Arianna Freeman – Nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

After Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley’s reversal on blue slips in the Trump Administration, he processed and confirmed three Trump nominees to the Third Circuit over the objections of their home state senators. With the shoe now on the other foot, Arianna Freeman looks strongly favored to join the Third Circuit, even without the support of her home-state senator.

Background

Arianna J. Freeman received her B.A. with Honors from Swarthmore College in 2001 and J.D. from Yale Law School in 2007. Freeman then clerked for Judges C. Darnell Jones and James Giles on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

After her clerkships, Freeman joined the Federal Community Defender Office for the Eastern District of Philadelphia. Freeman has stayed with the office since then, currently serving as managing attorney.

History of the Seat

Freeman has been nominated for a Pennsylvania seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which will be vacated by Judge Theodore McKee upon the confirmation of the successor.

Legal Experience

Freeman has spent her entire legal career as an indigent defender, serving in various capacities with the Federal Community Defender’s Office, including her current role as managing director.

Among the matter she handled with the office, Freeman persuaded a district judge to grant habeas relief to a state prisoner, noting that the prisoner had suffered ineffective assistance of counsel when his counsel failed to raise on appeal a claim that his judge had improperly closed the courtroom for his trial. See Tucker v. Werenowicz, 98 F. Supp. 3d 760 (E.D. Pa. 2015). However, the ruling was subsequently overturned by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. See Tucker v. Superintendent Graterford SCI, 677 Fed. Appx. 768 (3d Cir. 2017).

Freeman also argued a number of appeals before the Third Circuit in her role. See, e.g., Norris v. Brooks, 794 F.3d 401 (3d Cir. 2015). In one notable case, Freeman persuaded the Third Circuit to grant habeas relief to a defendant whose Confrontation Rights were violated when the trial court admitted a co-defendant’s confession, which the prosecution improperly acknowledged implicated the defendant. See Brown v. Sci, 834 F.3d 506 (3d Cir. 2016).

Outside the habeas context, Freeman unsuccessfully argued before the Third Circuit that the district court acted correctly in finding a defendant to not be a “career offender” under the Armed Career Criminal Act. See United States v. Ramos, 892 F.3d 599 (3d Cir. 2018).

Overall Assessment

Despite her youth, Freeman has established herself as one of the foremost advocates for the indigent in eastern Pennsylvania. Additionally, Freeman does not have a paper trail of controversial stances that might emperil Democratic support for her nomination. As such, Freeman is strongly favored for confirmation to the Third Circuit.

98 Comments

  1. Phenomenal nominee. I’m happy Alliance for Justice stated both Freeman & Stephanie Davis will be given their hearing this Wednesday. With so much focus on the SCOTUS vacancy, I truly hope Chuck Schumer gets the ball rolling on confirming the appeals & district court nominees as well over the next few months.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. As for this nominee, progressives will be happy due to her background of serving defendants, while also not having too many red flags will get her a couple of Republican votes, ensuring a smooth confirmation.

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      • President Biden will announce KBJ at 2pm today. Senators McConnell & Graham have already sent out negative Tweets. Durbin & Schumer really need to aim for a confirmation vote before the Easter recess, even if they have to delay the recess by a day or two. The latest the nomination hearing could start & still meet that goal is The week of March 21st.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think it’s very likely a couple if not more Republicans will end up voting to confirm her in the end. Maybe even some that didn’t vote for her last year. Particularly those that are retiring at the end of this year.

        Graham himself may end up voting for her as he is actually fairly sensible when it comes to Democrats judicial nominees. Out of all his no votes in committee so far during the Biden presidency, the only one I’m baffled about from him is Charlotte Sweeney.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jia Cobb is certainly a contender to replace KBJ but I think it will end up being somebody else. This replacement should be somebody Biden would seriously consider nominating to SCOTUS should he get a second vacancy. I don’t think he would nominate two straight black women but if he did, I am pretty sure it would be one of the other 8 black women he has nominated to the court of appeals already.

        I really see this replacement being somebody like Deepak Gupta, an AAPI nominee, and LGBT nominee or one of the Hispanic possibilities we have mentioned on previous post.

        Liked by 2 people

      • @Dequan

        It is also time for Judge Judith Rogers to take senior status, she should do so immediately. If she waits much longer it will be hard to replace her.

        The Biden admin should have 2-3 names ready ASAP. One for the KBJ seat, another for the Wilson seat, and a third if Childs needs to be pushed out.

        Liked by 1 person

      • 100%. I believe her birthday is July 27th if I remember correctly. Hopefully she will announce she is going to retire in her birthday soon.

        And with the majority of non judicial positions confirmed, hopefully the FBI background checks will take less time then last year. Looking at some of the SJC questionnaires, from the time of a meeting with The White House consul to the time of nomination announcement took over 5 & 6 months in many cases. Far too many cases. We don’t have the luxury of that kind of time any more.

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  3. Congrats to Ketanji Brown Jackson. And thankfully Biden came to his senses here. I’m still a “disapprove” on Biden, but it’s a weakly disapprove rather than a strongly disapprove.

    I will also say that I think Kruger’s refusal to take the Solicitor General’s job when it was offered to her twice hurt her here. I think there is a decent chance that had she taken the position, she very well might have been the nominee.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I feel a bit sorry for Freeman; she’s a great nominee, but most of this comment thread is going to focus on KBJ’s nomination to SCOTUS.

    I have to admit that with the tragic developments in Ukraine this all seems a little trivial, which is unfair I know. Fundamentally though, this is an excellent choice by Biden and I hope Freeman is confirmed soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Is there a way to pull the Childs nomination to the DC Circ and send her back to South Carolina? Apparently in 23 cases regarding compassionate release, Childs ruled no on every single one, rejecting them even during the height of the COVID pandemic.
    Judge Childs is a criminal hardliner worse than a lot of conservatives.

    “In other words, Judge Childs’ record is a genuine outlier that is especially punitive and carceral when it comes to evaluating requests for compassionate release. And it’s not just that she is from South Carolina, either. The grant rate in Judge Childs’ district is 18 percent, which is right at the national average. She’s an outlier compared both to the country and her state.”

    https://inquest.org/no-compassion/

    Liked by 1 person

    • One good option would be Amanda Green-Hawkins, a former labor lawyer. But she’s 48, so you can probably go younger. Another would be Nilam Sanghvi, a Innocence Project state director, would be the first Asian-American on the 3rd Circ.

      But I do believe this nominee will probably need to be from outside Philly. One thing I would absolutely NOT do is to take anyone from the PA Supreme Court. These state Supreme Courts are super important and there is no need for another special election right now.

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      • I’m not expecting Biden to take anyone from State Supreme Courts where it would put Democrats position on the courts in danger.
        Tamika Montgomery-Reeves of Delaware would be an exception because there is no danger of losing the majority on the DE Supreme Court nor of a Republican winning statewide office there.
        Not so for PA or NC etc.

        Liked by 1 person

      • @Shawn

        I’ll say the same thing about Pennsylvania that I said about New York. I think post Trump, these regional seats are not as important as they use to be. Pre-Trump there use to be an “upstate seat” for New York but as I suspected since he went away from that, Biden would also.

        I do think in Pennsylvania’s case you may be right in the end about a “Pittsburgh seat” not so much because Biden cares but because Pennsylvania (Unlike New York & California) is a swing state so Casey probably will keep a Pittsburgh seat.

        So even though I think in this case you will end up being right, I will list my top picks for the other 3rd circuit seat regardless of region;

        Nilam Sanghvi (c. 1977)
        Sandra Mayson (c. 1981)
        Jaime Harris (c. 1977)
        Susan Lin (c. 1978)

        I also like both Riley Ross & Jacqueline Romero but they both were born around 1971 so that’s much older then I would want for the appeals court. I would whole heartedly be fine with either or both on the district courts however since there are six vacancies & even at a 3 to 1 ratio we still have room for a couple younger district court nominees for the Democrat picks.

        Liked by 1 person

      • @Zack

        The one state that I would be concerned that Biden may raid the State Supreme Court is Michigan (if Judge Eric Clay retires). There are a couple justices there that would be solid for the 6th Circuit, including Richard Bernstein, who is blind and was a plaintiff and civil rights attorney. But he won his seat in 2014 and likely would win even in a bad year for the Democrats in 2022. But if you put him on the 6th Circuit, the state SC likely flips to the GOP.

        Liked by 1 person

      • @Dequan

        Sandra Mayson would be great. Lin and Harris would be outstanding as well. All are clear As for me. Sanghvi gets a slight downgrade for being a Big Law partner. But yes, I do suspect that given that there are already 4 judges from Philly (including Freeman), this one will be from Pittsburgh or central PA. I just hope it isn’t Rebecca Ross Haywood.

        As I said before, I would try to get Toomey on board for four of the district court seats, with three progressives and whatever person Toomey wants (as long as it is not a J6 insurrectionist). The other two probably remain open, although if it is necessary to throw in a moderate for seat 5 or 6, so be it.

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      • Rebecca Ross Haywood would be a non starter for me. I was worried she would be nominated initially but after Freeman I’m confident we wont have to worry about her.

        I put Nilam Sanghvi in the same category as Andre Mathis. I don’t care so much about them working for a big law firm as long as they have a proven progressive record. But I know we disagree on that… Lol

        I will say in the case of Pennsylvania I agree any of the other picks I mentioned would be as good, if not better then Nilam (Unlike in Tennessee where I feel Mathis was the best option out of the names I’ve heard & with no black man being nominated to any appeals court in over six years).

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      • “I put Nilam Sanghvi in the same category as Andre Mathis. ”

        I don’t. Andre Mathis was a management lawyer like J. Michelle Childs and Margaret O’Hearn, defending anti-union corporations that likely discriminated based on race and gender. I was stunned that it was Grassley and not a Democrat that brought this up in the hearings. Unlike those two however, he did have some considerable progressive credentials. And the seat was in Memphis, where it’s tough to find a great progressive.

        Sangvhi does not appear to have that sort of a record in her time at Big Law. I’d probably give her a B+.

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      • The fact that Grassley brought that up rather than Dems isn’t too surprising. Republicans will criticize Democrats of something even when they themselves would do the same.
        It was Republican senators, not Democrat senators, who brought up Breyer’s ties with polluters when Breyer was going through confirmation hearings. Breyer has shown to be fair on his environmental rulings and does not rule with a biased hand towards or against environmentalists.

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      • Not likely given that she has only sworn into office in November, but I think US Attorney for the Western District of PA Cindy Chung (1975) could be a good pick for the 3rd Circuit. While she is currently a prosecutor, she was a Trial Attorney in the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division for 5 years.

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      • While I do think @Shawn will be right in the case of Pennsylvania & the current 3rd circuit vacancy will be a Pittsburgh seat, I hope he is wrong. There are far better progressive choices from the Philadelphia area. I hate to see a more moderate nominee just because a seat needs to be from a certain region of the state. Honestly with the only rule being the nominee needs to come from the circuit region, I wish that tradition would just go away.

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      • I have already mentioned in earlier posts that I would love to see the nominations of either Mayson, Sanghvi or Harris. I have never heard of Lin before, but she, too, would be a great nominee. One option from Pittsburgh would be professor William Carter. In any event, there are a couple of vacancies on the E.D.Pa., so those who are not selected for CA3, there may be a consolation prize. The most important thing is that the nominations be made soon!

        Like

    • I’ve never seen the Alliance for Justice weekly newsletter indicate who will be in a future hearing before. This was the first time but I don’t believe they would publish it unless they have some information regarding it.

      I donated money to them today so I hope they know what they are talking about… Lol

      I actually donated money to both them & Demand Justice today. That makes three political donations in the past year along with a donation to Liz Cheney last year.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. From my neck of the woods in NY, I’ve heard through the grapevine that former Blue Dog Anthony Brindisi might be a frontrunner for a district court vacancy that opened up in the Northern District of NY in Utica, with Anne Nardacci being the nominee for the other one in Albany.
    With the former the fact he deleted his personal twitter account without warning (as some other nominees have done) would point to it being true, especially as his political career is finished.
    As for Nardacci, she is a corporate lawyer who has worked on both sides of the aisle but mostly works for victims.
    I know it won’t make some folks happy but I expect Brindisi (IF he’s the nominee) to create bigger waves.

    Like

  7. For those of you who opposed Judge J. Michelle Childs, give a huge hand to Alex Sammon for shining the light on what was an absolutely horrible nominee. Sammon dug in to Childs’ record and pretty much exposed her for the anti-worker criminal hardliner that she was and deserves praise and support for his wonderful work.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes very true. Alex Sammon Along with many other progressive groups & individuals were able to make sure Biden went with the front runner & home run. I still think those around Biden including VP Harris, Ron Klain, Dana Remus, Louisa Terrell & others in the end would have held the day & convinced Biden that Childs was the worst choice. Plus I believe in my guy Biden himself wanted KBJ. But I was nervous at times over the past month so I’m happy for all that spoke up including many “little guys” like people on this site that wrote letters to progressive groups.

      We all deserve to take a bow. This could have been one of the worst decisions Biden made in his presidency but he ended up picking the best person in the end. Bravo all

      Liked by 3 people

  8. As I said, it’s only a rumor about Brindisi and as Shawn pointed out, there are much better candidates that can be picked.
    If it wasn’t for the fact he deleted his twitter feed out of the blue, I wouldn’t have given him being considered any thoughts at all.
    Have to wait and see.
    I would expect now that SCOTUS is done with that we will be seeing lower court nominees be nominated again.
    It would be nice if we could nominees for the various circuit court openings we have and if a few more older Clinton/Obama judges take senior status while there is still time to replace them, with Ronald Gould of the 9th Circuit and Judith Rogers of the D.C. Circuit at the top of the list.

    Liked by 1 person

    • @Zack

      From your lips to God’s ears. We really need the months of March & April to be the most consequence months regarding the judiciary of the Biden presidency even besides the SCOTUS seat. The senate is in session for SEVEN weeks in the next two months.

      If not, I fear time will run out knowing there is a Monday 5pm to Thursday 5pm senate schedule with at least one recess week every month.

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      • Yup.
        The reality is by October if we don’t have nominees for the circuit court seats that are open now confirmed, they will likely stay open until a Republican is in the WH again, along with many district court seats.
        We need fill as many of them as we can ASAP.
        If nothing else, have hearings for them and get them out of committee so Schumer can do votes when Lujan gets back.

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  9. The battle lines are being drawn with Ketanji Brown Jackson. Carrie Severino just released an article calling Jackson a politician in robes and claimed that her nomination is Biden rewarding The Arabella Advisors for their financial support.

    This doesn’t look to be tidy and bipartisan like Obama’s nominees were.

    Like

      • I know when it comes to the KBJ vote to the DC circuit last year everybody is focusing on the number THREE as in the number of GOP senators that voted YES for her. I am also focused on another THREE, as in the number of GOP senators that didn’t vote at all last year when she was confirmed. While it’s likely none of them will vote for her, I think each are at least possible for various reasons;

        Roy Blunt – He is retiring at the end of the year.

        Ben Sasse – While he is conservative, he isn’t a right wing nut. Also he’s on the SJC committee so it’s possible KBJ can sway him.

        Marco Rubio – KBJ grew up in Miami & the Republicans mayor of Miami endorsed her according to Biden’s comments yesterday.

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      • Sasse hasn’t voted for many Biden nominees which is why I said he is unlikely to vote for KBJ. But he also isn’t a right wing nut like senators Johnson, Tubberville, Hawley or Cruz.

        I actually find him pretty reasonable relatively speaking compared to many Republicans. In addition he was just re-elected so he doesn’t have to run for office for another 4 years. And if I remember correctly he said he would not run more then two terms when he first ran so he may not even run again. I also think he was one of the Republicans that voted to impeach Trump. So while he probably will end up voting no I don’t think it’s impossible for him to vote yes.

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    • I expected that Biden’s gut was with KBJ from the beginning. I just had little confidence that he wouldn’t fold to Clyburn, Graham, and Manchin. He should never have agreed to put Childs on the DC Circuit.
      Biden was also a public defender, so I see that connection.

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      • I think the underlining issue with Biden picking judge Childs for the DC circuit this past December is how long it takes to get a nominee for the second most important court in the land. Judge Tatel announced he was taking senior status last February. With the ages of three of the current DC circuit judges, Biden should have had at least a couple of nominees waiting in the wing for a vacancy even back at the start of his administration.

        Even if you factor in a backlog at the FBI (January 6th investigation, non-judicial nominees, etc..) to conduct background checks, Biden should have sent a nominee to them to start being vetting back in March, at worst April. We should have had a nominee for that seat by early July at worst. So, Childs shouldn’t have been nominated in December because there shouldn’t have been a seat vacant for her.

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  10. Here’s an update regarding district court seats in red or purple states…

    John Doe
    @fedjudges
    Of the 32 vacancies in states with 1-2 GOP senators:
    – 6 in PA (commission took applications)
    – 8 in AK, IA, ID, KS, NE, OH, SC, SD (senators have recommended nominees / seem likely to do so in near future)
    That leaves 18 seats w/ recalcitrant senators.

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  11. My two cents is that KBJ was always going to be the nominee and that people fearing Childs would be were jumping the gun a bit.
    I don’t like that she’s going to be on the D.C. Circuit but the notion that she leap frogged Jackson was nothing more then media click bait.

    Like

    • If they want to confirm KBJ before the Easter recess begins on April 11th then the hearing needs to start on the week of March 21st. They could put her on the executive calendar Thursday, March 31st to be held over then vote her on to the floor Thursday, April 7th. Schumer can immediately file for cloture that afternoon & they would have to come in on Saturday, April 9th to confirm her..

      Either that or they would have to delay the start of the Easter recess. Otherwise she would have to be confirmed after the recess. In that case we all would be hanging on the heart beats of 50 different senators for two weeks.

      Like

  12. @Shawn and @Dequan re: CADC vacancy vice Tatel:

    Childs was definitely not a natural pick for this seat. The inside story is of a power struggle between Clyburn/black interest groups and Latino interest groups. Latino groups, rightfully so, wanted Biden to name a Latino for this seat, whom I think would have been the first on the DC Circuit. Eventually, the Clyburn-aligned group won, and Childs is the result.

    Childs’ nomination to the DC circuit is even worse in this light. To think that we could have had the first Latina on this court, a progressive!

    Not to mention that the DC courts are for DC-connected nominees.

    What is more, Latinos really have been given short shrift on circuit level noms by Biden. I really hope that the KBJ seat goes to a WISE LATINA! Ditto for Costa’s seat on the 5th. And that Latina should absolutely be younger than 49 (costa’s age) and and more progressive! Texas senators don’t get the Graham courtesy for good faith.

    Liked by 1 person

    • @Gavi

      1000%. The only thing I would add is the nominee needs to be named FAST. When Mitch McConnell got Trump to put his protege on the DC circuit, he was confirmed almost a month before the judge he replaced actually retired. No reason why Biden should wait until KBJ is confirmed to name the replacement nominee. Honestly they should already know who it’s gonna be so I would hope they are in the March batch of nominees, April at worse.

      And I completely agree with you on the Texas nominee too. I may entertain Cornyn a bit but wouldn’t let him slow the process down too much either.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I just noticed that. Jennifer Rochon already had her hearing so I’m hoping they just made a mistake & listed her twice, but they meant to type Ana de Alba, Nusrat Jahan Choudhury or Natasha C. Merle since they are the other pending California & New York nominees.

        But your right, this will probably be the most disappointing panel 2 of the Biden’ presidency so far absent a sixth nominee with the other three listed. Bit panel 1 will be good plus I will never complain with TWO circuit court nominees. Now we just need them to announce another nominations hearings next week on Wednesday.

        Special shout out to Alliance for Justice for announcing last week who would be in this hearing. I need to find out their sources, so I don’t have to spend an extra week checking the SJC website repeatedly… Lol

        Liked by 2 people

  13. I agree with others that Tatel’s seat should have gone to a Latino/A and hopefully that mistake will be corrected with KBJ’s seat.
    To one point made, it’s not a requirement for someone nominated to the D.C Circuit to be from the D.C. area.
    They will have to move within 50 miles of it if confirmed but as with the Federal Circuit, they can come from any court/area in the country and aren’t subjected to the blue slip rule.

    Liked by 1 person

    • @Zack

      It was announced by the Biden people that they would stick to nominees with DC connections for DC federal court vacancies (NOT including the Federal Circuit). Obviously, they haven’t stuck this 100% re: Childs.

      Personally, I really hope Remus has a youthful progressive Latina lined up. Hell, I’d love for that nominee to be announced now!

      Like

      • With only one nominee announced in the past month & a half (Not counting KBJ), I’m checking The White House briefing room almost hourly now hoping for another batch of nominees. They didn’t send KBJ nomination to the senate yet which leads me to believe there are more nominees coming & they are waiting to send all at once to the senate.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. @Daquan
    I agree. Time to start picking up the pace on nominating people while we can still do so.
    As I’ve said before, unless she doesn’t want it, the Delaware 3rd Circuit vacancy is Tamika Montgomery-Reeves to fill, with recently confirmed New Hampshire District Court Judge Samantha Elliott being the front runner for the 1st Circuit vacancy in NH.
    For the Rhode Island vacancy, also on the 1st, it’s going to come down to Erin Lynch Prata or Melissa Long IMO.
    Prata is only 46 while Long is 51.
    I would give the nod to Prata but I’m not sure if the Biden camp wants the optics of a replacing the only Black woman on the 1st Circuit with a white one.
    Also need to get moving on the vacancies in the 7th and 10th Circuit, the latter of which has been open for nearly a year.

    Like

    • I doubt Samantha Elliott will be the nominee for New Hampshire but I agree with the rest of your predictions. I think it’s ok to leave the 1st circuit without a black judge since Biden has already broken the record for most black woman appointed to the circuit court then all previous presidents combined. That, the 1st circuit only having 6 judges & the likelihood that if the Massachusetts seat becomes vacant, one of the front runners to replace her is a black woman, I think gives Pratt the leg up over Long, along with being a half decade younger.

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    • I also think Prata should get the nod.

      And re: CA10. It’s crazy that March will be a year since Briscoe’s seat is open. How did Dana Remus go from saying there should be a nominee in 45 days to waiting for a year to even naming one? No Kansas senator has played ball so they should be treated just like the TN senators. And that’s just the circuit courts.
      On the district courts it even worse. California has a whopping 19 vacancies and 13 in NY. And that’s only current and announced vacancies (incl. the few with named nominees). Both states with all Dem senators.
      They are clearly not sticking to the 45 day window. I know that I am probably never satisfied with the nomination/confirmation speed, but I think we can all agree that we need to pick up the pace.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Just read on the news that Dianne Feinstein’s husband just died.
    I suspect that means we won’t be seeing votes on judges this week unless there is more then one Republican Senator beside Inhofe that is out right now.
    Lujan can’t come back soon enough.

    Like

  16. Look at the bottom f the SJC questionnaire for the process for Stephanie Davis to get the circuit court nomination. This should be the standard not the exception…

    (https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Davis%20SJQ%20Public.pdf)

    “On December 12, 2021, attorneys from the White House Counsel’s Office contacted me about a judicial vacancy on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. On December 13, 2021, I interviewed with attorneys from the White House Counsel’s Office. Since that date, I have been in contact with attorneys from the
    Office of Legal Policy at the United States Department of Justice. On February 2, 2022, my nomination was submitted to the Senate.”

    Liked by 2 people

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