Bridget Brennan – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio

A long time federal prosecutor who currently heads the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio, Bridget Brennan’s support from Ohio Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown makes her a likely candidate for a smooth confirmation.

Background

Bridget Meehan Brennan received her B.A. from John Carroll University in 1997 and her J.D. from the Case Western Reserve University School of Law in 2000.

Brennan started her legal career as an associate at the Cleveland office of Baker Hostetler, where she worked until 2007. Since then, Brennan has been a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio. Brennan served as First Assistant with the office since 2018 and is currently the acting U.S. Attorney.

History of the Seat

Brennan has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. This seat was vacated on January 31, 2021, when Judge Dan Polster moved to senior status.

Legal Experience

Brennan has worked in two capacities throughout her legal career: the first as an associate in private practice; and the second as a federal prosecutor. During her time in private practice, Brennan was part of the legal team for Progressive Corp., defending against a class action fighting an alleged policy of using cheap imitation parts to repair insured vehicles. See Augustus v. Progressive Corp., 2003-Ohio-296 (Ohio App. 8th 2003). She also defended the Cleveland Plain Dealer against a defamation complaint filed by a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Peter Sikora. Sikora v. Plain Dealer Publ. Co., 2003-Ohio-328 (Ohio App. 8th 2003).

Since 2007, Brennan has been with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, serving in various capacities, including heading the Civil Rights Unit, the Criminal Division, and, since 2021, the entire office. Brennan was notably one of the lead prosecutors in the hate crime trial of Samuel Mullet, who attacked and cut the hair of religiously orthodox Amish with others. After convictions at trial, the Sixth Circuit overturned the hate crime convictions of Mullet and 15 others, finding that the jury should have been instructed that the religious belief of the victims was a “but for” cause of the attack, rather than a “significant factor.” See United States v. Miller, 767 F.3d 585, 589 (6th Cir. 2014). Brennan also prosecuted Randolph Linn, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for setting fire to the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo.

Overall Assessment

With a largely uncontroversial record and the support of her home state senators, Brennan will likely be confirmed swiftly with little opposition.

16 Comments

  1. While I know a long time federal prosecutor isn’t the background many will be happy with in a nominee, I think her work in the U.S. Attorney’s Office heading the Civil Rights Unit is a good attribute.

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    • I don’t think this is an awful selection when you put it in context. This is a state with a Republican senator & as long as we have blue slips in play (By your win precious statements as to which senators should have their blue slips taken away Rob Portman would still have his), we can’t expect young liberal nominees in those states. Even Trump nominated several Democrats in multiple states including Pennsylvania.

      So with blue slips in play I look at is this the best nominee we could get. She is a women who worked in the civil rights department so I think that’s not a bad deal.

      If David Estudillo had been nominated for this seat instead of a state with two Democrat senators I wouldn’t have been so upset with his nomination. Christine O’hearn is different because besides not having any progressive background & being in her mid 50’e, she also could t answer basic questions at her hearing. So in her case I would say she would have been an awful nominee even for this seat.

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      • Disagree. That there is a GOP senator means that we need to appoint a Republican selection for one in every three nominees. If this is the GOP nominee, fine. But the two Dem nominees should be young progressives.
        This is just not a nominee that is acceptable in a Democratic administration.

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      • That is one way of thinking & the way Pennsylvania does it. The only problem with that is your not really getting a net gain of 2 young progressives in that scenario. Your only getting one after you offset the young conservative. And that young conservative could do a lot more damage then 3 moderates can individually.

        You just have to accept that none of the 3 Ohio nominees will ever be considered for an appeals court once a spot opens up. I’m fine with that. We can get our appeals court nominees from outside the district courts for Ohio.

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      • From my perspective, someone like Estudillo or O’Hearn is not much better than a Trump conservative at the district court level. (At the appellate level it is different).

        The one downside to appointing any conservatives is that they become candidates for elevation to the circuit court in a GOP admin. GHW Bush reportedly resisted the nomination of Sotomayor to the district court in 1992 (as part of a deal) for this reason, they knew that Sotomayor would be a candidate for elevation under a Dem president. To possibly get around this, Biden should ask that all senators provide 3-5 names for each nomination.

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      • That’s exactly why I would be hesitant to take that approach. The conservative could be elevated in the next Republican administration & with them initially being appointed by Biden, they would almost certainly get some Democrat votes.

        I would feel better if Biden demanded 3 to 5 names from the Republican senator but after seeing the New Jersey picks, he apparently isn’t even demanding it from his own party.

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      • I mean yes this true, the alternative means 3 judges like Estudillo or O’Hearn, which is beyond unacceptable. I would far prefer 2 progressives and a conservative, even if that means that the conservative might get elevated under a GOP President.

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      • In Ohio’s case, at least Charles E. Fleming is progressive. The downside is he was born in the early 1960’s but definitely beside the age he’s solid. David Ruiz seems to be middle of the road like Bridget Brennan. I think that’s a decent deal that’s better the. The 2 progressives & 1 conservative we spoke about earlier.

        But yes I agree if the deal is 3 Christin O’Hearn’s then I would rather take the 2 progressives & 1 conservative in that case.

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  2. President Biden just announced 8 new U.S. Attorney’s. That’s usually an indication that the senators in those states are also working with The White House to get judicial nominees as well.

    Of those announced tonight, all had nominees announced for federal judges in their states so far this year except Louisianna. So hopefully that means we will get nominees for the 5th circuit & Western district court vacancy in Louisiana in the next batch of nominees.

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  3. Lots of interesting observations here, including many not related to Bridget Brennan.

    Before becoming a judge, Christine O’Hearn was a partner at the law firm of Brown and Connery. That isn’t just any law firm. One of the senior partners in that firm is the personal attorney for George Norcross, the undisputed Democratic Party boss of southern New Jersey. Norcross is a to-go guy if you want to get elected statewide, one of the state’s leading power brokers. In other words, if you’re an ambitious Democrat in New Jersey, it’s not wise to say no to Norcross. Many progressives there aren’t thrilled by this arrangement, BTW.

    https://collingswoodprogressivedems.com/index.php/2020/02/03/the-camden-county-municipal-jif-if-youre-looking-for-local-level-corruption-look-here-by-kate-delany/

    As for David Estudillo, I remain convinced that this is a Thank You to Dan Newhouse, who’s put his career on the line with his impeachment vote. But more than that, Newhouse has been willing to seek compromise on immigration issues. He sponsored the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, opposed by most in his party, and there were rumors of a primary challenge even before impeachment. Estudillo and Newhouse have known each other for years This site noted that they attended a fundraiser together in 2018.

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    • All signs point to Christine O’Hearn being a Democrat based on the things you mentioned plus her political donations were all to Democrats as well. I think the issues with her are nothing in her background shows she was on the defendant side of the court room in most of her cases like requested by the Biden administration. Coming from a state with not only two Democrat senators, but one of the most liberal states in the union, she is a horrible candidate. On top of it she couldn’t answer basic questions.

      David Estudillo isn’t as bad because despite him being a conservative, at least he has worked on immigration defendants issues in his past. Plus, he could at least answer questions at his hearing. But the issue with him is again with such limited vacancies, do we really want to do favors for Republican congressman with judicial nominees in states with two Democrats. There are so many other options such as US attorney or even the state supreme court.

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  4. Oh, about Bridget Brennan. She seems like a very ordinary nominee, the kind that any Democratic President would have chosen. I’d bet that Hillary Clinton would have nominated her. I’m sure most progressives would regard Brennan as acceptable, though not exciting.

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