mid 50’s).

        Jennifer Dorsey – Nevada District – No. If it’s taking this long for Nevada’s slate then I’m assuming we will get younger & more progress new nominees.

        Jesse Furman – SDNY – No. NY has far too many younger, more progressive nominees plus they probably would have nominated him already for one of the first two vacancies.

        Allison Nathan – SDNY – See above.

        John J McConnell – Rhode Island – No way. Two many other younger nominees, particularly the two newest RI Supreme Court justices.

        Vince Chhibria – Northern District CA – No. There are definitely younger & more progressive nominees from California for the next vacancies.

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  5. For Thurs SJC meeting, the nominees from last week incl Holly Thomas (9th) aren’t scheduled (yet)….Nominees can be up for a committee vote one week after nomination hearing correct?….Then of course, they’ll be held over so takes 2 weeks to make it to senate floor…..

    Nomination hearing is scheduled for 11/3 that should be one remaining circuit court nominee…..I remember the GOP held a hearing for a nominee (Alison Rushing – 4th) during a recess and gave her all super softball questions…And they also often held panels with 2 Circuit Court nominees at once…

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    • I was actually upset with the SIC this week. They held no hearings & as so far the schedule for the executive meeting tomorrow doesn’t have any of last weeks nominees that were in the hearing scheduled for a vote. They should include them so the Republicans can do their one week hold over them vote them out of committee next week. Now they won’t be voted out until after the one week recess.

      They need to hold weekly nominations hearings with so many weeks of vacation time coming up over the next two weeks. The Republicans held several hearings during vacation weeks. I don’t see the Democrats doing that so they definitely need to take advantage of when they are in session.

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    • After this week I think we’re fine on the vacation side for the rest of the year. Schumer finally confirmed most of the pending nominees plus he finally did what I’ve been saying & used the weekend to eat up the 30 hour cloture time for circuit court nominees & then come in on Monday & vote on them. This Monday he’s already set up votes on two appeals court nominees.

      The bigger issue is what I brought up earlier, getting the nominees hearings & then voted out of the senate judiciary committee. It’s almost criminal they had no hearings this week with all the nominees who have yet to have a hearing. And with them only scheduling 5 or 6 nominees at a time per hearing, we are looking at another 3 hearing to clear out all the remaining current nominees, not to mention the additional nominees from the ninth batch which is likely to come by the end of next week.

      If it was up to me I would have the hearing scheduled for next week & another one during the recess week after just as Republicans did a few times when they were in the majority or start to increase the number of nominees per hearing to 7 or 8 but I doubt Durbin will sadly.

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