Judge Trina Thompson – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California

With over two decades on the Alameda County bench, Trina Thompson should be a fairly uncontroversial candidate for the bench. However, her teaching activities, as well as her background in criminal defense, may draw scrutiny.


Thompson got her B.A. from U.C. Berkeley in 1983 and her J.D. from the U.C. Berkeley School of Law in 1986. After graduating, Thompson became an assistant public defender with the Alameda County Public Defender’s Office. After five years there, Thompson opened up her own criminal defense practice.

In 2000, Thompson was selected as a Juvenile Court Commissioner in Alameda County. She subsequently was elected to the Alameda County Superior Court in 2002, and has served as a judge since. Additionally, during the Obama Administration, Thompson served on the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

History of the Seat

Thompson has been nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, to a seat vacated on February 1, 2021, by Judge Phyllis Hamilton.

Legal Experience

Thompson started her legal career as an assistant public defender in the Alameda County Public Defender’s office, representing indigent defendants in juvenile and criminal proceedings. Thompson subsequently opened and managed her own criminal defense practice for nine years before her appointment as a Juvenile Court Commissioner.


Since 2002, Thompson has served as a judge on the Alameda County Superior Court. In this role, Thompson presides over trial court matters in criminal, civil, family, and other state law matters. Thompson has also served as the presiding judge of the Juvenile Court, where, among other responsibilities, she presided over adoption ceremonies. See Josh Richman, Adoption Day Changes Lives Forever, The Oakland Tribune, Nov. 20, 2010.

Among the notable matters over which Thompson has presided, she presided over a trial of two defendants charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter resulting from a 2016 fire at Oakland’s Ghost Ship warehouse. Alexandra Casey, Oakland Jury Reaches Jumbled Verdict on Ghost Ship Warehouse Fire, Daily Californian: University of California – Berkeley, Sept. 5, 2019. The case ended with the acquittal of one codefendant and a guilty plea from the other.

Statements and Writings

As part of her role as a judge, Thompson has occasionally commented on legal issues in the press. See, e.g., Sayre Quevado, The Complications Clearing a Juvenile Record, The Huffington Post, July 31, 2013.

Thompson also taught an ethnic studies course “Race and the Law” at the University of California, Berkeley. The course explored the role of the law in enforcing racial and gendered power structures. See Alice Ventura, Legacy of Desegregation Should Lead to More Latinx Representation, Daily Californian: University of California – Berkeley, Feb. 8, 2018.

Overall Assessment

With more than 35 years of judicial experience, Thompson represents a more old-school nominee model than the more youthful judicial candidates favored in recent years. While it is difficult to argue with Thompson’s qualifications, conservatives may look askance at Thompson’s teaching activities, particularly as it relates to race and the law. Liberals, meanwhile, may be disappointed with Thompson’s age.


  1. The last six words of the article sums up my feelings exactly. While judge Thompson is a great nominee considering everything else, her being in her 60’s prevents me from being happy about her being nominated to the federal bench. In a solidly blue state of over 39 million people, there’s simply too many progressives in their 40’s & even 30’s that should be nominated to the federal bench from California. But I thank judge Thompson for her decades of service & wish her well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The thing I’ll be watching in 2022 is how fast will the WH fill the Circuit Court openings in the states with 1-2 GOP senators…….The last admin filled numerous Circuit seats in CA & NY without the approval of the respective senators so I hope payback is in order now……

      As far as the Judge Thompson nomination, yeah they should have picked someone younger but the NDCA is solidly controlled by Democratic nominees so I can give them some slack here…

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      • The White House should only have meaningful consultation with GOP senators that work in good faith like Graham & Romney for example. They should only have token consultation with the rest. Give a couple months for vacancies in Kansas & Louisiana for example & then just nominate a young progressive unless those senators actually engage in nominating a realistic consensus nominee.

        It’s entirely too long for the Kansas & Louisiana vacancies not to have a nominee. But when we still don’t have a nominee for the DC circuit or the 11th circuit with Georgia having two Democrat senators, I don’t have too much hope. The Tennessee vacancy on the 6th circuit should be the model for red or purple state circuit court vacancies.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I agree with the above. If they can’t even bring forward a name for a state with two Dem senators, then quite frankly, I’m scared that the Biden administration is going to fold on the Mathis nomination now that they will have the renominate him. While I wouldn’t be surprised to see that happen it will still be outrageous when Republicans nominate and push through any nominee they want regardless of the opposition.


      • If The White House were to cave on the Mathis nomination that would be waiving the white flag on any hopes of countering the 4 years of rightward shift from the Trump years.

        And teh only time a 60-year-old would be anywhere near acceptable for the district court would be in a purple or red state where blue slips are still in play like in the case of Wisconsin. Trina Thompson should only be a state court or magistrate judge.


    • ” The only complaint they will have against her is that she’s 60 y/o.”

      And that’s a pretty big complaint IMO. Yes I would prefer a 60 year old progressive to a 40 year old moderate Big Law partner. But there were plenty of young progressives in California, even on the state bench.


  2. Thanks for her years of service, but absolutely horrendous pick based on age alone. District court judges have some leeway in terms of age versus circuit court judges, but 60’s is unacceptable for any judge appointment


  3. I agree with all of you. Thompson is an accomplished state court judge and has a progressive background, but she is simply too old for a federal judgeship. The woman she is replacing, Judge Hamilton, is less than 10 years her senior. That’s not how you staff the federal judiciary in a blue state. CA Senators need to do much better than that, there is such a plethora of young, progressive candidates in CA. Given how the next elections may come out, this could end up being the only opportunity for a generation of California liberals to join the federal bench.


    • Considering that only active judges are being considered in California, who else would you all want to see instead? This is a solid nominee IMO. As for the 12th circuit vacancy, I believe that there will be a strong progressive nominated in the first batch of nominees come the new year, after seeing who was nominated from the district courts there earlier this year.


      • I think that is the issue right there. We don’t want only sitting state court judges to be considered. While there are plenty who would be just as good as judge Thompson (while being decades younger), there is no reason why a sitting judge needs to be the criteria in the first place. I want nominees like Mónica Ramírez Almadani (Albeit I would rather wait for another circuit court vacancy to occur for her). I know of no other state with multiple vacancies that have this requirement for recommendations to the federal bench.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Nancy Gbana Abudu looks to be born around 1974 & as a former the Legal Director for the American Civil Liberties Union she’s an absolute home run, particularly from a red state.

      I think we all hoped Biden would pick somebody for the circuit court other then a 55 year old J. Michelle Childs but as mentioned many times in previous post, if Clyburn pushed her Biden owes him big time. I just wished he nominated her for the 4th circuit. While I’m happy he abandoned his once thought of only DC area lawyers for the DC circuit, I didn’t want this to be the pick. This truly puts her in play for SCOTUS is Breyer we’re to retire this year. Judge Jackson Brown had some solid competition with this pick.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sorry I just re-read it. I initially thought the nominee was for the 10th circuit from Kansas but this is from Georgia. I guess Leslie Abrams Gardner didn’t win out. This batch could have arguably been gifts to the two people Biden owes his presidency to had she been the nominee.

        With two black women I believe Biden is one more black woman away from matching the 8 that served on the court of speaks in the entire history of the country with just his presidency. Bravo 👏

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      • I know the DC Cir is often called 2nd most important court in the land, but I wonder why the DC Circuit has to be the stepping stone to the SCOTUS…….

        I mean, there are a dozen other Circuit courts plus all the District Courts, then there are state level judges to pick nominees from……If Breyer retires, Biden should just look to the SDNY and pick Dale Ho..(yes, Ho isn’t confirmed yet to that court, but should be by Feb)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Dale Ho was my #1 pick for the DC circuit seat that was just announced today. The DC circuit is the breeding ground for the SCOTUS for several reasons.

        1. It is in Washington DC.
        2. Before Trump, appeals court vacancies still had to deal with blue slips while the DC circuit court didn’t have to. So you can put your most ideological nominees up for that court versus maybe for a seat in their own state that had at least one senator of the opposite party (Ex: Janice Brown of California).
        3. With the complex cases the court hears, any judge on that court’s profile raises.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Abudu is a great selection, although I would have preferred her for a Florida seat (if/when Judge Wilson retired). Lauren Sudeall or Fred Smith Jr. would have been better ones IMO. All of them are considerably better than Leslie Abrams Gardner.

        Michelle Childs is an absolutely awful selection. Even if you hypothetically wanted to pick Childs for SCOTUS, it could be easily done from the 4th Circuit.


      • Correct. The age is bad enough, but having to backfill a district court seat in a red state makes it even worse. Plus Childs doesn’t even have all that much of a progressive background, albeit I’m sure she is progressive.

        With a vacancy on the 4th circuit, this may replace Lucy Koh as the worse Biden appeals court nominee so far. Absolutely horrible pick for the DC circuit but wouldn’t have been nearly as bad for the 4th circuit.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Agreed. I am more than surprised by Childs’ nomination to the DC Circuit. She is basically the same age as Trump’s oldest DC Circuit nominee and 16 years (!) older than his youngest and fills a seat that should have gone to one of the many young alternatives we discussed here (Gupta, Gilbride, Holley-Walker, etc.). What is more, I don’t see much of an administrative law background in her CV. Her choice is even more absurd against the background of a SC vacancy on CA4 for which she would have been a solid (though unexciting) pick as she would probably have been acceptable for Graham whose committee vote is important. This nomination was politics, quite clearly.


      • @Shawn My God I thought the same thing. If you read my initial response above, I actually got the 11th circuit pick mixed up with the 10th circuit because I was so confused by the Childs nomination. This is absolutely the worst court of appeals pick to date by Biden & that’s after Lucy Koh. I understand he owes Clyburn but he should have drawn a line in the sand & nominated her to eh 4th circuit. That would have still been bad but at least understandable.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I am surprised. I thought that Childs would be chosen for the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. I also thought a Hispanic would be chosen for the D.C. Circuit vacancy. I was wrong all the way around.

      Obviously, Jim Clyburn lobbied vigorously for this appointment and the Biden White House stays in close touch with him.


      • Childs was such an easy fit for the 4th circuit opening. Graham couldn’t have possibly say no, having supported her years ago for her district nomination. Now the White House will probably have to spend a lot of time negotiating with him about who will take Floyd’s spot because Graham is probably the one Republican Senator the White House cannot ignore when it comes to home state judicial nominations.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Now that we have the final batch for 2021, here is my list of Biden’s circuit court nominees from worst to best;

    18. J. Michelle Childs
    17. Lucy Koh
    16. Leonard P. Stark
    15. Gustavo Gelpí
    14. Tiffany P. Cunningham
    13. Toby J. Heytens
    12. Veronica S. Rossman
    11. Beth Robinson
    10. Eunice C. Lee
    9. Gabriel P. Sanchez
    8. Alison Nathan
    7. Jennifer Sung
    6. Candace Jackson-Akiwumi
    5. Andre Mathis
    4. Nancy Abudu
    3. Ketanji Brown Jackson
    2. Holly A. Thomas
    1. Myrna Pérez


    • I thought Veronica Rossman was more progressive, she was a public defender i believe, late 40’s so age wasn’t issue, curious as to her lower rank?..

      The Federal Circuit is one I just can’t get excited about, NOT because of the nominees, but because it is more or less a
      specialty court dealing in patent law mostly & they really don’t tackle the hot button issues of today…..


      • Veronica Rossman is good & progressive. I just think each of the 11 I put in front of her are either more progressive or just as progressive but younger. Rossman was born 1972. For example, Beth Robinson is 7 years older but even more progressive. You could argue Gabriel P. Sanchez is slightly less progressive, but I think he’s just as progressive & 4 years younger.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Toby Heytens is my favorite of Biden’s circuit nominees, followed by Perez and Sung.

      The case Holly Thomas listed on her senate questionaire as the most important in her legal career was her defending a prison guard accused of beating up an inmate. Hardly a progressive superstar. Just compare her resume with Heytens and its pretty bad.

      We could’ve had Jeffrey Fisher for one of the 9th Circuit seats. Alas…


      • Tony Heytens is good, I like him too. As for Holly Thomas, I’m not sure her defending the prison guard would be in the top five of what most people think of when it comes to her progressive background. I would list the following just off the top of my head…

        1. Assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

        2. Appellate attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.

        3. Special counsel to the solicitor general of New York.

        4. Deputy director of Executive Programs at the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

        5. Filed briefs in federal district courts in North Carolina and Texas. The briefs challenged North Carolina’s “bathroom bill.” which restricted transgender access to restrooms.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m surprised you have the presumptive front runner for SCOTUS at #11. Honestly Biden’s appeals court picks have been solid until you get to the last two names on both of our list. I’m pretty positive if everybody non this post made their own list, the last two names would be the same in the over whelming majority of the list.

        Liked by 1 person

      • @dequan largely age-related. I tried to ignore the presumptive front runner for SCOTUS status when I was ranking, even though it was tough and controversial to do that with KBJ when she does have the most respect of any judge out there.

        Every nominee before KBJ is younger than her. Maybe Lee is the same age or older since they’re both born in 1970 but I couldn’t find out the exact birth date of Lee while KBJ was born Sept 1970. So I could’ve switched those two. I guess Nathan was the odd one out with the age thing. It does seem like, aside from Perez, that the judges confirmed for the Second Circuit are on the older side.

        Cunningham is #14 because while she is young, she is on a Circuit that doesn’t decide many hot topic issues.


      • That would be truly disappointing if Childs is picked over KBJ. Yet, I fear you’re right as that is the only reason I can think of for Childs being nominated to the DC Circuit (which still doesn’t make sense to me as you can get nominated to the SCOTUS from other circuits that are not the DC circuit but whatever). I would be pretty upset if I were KBJ since she has been seen as the presumptive front runner for SCOTUS for quite a while now.


      • I 100% agree. Now the only thing that would be worse was if Biden nominated Donald W. Beatty to the 4th circuit seat since he was nominated to the district court by Obama & never given a vote. We all know how much he loves nominating Obama nominees that were denied a vote. Born in 1952, that would truly be grounds for impeachment… Lol


      • @Dequan

        Actually I wouldn’t consider a bad nomination like Donald Beatty or even a conservative to a district court as impeachable. (If it was, Margaret O’Hearn and David Estudillo already qualify.) It’s precisely because the DC Circuit is so important, that nominating an atrocious choice is worthy of impeachment.


      • Oh no, I was talking about if Donald Beatty were nominated to the 4th circuit seat now that Child’s will not be getting g it. If he were nominated to a district court seat (For instance to back fill Childs) I would still be upset because of the 1952 birth year, but at least blue slips are in play for that so it would be understandable. But there is absolutely no reason for anybody born in the 1950’s to even be in co side ration for the appeals court. The 1969’s are barely defensible.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I divide my rankings into categories. The rankings are based on progressive credentials, potential influence as a progressive judge, having as little experience as possible at corporate law firms or as a criminal prosecutor, age, demographics, and viability as a Supreme Court nominee. Rankings are also based on location and court (i.e. it is harder to get a good nominee in Memphis compared to SF/LA/NYC and bad Fed Circuit nominees are not nearly as bad as the other courts).

      Excellent (A):

      1. Myrna Perez

      2. Holly Thomas

      3. Jennifer Sung

      4. Nancy Abudu

      Good (B):

      5. Candace Jackson-Akiwumi

      6. Ketanji Brown Jackson

      7. Alison Nathan

      8. Veronica Rossman

      9. Beth Robinson

      10. Andre Mathis (would be much lower if he were from NYC or California)

      11. Eunice Lee

      12. Tiffany Cunningham

      Fair (C):

      13. Toby Heytens

      14. Leonard Stark

      15. Gabriel Sanchez

      Poor (D/F):

      16. Gustavo Gelpi

      17. Lucy Koh

      Impeachable (F-)

      18. Michelle Childs

      Liked by 1 person

      • Good list albeit I think Gabriel Sanchez needs to be a little higher up since he is young & pretty progressive. However California certainly has many younger & more progressive possibilities as you have mentioned before. With Feinstein & Padilla seemingly having a rule in which only sitting judges will be nominated, it substantially cuts the list of possibilities down sadly.


      • I knew you would bring up my ranking on Judge Sanchez. As I’ve said before, he is basically a corporate lawyer who may have done a few pro bono activities but has no real progressive record.

        And it’s not acceptable to simply say that Feinstein/Padilla has a rule to only nominate judges. This is on Biden and Remus, they ought to simply tell them that he won’t nominate their selections. And more pressure should be put on Feinstein to resign. I mean if former Senator Barbara Boxer can say it out loud others should. And once Feinstein is gone, I bet the quality of judges goes up drastically. Padilla will play ball once Feinstein is gone. Frankly Feinstein is probably the second worst Democratic senator after accounting the state they come from. (Even worse than Kyrsten Sinema coming from a swing state). Of course nobody can beat Menendez in that regard.


      • With governor Newsome promising to appoint a black women for the next senate vacancy, I definitely see the quality of nominees improving. All of the viable black women in the state’s political circle are considerably to the left of Feinstein. I also think your right & Padilla is playing nice because he is a first year junior senator. I definitely see him pushing harder for better nominees if he is the senior senator.


    • That’s a good strategy for the long term but unfortunately, we do not have the luxury of time. Every decision that is made regarding judicial nominations should be made with the assumption the Democrats will lose the senate at the end of next year (If they keep control then great but that should not be the assumption). The best strategy is for the California senators to stop the requirement of only sitting judges can be recommended for the federal bench.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Just some random thoughts on a Friday:

    Which President Obama Circuit court pick(s) does everyone think was his best?

    I would have to say hands down it’s Nina Pillard (DC Circuit)…..Silver medal to David Barron (1st Circuit)..

    I’m still in shock over Biden’s awful choice for the DC Circuit……How do we go from a great pick like Myrna Perez to a dud pick like Ms Childs for such a high profile court….All the WH had to do was look at this list below for a GOOD nominee:


    And I’ll throw in a name to, Heather Gerken Dean of Yale Law School…


    • Childs for the DC circuit will go down as Biden’s worst circuit court pick hands down. There is no fathomable way it can get worse without him out right naming a 60 year old hard line conservative.

      As for Obama’s picks, here are a few of my favorites from him keeping in mind blue slips were still in play pre-Trump;

      Paul J. Watford
      Cornelia Pillard
      Robert L. Wilkins
      Pamela Harris
      Luis Felipe Restrepo

      Some others were good as well but due to age I can’t put them on the list.


      • Carter actually had some SOLID picks for the court of appeals. After RFK being assassinated, the Iran hostage situation costing Carter re-election will probably go down as the second worst turn for the courts up until Mitch blocking Garland in 2016. Carter appointed more women to the court of appeals in one term then every previous president combined. Plus, he appointed some solid liberals.

        It’s a shame he didn’t get a chance to appoint somebody to SCOTUS. It would have almost surely had been the first female justice. We would probably have to go back to Truman to find a worse court of appeals nominee from a Democrat as I believe Johnson & Kennedy’s picks would all be better.

        Honestly, I keep checking The White House briefing room hoping when Biden finally sends the nominations to the senate that it was a mistake & Childs was meant for the 4th circuit. This is truly historically a bad pick for this seat. Such a shame because the 11th circuit pick was so great & besides Lucy Koh, Biden had a pretty solid first year when it comes to the court of appeals up until yesterday.

        Liked by 1 person

      • @Dequan
        I agree that Carter had some fantastic judicial nominees, but IIRC he also appointed several conservatives as well. In part this was due to the fact that Carter’s base of support included white rural conservatives in the South. (Carter was the first evangelical candidate, which resulted in many white evangelicals who never voted before turning out for Carter, and then switching to the GOP later) Even in a landslide defeat in 1980, Carter did better in many Southern states than any Democrat has done since.

        Carter has made it clear that he planned on appoint 9th Circuit judge and later Sec of Education Shirley Hufstedler to the Supreme Court if there was a vacancy. The only person who was considering retiring in Carter’s first term was Justice Brennan.

        I actually think the absolute worst thing for the courts was the mishandling of the Earl Warren replacement in 1968 by LBJ. The filibuster by the GOP and racist Southern Democrats of Abe Fortas was despicable, but Abe Fortas should never have been forced on to Court by LBJ and certainly not as Chief Justice. If LBJ had nominated Goldberg or Brennan as Chief instead of a corrupt crony, I think they would have gotten through. Without the blocking of Warren’s replacement, Nixon gets one or two fewer nominees to the Supreme Court. And that means a considerably more liberal Supreme Court and likely an appointment for Jimmy Carter (to replace LBJ’s nominee Homer Thornberry.)


      • @Dequan

        Also Carter picking the first woman on the Supreme Court (say to replace Brennan) could be bad in the long term. Having done so, Reagan would feel no pressure to pick a woman, and hence we probably get a hard right conservative instead of Justice O’Connor. I would guess that Robert Bork is nominated in 1981 instead of 1987 and is confirmed with a GOP Senate.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Very good point. LBJ trying to appoint his buddy (Who some reports say was giving him behind the scenes information before cases were announce) combined with the first Jewish chief justice (Which at that time was a big deal) gave Republicans an easy time to block the Warren replacement. We likely will not see another Democrat appointed chief justice for 4 to 5 decades unless something out of the ordinary happens.

        And I had never heard Carter make the statement he would have appointed Shirley Hufstedler to the Supreme Court to SCOTUS but that makes sense. It truly sucks


      • @Dequan

        Carter wrote in his one of his books that he would have appointed Hufstedler for the first SCOTUS vacancy. He also has stated that in interviews.

        LBJ twisted Goldberg to resign and go to the UN and then pushed Fortas to replace him. The entire reason for that was for Fortas to give him inside information about the Court’s decisions. Fortas actually declined to accept the Supreme Court nomination initially (would have been a huge pay cut and Fortas had no interest in that) but LBJ twisted his arm.

        There were a lot of good things that LBJ did for the country. However, the man was totally corrupt. He did many of the same things Nixon did (meddling in elections, wiretapping political opponents, etc.) except he didn’t get caught. His election to the Senate in 1948 (in a primary) was in part through through election fraud in South Texas. And the man who convinced the courts to not open the boxes and audit the results? Abe Fortas.


      • I might add that the reason why LBJ wanted Fortas to give him info at the Supreme Court is that he was paranoid that what happened to FDR at the Supreme Court would happen to his bills. In reality it was highly unlikely that that the liberal Warren Court was going to overturn much if any of his legislation.


      • @Dequan

        “We likely will not see another Democrat appointed chief justice for 4 to 5 decades unless something out of the ordinary happens.”

        One more thing. If the GOP continues down the road of Trumpism (which is very likely), I could actually see a scenario where Roberts retires under a Democrat.


      • @Dequan

        I doubt Roberts would retire under a Democrat *today*. But I think there is a real chance that may not be the case 10 years later. But as the GOP goes further down this road, establishment conservatives who are like Roberts are bailing and reluctantly throwing in with the Democrats. If that pattern continues in the next decade, I can see Roberts eventually retiring under a Democrat. Kennedy retired at a point where the transformation of the GOP was still early. And if Roberts were to retire now, it would be under a GOP President. But there’s a real possibility that may not be the case 10 years from now.


    • Obama’s best picks IMO:

      1. Pamela Harris. A strong progressive and founder of the American Constitution Society. Should have been nominated to the DC Circuit just in case there was an opening in 2014. (And there would have been if Ginsburg retired as she should have.)

      2. Nina Pillard

      3. Robert Wilkins

      4. David Barron. Harvard law professor and Obama admin attorney. Pretty strong progressive.

      5. L. Felipe Restrepo. Long time law partner of Philly District Attorney Larry Krasner. (For those who don’t know, Krasner was a long time criminal defense and civil rights lawyer who was elected DA of Philadelphia. Krasner was there to reform the office.)

      6. Jane Kelly.

      7. Jane Stranch. Union-side labor lawyer. Her age is the reason why she isn’t higher on the list.

      8. Paul Watford

      9. Jill Pryor

      I can’t think of any more that I would have given a grade higher than C to. And there are ton of circuit nominees that I would have put in the Poor category, even accounting for blue slips and the filibuster. At least there aren’t any that would be in the “Impeachable” category.


      • How is no one naming Beverly Martin as one of Obama’s best circuit judges? She capably filled Rosemary Barkett’s shoes on the 11th Circuit. She was as progressive as any judge on the court of appeals anywhere in the country over the last few years and she was a career prosecutor.

        And she had the decency to retire early in the Biden presidency.

        Lynch, Vanaskie and Droney were Obama’s worst picks. I won’t include Carnes because she was forced on the administration.

        Gregg Costa, Nina Pillard, Patricia Millett, Jane Kelly, Michelle Friedland, and Denny Chin would be my top choices along with Martin.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I only left Beverly Martin out because of her age at appointment. And I will never utter the name Julie Carnes again in my life if I can help it. Deal or no deal, she was 61 at appointment & retired under Trump. Filling Georgia’s 6 vacancies on the court of appeals (2) & district court (4) with her, Mark Cohen & Michael Boggs(At least he was defeated) was an absolute disaster. I truly wish Reid went nuclear over that instead of the DC circuit. It still angers me to this day.

        I debated myself adding Michelle Friedland to my list. Thinking about it she probably deserves to be added. I think I was comparing her to Goodwin Lui who Obama should have fought for but the only thing I will say is I believe Lui was pre-nuclear & she was post-nuclear so I’ll include her on my list after thinking about it.

        Greg Costa is a good pick but I wouldn’t include him as one of my favorite Obama picks. Denny Chin was good but I left him off due to age although (As with Beverly Martin) he had the decency to retire in Biden’s first year.

        Patricia Millett was probably Obama’s most qualified nominee but I wouldn’t put her in the top 2 of Obama’s DC circuit appointments. But she certainly deserved to be on the second highest court in the land.


      • My rankings and grades are based on the quality of the appointment at the time of the appointment. (It’s really a grade for Obama not for the judge itself.) There was no clear indication that Beverly Martin was a progressive in 2009 (if there was she would not have been confirmed unanimously).

        Michelle Freidland was a corporate lawyer without any clear progressive record. I won’t give a grade above C for any lifelong corporate law partner or criminal prosecutor/AUSA in the NYC/SF areas. Because there were more than enough progressive to be nominated there. Especially in the case of Friedland with the filibuster gone. Even though Pamela Karlan was 13 years older, she would have been a highly influential judge. As would Jenny Martinez or a whole host of better options.

        Patricia Millett was solely a corporate lawyer without much of progressive record. Pillard was far better. Pam Harris should have been nominated to the DC Circuit instead.

        I simply forgot about Denny Chin. He was 55 so a major strike there, but I would have put him 6 or 7.


    • It’s really difficult to pick a favourite Obama appointee. The problem with his nominations is that the few progressives were quite old (Martin, Pillard, Millett, Kelly, Floyd, Donald) and the few younger ones are rather moderate (Srinivasan, Friedland, Owens, Lohier, Krause, Nguyen, Barron). The only (quite) young (quite) progressive Circuit Judges he appointed were Watford, Thacker, Rosenbaum and maybe Harris (solid progressive, of course, but 52 when appointed). Of course, had he been confirmed, Goodwin Liu would have ticked both boxes nicely. Speaking of the Ninth Circuit, it is almost shocking how moderate Obama’s picks were for that court, when compared to Clinton’s and Carter’s appointees: There is no Berzon, Paez or Fletcher, and certainly no Reinhardt.


      • Very good analysis. I think Holly Thomas will be in line with Clinton’s liberal appointees. Lucy Koh is just a bad pick but as mentioned in other post Biden has a thing for re-nominating some of Obama’s nominees that didn’t get a vote. That’s unfortunate because some of them were good picks 5 years ago but not now.

        Gabriel Sanchez is definitely not as liberal as the names you mentioned but I don’t look down on his progressive creds as much as Shawn & some others. But there definitely were more liberal nominees for both Koh & Sanchez even if you just include AAPI & Hispanic nominees.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I have a theory for the Childs nomination. Might Lindsey Graham have vetoed Childs for the 4th Circuit and suggested to Biden and Clyburn that he nominate her to the DC Circuit.

    In general I don’t think there will be blue slips for the Circuit Court nominees. But given that Graham, Murkowski, and Collins generally vote for Biden’s nominees, I suspect that the Biden admin may give these three senators a veto on nominees from their home state.


  7. I think Droney (2nd Circuit) deserves a failing grade alone for deciding to retire outright during the last admin….

    Some were mentioning Clinton’s 9th Circuit picks, many of which were outstanding……I think Paez, Berzon, & Fletcher were all confirmed late in Clinton’s admin…..The GOP delayed their votes, but all were confirmed under a GOP led senate (I think Trent Lott was majority leader then)……..What a different universe that was 20 yrs ago..Only one Clinton nominee was defeated, a District court nominee, Ronnie White, who later was renominated by President Obama & eventually confirmed….

    Liked by 1 person

      • Totally disgusting. Especially given Trump was behind consistently in the polls by about 3%. I will never utter his or judge Carnes names out of my mouth in a positive light for retiring when they did & giving prime court of appeals seats to young conservatives.

        Justice Marshall was at least sick plus there was no guarantee of a Democrat winning the presidency after 12 years of Republicans when he stepped down under GHW Bush. And as upset as I am RBG didn’t retire in 2014, she held on until death. No excuse for Droney & Carnes.


      • @Dequan

        I still Justice Marshall should have just died on the bench. Even if that meant spending half his time in the hospital. If Marshall stayed on one more year, Democrats would have blocked any selection by Bush after the national convention.

        I’m not as “angry” with Judge Julie Carnes retiring. She was a GOP selection; Obama agreed to appoint her as part of a deal, and that’s about it. She was moderate, but I basically consider her selection a GOP nominee the same way that Judge Helene White was a Dem nominee even though she was appointed by GW Bush.


      • It was reported that Justice Marshall told some of his law clerks that if he died while GHW Bush was on the bench, just prop him up in his chair & keep him voting until the next president was elected. I completely agree with you. Him missing a majority of the cases for a year would have been better then him retiring when he did.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Correct. Any Democrat appointee that retired in 4 years of the Trump administration should not be considered a good pick.

      And yea what a difference in today’s GOP compared to the Clinton years. And let’s not forget Steven Breyer was confirmed to the first circuit after Carter lost to Reagan.

      Another Clinton nominee that did not receive a vote was now justice Kagan. She was nominated to the DC circuit but never received a vote by the GOP controlled senate.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Not only was Breyer confirmed after Carter’s loss, but he was confirmed with upwards of 85 YEA votes….Though Carter never had a SCOTUS pick he did get over 50 Circuit Court confirmations in his one term and had about a dozen to the 9th Circuit…

        I forgot about the Kagan situation……Garland was confirmed in 97 when GOP controlled senate….I think the vote was something like 76-24 in favor…….

        I’ll get the time machine out and go back to the FDR years when SCOTUS ! nominees were confirmed via voice vote in a few days after nomination!…


        At one time judicial confirmations was just an mundane senate business item, NOW it’s trench warfare…..


    • Hopefully when the senate is back next week, there is a nomination hearing on Wed for the 6th Circuit nominee….Then Thurs SJC mtg SHOULD be 10 – 12 judges including Allison Nathan and Dale Ho….Then they’ll be held over, but they need to be on calendar that week….

      Now I need to set my fantasy football lineups…..The only thing I follow more than judicial nominations is fantasy football – LOL…

      Liked by 1 person

      • President Biden should renominate all pending nominees the day the senate returns on January 3rd. Then the SJC should immediately take action on Thursday, January 6 & let the Republicans hold them over. Then the following Thursday vote them on to the floor. I am hoping there are three SJC hearings in January. Here is what I would hope for…

        Wednesday, January 5th – Andre Mathis, Trina Thompson, Evelyn Padin & maybe William Pocan (He was nominated December 15th but maybe they will let him have a hearing less than a month since he’s from a purple state).

        Wednesday, January 19th – J. Michelle Childs (She was nominated December 23rd but maybe they will let her have a hearing less than a month since he’s from a purple state), & the 4 NY nominees.

        Wednesday, January 26th – Nancy Abudu & the 4 California nominees.


  8. The SJC should be pretty much done with most of the Executive/Cabinet/US Attorney type nominees and most hearings should focus on judicial nominees in 2022…..

    I would like to see nominee hearings every week as opposed to every other…..I still can’t get past the GOP in the last admin having a hearing for a 4th Circuit nominee (Allison Rushing) during a recess…..Democrats need to do something similar….


    • What I hate is when they have a hearing on a Wednesday, then the next week Thursday they don’t add them on the calendar to be held over. They wait until the following Thursday (15 days later) then put them on the executive calendar to be held over. Dale Ho & his group is a perfect example. They have not been voted out of committee yet, but they should have been the same time the three Ohio & John Chun nominees were voted out had they followed the formula I wrote above.


  9. Sometimes they will put them on the calendar the week after, sometimes not…..And it’s funny as Sen Durbin tells nominees to get their QFR’s (questions for the record) in a timely manner, but Durbin needs to be more aggressive…….Durbin should also be doing multiple Circuit court nominee hearings on a given day…..

    I still wish Sen Whitehouse would have been the SJC Chairman, I think he would been better..


    • I would agree “near-perfect score” as he has a lot of great achievements in his first year in regards to judicial nominations but certainly a lot was left to be desired with a number of bad picks. We have already talked about most including Childs being nominated to the DC circuit, only sitting state court judges being nominated to California & the atrocious selections of New Jersey.

      I too am surprised there has not a single nominee who specializes in protecting abortion access. I assume he is afraid of a no vote from senator Manchin but I would have pushed the envelope on a couple of nominees.

      The best news from the article is “on Wednesday, a committee aide confirmed to me that Durbin “does not plan to defer to Republicans who don’t return blue slips on circuit seats.” Moreover, while Republicans preserved blue slips for district court nominees, Durbin won’t abide by that rule “if he feels it will be abused,” the aide said.’


      • “I too am surprised there has not a single nominee who specializes in protecting abortion access. I assume he is afraid of a no vote from senator Manchin but I would have pushed the envelope on a couple of nominees.”

        I certainly would have too, but it would require getting the vote of Senator Murkowski or Collins, which I think is possible. Senator Manchin has been a blunt no in the past on any nominee who is too openly pro-choice even pro-women’s rights in general. For the most part, Manchin actually has been pretty clear in the lines of what he will and will not accept (and not just on judges), it’s just that most Democrats don’t like it for good reason.


      • Yea I agree. I would only say you probably have a chance at getting a vote from Collins. With Murkowski entering an election year for her seat, I doubt she will be a yes vote for any openly pro-abortion nominees prior to the first Tuesday in November.


      • ” Moreover, while Republicans preserved blue slips for district court nominees, Durbin won’t abide by that rule “if he feels it will be abused,” the aide said.’”

        Personally I would reject blue slips for senators who voted to overturn the election for all nominees, both judicial and executive. I just think that it is such a massive red line that nothing those senators do should be honored. No holds, no blue slips, nothing. Freeze them out. If someone like Hawley or Cruz introduces a good bill/amendment, he should get the Jesse Helms treatment. (Democrats back in the 70s and 80s would sometimes filibuster Helms’ bill or amendment, and then someone else would introduce the same bill/amendment and then vote for it.)

        Liked by 1 person

      • @Dequan. I don’t agree with your assessment of Murkowski. There is a top 4 primary followed by ranked choice in the general election in Alaska. She basically needs to finish ahead of the Democratic candidate and then get the second choice votes of the Democrat.

        Given that Alaska is pretty libertarian and secular (even though it is GOP), Murkowski doesn’t need the anti-choice voters and she isn’t going to get them. The voters she needs aren’t going to care that she voted for a pro-choice judge.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I will say Alaska changing to a ranked choice system is the best thing that could have happened for Murkowski (And in turn Democrats).

        And that was actually a good bit of information about Jesse Helms. I hadn’t heard that before but I love that they did that.


  10. Manchin voted against several of Obama’s court picks, but his no vote never derailed their confirmation…

    Off top of my head I know Manchin voted against Pillard, Barron, Harris, and he voted against cloture for Hurwitz, even though he was confirmed with a voice vote (Republicans must have been asleep at the wheel on that one to not have had a roll call vote)…

    Manchin also voted against some of Obama’s District Court nominees as well…


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