Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California

Judge Jacqueline Corley has built up an extensive repertoire of experience with complex civil litigation, and is poised for elevation to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Background

Born Jacqueline Marie Scott in 1966 in Long Beach, California, Corley attended the University of California, Berkeley and Harvard Law School. After graduating, Corley spent two years clerking for Judge Robert Keaton on the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

Corley then spent two years as an Associate at the Boston office of Goodwin Proctor before moving back to California to work as an Associate at Coblentz, Cahen, McCabe & Breyer. After name partner Charles Breyer (brother of the U.S. Supreme Court Justice) was elevated to the federal bench in 1997, Corley moved with him to be his career law clerk.

In 2009, Corley left to become a Partner at Kerr & Wagstaffe LLP in San Francisco, but was selected as a U.S. Magistrate Judge to replace Judge Edward Chen, who was appointed by President Obama to the Northern District bench. Corley currently serves as a magistrate judge.

History of the Seat

Corley has been nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, to a seat vacated on January 21, 2021, by Judge William Alsup.

In January 2021, Corley applied and interviewed for a federal judgeship with selection committees set up by California’s Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla. In July 2021, Corley interviewed with the White House and was selected as a nominee in August 2021. Corley was nominated on November 3, 2021.

Legal Experience

The largest portion of Corley’s pre-bench career has been spent as a law clerk for Judge Charles Breyer on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, where she spent eleven years. The rest of the time, Corley spent in private practice, where she primarily worked on civil issues, although she did work on some white collar criminal matters.

Among the notable matters that Corley was involved with, she represented a class of parents of servicemembers who died in Iraq and Afghanistan in a suit against Prudential, alleging that the company had withheld lump sum insurance payments that they were required to pay by statute. See In re: Prudential Ins. Co. of Am. SGLI/VGLI Contract Litig., 763 F. Supp. 2d 1374 (D. Mass. MDL Feb. 4, 2011) (2010-11). Corley had to withdraw from the representation upon appointment to the bench.

Corley also defended Cristobal Bonifaz, an attorney suing Chevron for environmental damage in Ecuador, against a lawsuit alleging malicious prosecution and seeking millions of dollars in damages. The case was largely dismissed by Judge Claudia Wilken, who ruled that the suit was barred by California’s anti-SLAPP law, but allowed a single claim to go forward. Chevron Corp. v. Bonifaz, 2010 WL 1948681 (N.D. Cal. May 12, 2010). The suit subsequently settled.

Jurisprudence

Since 2011, Corley has served as a federal magistrate judge for the Northern District of California, where she presides over bond matters, administrative appeals, and civil matters by consent. By his estimation, Corley has presided over around 26 trials in her judicial career, the most significant of which was a consolidated antitrust price fixing lawsuit, which she presided over by consent. See In re Cal. Gasoline Spot Mkt. Antitrust Litig., No. 20-CV-3131 JSC.

Corley notably presided over a three-week trial in a products liability action against a fertility clinic after the holding tank for frozen embryos failed. See In re Pac. Fertility Ctr. Litig., No. 18-CV-01586 JSC. The trial ended with a multi-million verdict for the plaintiffs although the case is awaiting final judgment at present.

Over the course of her decade on the bench, Corley has identified ten cases where her decision was reversed or criticized in full or part. Two of those decisions involve reports and recommendations issued by Corley that were only adopted in part by the District Court. See Facebook Inc. v. Sluchevsky, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 181249 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 28, 2020), Report and Recommendation adopted by, modified by, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 181241 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 30, 2020; Livingston v. Art.com, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 92191 (N.D. Cal. July 15, 2015). In three other cases, the Ninth Circuit largely affirmed her decisions (or criticized them in dissent). Lawson v. Grubhub, Inc., 302 F. Supp. 3d 1071 (N.D. Cal. 2018); In re Pac. Fertility Ctr. Litig., 814 F. App’x 206 (9th Cir. 2020); Garris v. FBI, 937 F.3d 1284 (9th Cir. 2019).

Among the rest, two of Corley’s reversals stand out in particular:

In Ramirez v. TransUnion LLC, the Ninth Circuit largely affirmed a class action verdict against the credit reporting bureau TransUnion (presided over by Corley), but was reversed 5-4 by the U.S. Supreme Court, finding that several members of the certified class lacked Article III standing. See 141 S. Ct. 2190 (2021).

In Cortesluna v. Leon, the Ninth Circuit reversed the grant of summary judgment that Corley granted against an officer who pressed his knee against the plaintiff’s back, leading to a claim of unreasonable force. However, the Supreme Court reversed per curiam, reinstating the grant of summary judgment that Corley had originally authored. See Rivas Villegas v. Cortesluna, 2021 WL 4822662 (U.S. Oct. 18, 2021) (per curiam).

Political Activity

Corley has a fairly limited political history, having made one donation to then Senator Barack Obama’s campaign in 2004.

Overall Assessment

Coming from an Administration that has prioritized drawing nominees from unusual sources, Corley is a surprisingly conventional nominee. That being said, Corley’s background lacks any real bases for controversy, and her traditional background should help her avoid controversy in the process.

18 Comments

  1. Another run of the mill selection from California… A sitting state judge, mid 50’s & no background as a public defender or civil rights attorney. She certainly is qualified, I just wish senators Feinstein & Padilla would look for other, younger, more progressive backgrounds for recommending federal judges.

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      • I’m all for diversity, just younger & more progressive nominees. I understand out of the 22 vacancies there were going to be some nominees on the older side (Born in the 1960’s), but it seems to be the norm not the exception for the district court. And I also think each nominee being a sitting judge is bad. There are plenty of non judges with progressive backgrounds that should be looked at for the district courts as well as the court of appeals.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Well I’m not talking about Trump nominating her on his own. I agree that would not happen. But I could certainly see Trump nominating Corley as part of a packaged deal with the CA senators.

        There is no reason why any nominee that Trump would have accepted in a deal should be nominated in a blue state by a Democrat with a Democratic Senate.

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  2. The CA nominees are pretty boring – almost all are 50 yr. old+ sitting judges. Actually every CA nominee is either a magistrate or superior court judge. None appear to be potential circuit nominees. Only one of the district nominees even clerked at the circuit level.

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    • There is very little opportunity for any of the district court nominees to be considered for elevation. Most are either not progressive enough or too old. If I’m pushing it the only ones I could even consider would be Maame Ewusi-Mensah Frimpong, Kenly Kiya Kato or Sunshine Sykes. But I don’t think any would be worth having to waste committee or floor time to back fill their district court seats. An example of a nominee that would be worth that would be Dale Ho.

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      • Frimpong and Sykes are kind of progressive. But that’s about it as far as decent selections here. The rest of them could have been bundled in a deal with Trump if you wanted.

        As far as the 9th Circuit goes, there are a hundred better options. And all of them would have been better than Koh and Sanchez as well.

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  3. It’s just laziness on the part of the CA selection committee set up by Feinsteina and Padilla. It’s like the committee just googled “Magistrate judges” and “Superior Court judges” and picked out a few who are under 65, are ethnically diverse, and served either as an AUSA, public defender or who worked for county or state government.

    The message they’re sending to young taleneted CA lawyers is that you need to quit your practice, somehow get appointed as a judge and sit through 5 years of DWI cases or bond hearings before you’ll even be considered for a federal judgeship. All-star lawyers won’t do that. Lawyers ruthlessly obsessed with being judges above all else will do that though.

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    • “The message they’re sending to young taleneted CA lawyers is that you need to quit your practice, somehow get appointed as a judge and sit through 5 years of DWI cases or bond hearings before you’ll even be considered for a federal judgeship. ”

      I think some public interest attorneys may be willing to do that, and Newsom is clearly willing to appoint them. They’re not taking a pay cut (although being a judge is less interesting work).
      Again Feinstein needs to resign and Padilla needs to up his game. Even if they did nothing more than look at all the judges under 50 that Brown/Newsom appointed, they could do better than this.

      And there are enough AUSAs on the bench. There isn’t a need for any more (unless the AUSA is clearly progressive and largely worked on Civil Rights or only prosecuting financial fraud, or similar issues.)

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  4. It might be more poverty of imagination. Until recently, this was a typical way to select Federal judges. The thinking is that an experienced judge can hit the ground running. They don’t require on the job training, so to speak.

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      • Well part of the problem is with Biden and Remus. They should communicate to some of these senators (in NJ and California) that these nominees are unacceptable and tell them to send better ones rather than rubber stamping these choices.

        Christopher Kang mentioned that during the Obama administration he had to personally tell some senators that the names they sent up were unacceptable. And he suggested that Remus needs to do the same thing.

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      • Yup, I agree. I would even understand if they were just rubber stamping the recommended nominees back in March or April of this year for speed due to the pressure of being one heartbeat away from losing the majority. But we waited almost 10 months & these are the nominees we got. They should have been sent back & the New Jersey nominees should have been THROWN back.

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