Tiffany Cartwright – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington

The Western District of Washington is undergoing a transformation, with President Biden already having named three judges to the court and having the ability to fill the remaining four seats. One of his nominees is the 36 year old Tiffany Cartwright.


Cartwright received a B.A. from Stanford University in 2007 and a J.D. from Stanford Law School in 2010. After graduating, Cartwright clerked for Alaska Supreme Court Justice Dana Fabe and for Judge Betty Binns Fletcher on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit before joining the Chicago office of Jenner & Block as an associate. Cartwright later shifted to MacDonald Hoague & Bayless and became a partner in 2018. She is still with the firm.

History of the Seat

Cartwright has been nominated for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. This seat opened on January 1, 2020, when Judge Benjamin Settle moved to senior status. The Trump Administration did not name a candidate to fill this vacancy. President Biden nominated Cartwright on January 19, 2022.

Legal Experience

Cartwright has spent her career largely in private practice at the firms of Jenner & Block and MacDonald Hoague & Bayless. At the latter, Cartwright has handled a number of civil rights matters, including representing the family of Leonard Thomas, who was shot and killed by a police sniper who was responding to a domestic violence incident. See $15M Awarded to Family of Unarmed Black Man Killed by Sniper, A.P. State & Local, July 15, 2017. After a jury trial, Thomas’ family was awarded a $15 million judgment. See id. She also represented a man who was forcibly re-arrested and returned to prison after being mistakenly released early. See Gene Johnson, Prisoner Mistakenly Released Early Sues Over Re-Arrest, A.P. Int’l, Mar. 22, 2018. Additionally, Cartwright obtained a $500,000 settlement for a man who spent two years in prisoner for a homicide charge that he was acquitted on after officers allegedly hid favorable evidence. King County Pays $500,000 to Man Acquitted of Murder Charge, A.P. State & Local, Apr. 23, 2021.

In other matters, Cartwright convinced an appellate court that a trial court lacked the authority to freeze the credit union account of a defendant. See State v. Gutierrez Meza, 191 Wn. App. 849 (2015).


In 2013, Cartwright was one of four authors of a paper discussing the increasing trend for courts to reject corporate plea agreements. See Reid Schar, Robert Stauffer, Tiffany Cartwright, Eddie Jauregui, Court Rejects Corporate Plea Agreements for Failing to Sufficiently Protect the Public Interest, PracticeView Database, Aug. 21, 2013. The paper specifically references and discusses Judge William Young’s decision to reject a corporate plea agreement in U.S. v. Orthofix. In another co-authored paper, Cartwright discusses strategies for litigators to respond and adapt to juror questions during trials. See Andrew Vail, Tiffany Cartwright, Using Juror Questions During Trial to Your Advantage: Practice Tips for Illinois Supreme Court Rule 243, Illinois Bar Journal, Dec. 1, 2013.

Additionally, as a law clerk to Justice Fabe, Cartwright authored a paper discussing the increasing development of veterans’ treatment courts. Tiffany Cartwright, “To Care for Him Who Shall Have Borne the Battle”: The Recent Development of Veterans Treatment Courts in America, 22 Stan. L. & Pol’y Rev. 295 (2011). The article is generally complimentary of veterans court programs, noting that such programs work well to reduce recidivism, even if they are not widespread enough to fully serve the veteran population. See id. at 314-15.

Political Activity

Cartwright has a few political donations to her name, mostly to candidates for the Washington Supreme Court, although she twice donated to Biden in 2020.

Overall Assessment

At 36, Cartwright is the youngest nominee Biden has put forward for the federal bench and would be the second youngest federal judge in the country if confirmed. Her youth, combined with her background in civil rights, is likely to make Cartwright a controversial nominee. Nonetheless, if confirmed, Cartwright is set for a bright future, with a potential elevation to the Ninth Circuit and beyond.

Ten Questions Senators Should Ask Prospective Judicial Nominees

Nominations hearings are predictable.  Half the Senators on the Judiciary Committee fawn over the nominees, while the other half pepper them with hypotheticals and questions they know the nominee won’t answer.  For their part, the over-coached nominees avoid all but the softest of softballs, while firmly resisting any attempt to actually probe their thought processes.  As an interview process for a lifetime appointment, the nominations hearing rarely yields genuine insights.

This state of affairs cannot be blamed on one particular entity or party.  Rather, both parties have, over time, contributed to the current playing field, where all nominees need to do is to avoid ticking off the 50 senators they need to get confirmed.  As such, one wonders: how can this performative exercise be more useful?  How can a nominations hearing better illustrate a nominee’s temperament, philosophy, and ideology?

To that end, here are ten questions that, if asked and answered in good faith, can lend some authenticity to the process.  Now, nominees are mindful, of course, of their ethical obligations, and are unlikely to answer any questions regarding privileged communications or about contested matters they are likely to hear.  With that in mind, senators should ask:

What is a legal, political, social, or moral position you previously advocated for that you no longer believe to be correct?

This is a question that I’m surprised hasn’t been asked more to nominees.  Unlike hypothetical questions about future cases, nominees are generally free to say: “I argued X in this case. I lost. And I now realize that the judge got it right.”  Furthermore, getting an answer to this question establishes two important things: first, it affirms that the nominee is willing to acknowledge when they got things wrong and they’re willing to grow from their mistakes; and second, it establishes that they are not set in their views. They’re willing to grow and evolve, an important characteristic to inculcate in someone seeking a lifetime appointment.

When was the last time you changed your mind on a legal, political, or moral issue after a discussion with someone who holds a contrary position?

Federal judges, insulated by lifetime appointments, are constantly at risk of ossifying in their legal views, particularly if those views are never challenged in discussions or arguments.  However, there are many federal judges who maintain their intellectual curiosity even after joining the bench and who are willing to engage with critics and contrarians to better understand and shape their views.  The answer to this question demonstrates both that: 1. the nominee has an open mind and is willing to change their views when they’re wrong; and 2. they’re willing to engage with those they disagree with.

Name a Time in Which You were able to convince another person of the validity of your view/position after a discussion.

A corollary to the previous question, this question also has the benefit of reinforcing the nominee’s ability to persuade others of the positions they hold, particularly important in appellate nominees.

Name a policy/law/regulation that you oppose as a matter of policy but agree is constitutional under current precedent.

The wisdom of a particular law and policy is often equated with its constitutionality.  While there are exceptions (eg. Justice Thomas’ concurrence in Lawrence criticizing the Texas ban on sodomy while finding it constitutional), it is increasingly rare for a judge to find that a policy they find strongly objectionable is not barred by the Constitution or caselaw.  Asking this question will demonstrate that a nominee can parse the difference.

The issue with the question, of course, is that it requires the nominee to make a statement acknowledging the constitutionality of a hypothetical law, which may be barred where a future challenge to that law may come before the judge.  However, as long as the question is focused on relatively uncontroversial areas of law, the nominee may be able to permissibly answer.

Name a policy/law/regulation that you support as a matter of policy but agree is unconstitutional under current precedent.

This is arguably an even harder question to answer than the previous one.  It would require a nominee to acknowledge the current structure of limited government set out in the constitution and note that it prevents, for better or for worse, the government from meaningfully intervening in many problems.  It is nonetheless important that a nominee is able to acknowledge this fact.

What is one thing you would seek to change about the court you’re about to join?

From reforms to PACER to cameras in the courtroom, the movement to democratize access to the federal court system is growing.  An answer to this question should show that the nominee is willing to recognize the shortcomings of the court systems they are seeking to join, to rethink old orthodoxy, and to challenge the status quo in service of justice.

What have you done so far to give back to your community as a lawyer?  What will you do as a judge?

The federal bench has been rightly criticized for setting itself apart from the communities it serves.  As such, nominees who demonstrate a connection with their communities, whether it’s through pro bono service, volunteer work, or other forms of engagement are particularly valuable.  Answering this question would also lead the nominee to demonstrate their willingness to continue such acts as a judge.

What is a bias/prejudice that you currently struggle with?  How do you work to overcome that prejudice?

This is an important question and one that’s asked too little.  While acknowledging any bias or prejudice is widely seen as career suicide, the bottom line is that human beings almost innately carry biases and prejudices with them, and it is only by acknowledging and working against them that one can overcome those prejudices.  Such prejudices do not have to be based on race, gender, or such immutable characteristics.  One could, for example, carry a bias against working moms, against city-dwellers, against west-coast rap fans, against those cheering the Red Sox, or against any identifiable group.  It is particularly important for judicial nominees to acknowledge their biases and work to overcome them given the power and influence they are seeking to take on.

What is a quality you have seen in a judge that you would seek NOT to emulate on the bench?

As awkward as it may be for nominees seeking a judicial position to acknowledge, judges are human.  They are sometimes short-tempered, and often wrong.  A nominee needs to be able to recognize that judges do err and that it is just as important to learn from the mistakes of others as it is to learn from one’s own mistakes.

What is the Biggest Mistake You Have Made in Your Career?  How Would You Seek to Avoid It on the Bench?

And finally, a question that encapsulates the others asked before. One that requires the nominee to demonstrate introspection, forethought, self-awareness, open-mindedness, and a willingness to get things wrong.  Like it or not, all lawyers make mistakes.  The best among us learn and grow from them and it is essential that our judges do as well.

With the nominations hearing of Judge Ketanji Jackson beginning today, it will be interesting to see if the hearings follow the predictable patterns laid out over the past two decades.  If any of the above questions are asked and answered in good faith, however, it will yield significant insight into Judge Jackson’s approach to the bench and the kind of justice she would be.

Judge Nina Wang – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado

Judge Nina Wang has spent the better part of the last decade as a federal magistrate judge. That background, along with a relatively uncontroversial career, makes Wang favored to take a seat on the District of Colorado.


Born in Taiwan, Wang attended Washington University in St. Louis graduating in 1994. Wang then received a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1997.

After graduating, Wang joined Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobsen as an associate before clerking for Judge Peter Messite on the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. Wang then spent four years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Colorado.

In 2004, Wang joined the Denver Office of Faegre Drinker, where she worked until 2015, when she was appointed to be a U.S. Magistrate Judge.

History of the Seat

Wang has been nominated for a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. This seat will open on July 15, 2022 when Judge Christine Arguello takes senior status. Wang was previously recommended by Colorado Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper to replace Judge R. Brooke Jackson, but another candidate, Charlotte Sweeney was chosen instead. Wang was then nominated to replace Arguello.

Legal Experience

Wang began her legal career at the firm of Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobsen before spending four years as a federal prosecutor, where, among other matters, Wang represented the government in immigration habeas petitions. See, e.g., De Maria Gonzalez-Portillo v. Reno, 2000 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19537 (D. Colo. Dec. 6, 2000). From 2004 to 2015, Wang was at the Denver office of Faegre Drinker, where she worked on civil and intellectual property litigation. See, e.g., Pragmatus Telecom, LLC v. NETGEAR, Inc., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 68616 (N.D. Cal. May 13, 2013).


Wang has served as a federal magistrate judge since her appointment in 2015. In this role, she presides by consent over civil matters and misdemeanors, assists district judges with discovery and settlement, and writes reports and recommendations on legal issues. Among her cases that she presided over, Wang recommended that a Failure to Protect claim filed by a group of incarcerated plaintiffs against correctional officers not be dismissed, which was largely adopted by U.S. District Judge Philip Brimmer. See Leal v. Falk, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 60556 (D. Colo. Mar. 29, 2021). In a separate case, Judge Christine Arguello adopted Wang’s recommendation to dismiss civil rights claims against Erie County officials who the plaintiff claims defamed her and her boyfriend by claiming that he was a sex-offender. See Trujillo v. Wren, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 178342 (D. Colo. Sept. 20, 2021).

In another matter, Wang sanctioned plaintiff’s counsel in an antitrust lawsuit involving surgical bone mills, noting that they had failed to be forthright with the court. See Fink Densford, Lenox MacLaren Lawyers Draw Sanctions in Medtronic Anti-Trust Suit, MassDevice, Sept. 21, 2015. Wang also presided over a review of a settlement agreement for the release of the mentally ill who are incarcerated pending a return to competency. See Allison Sherry, Lawyers Seek Release of Mentally Ill From Colorado Jails, A.P. State & Local, Dec. 5, 2018.


As a law student, Wang authored a book review of Lucy Salyer’s Laws Harsh as Tigers, which discussed anti-Chinese racism and Chinese Exclusion Laws in the late 19th Century. See Nina Wang, Laws Harsh as Tigers: Chinese Immigrants and the Shaping of Modern Immigration Law. Lucy E. Salyer. Chapel Hill, N.C. & London: The University of North Carolina Press, 1995, 31 Harv. C.R.-C.L. L. Rev. 587 (Summer, 1996). Wang describes Salyer’s writing as “a vivid reminder of the insidious effects of racism. Id. at 598.

Political Activity

Wang has made a handful of political donations, including to former Gov. Bill Ritter, a Colorado Democrat. In 2008, Wang also donated $50 to a Committee opposing Amendment 46, a proposed constitutional amendment (which narrowly failed in the general election) that would have banned affirmative action in public employment, education, and contracting.

Overall Assessment

With two decades of experience both as a judge and a litigator, it is hard to question Wang’s qualifications for a federal judgeship. As such, Wang’s nomination is unlikely to attract the opposition of her colleague Sweeney, and is likely to be confirmed before Judge Arguello moves off the bench.

Judge Stephanie Davis – Nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

A Democrat named to the federal bench by a Republican President, Judge Stephanie Davis is poised for elevation to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.


Davis was born Stephanie Renaye Dawkins in Kansas City Missouri in 1967.  Davis received a B.S. from Wichita State University in 1989 and her J.D. from the Washington University School of Law in 1992.[1]

After graduation, Davis joined the Detroit office of Dickinson Wright PLLC.[2]  In 1997, Davis joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan as a federal prosecutor.[3]  In 2010, newly appointed U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade chose Davis to be Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney.[4] 

In 2016, Davis was appointed as a U.S. Magistrate Judge in the Eastern District of Michigan.  In 2019, at the recommendation of Michigan’s Democratic Senators, President Trump nominated Davis to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.  Davis was unanimously confirmed to the position on December 19, 2019.  She currently serves as a U.S. District Judge.

History of the Seat

Davis has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.  The current holder of the seat, Judge Helene White, another Democrat nominated by a Republican President, has announced that she will move to senior status upon the confirmation of a successor.

Legal Career

Davis has held two primary positions in her pre-bench career.  From 1992 to 1997, Davis worked at the Detroit office of Dickinson Wright PLLC, where she focused largely on commercial litigation.  Then, from 1997 to 2016, Davis worked as a federal prosecutor, including as the Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney, the second in command to then-U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade, from 2010 to 2016.

Notably, as a prosecutor, Davis prosecuted Sohrab Shafinia, a Farmington doctor, for writing prescriptions for controlled substances in exchange for cash payments.[6]  She also helped prosecute Detroit officials for taking bribes and kickbacks and conspiring to defraud retirees.[7]

Political Activity

Davis’ political activity has exclusively been in support of Democrats.  For example, Davis served with the transition team of Detroit mayor Dennis Archer in 1993 and volunteered to conduct election protection for the Obama campaign in 2008.[8]  She also gave $250 apiece to the Obama campaigns in 2008 and 2012.[9]  Furthermore, Davis was a member of the American Constitution Society, an organization of left-leaning lawyers and law students, from 2008 and 2016, and served on the Board of the Detroit Chapter of the group between 2012 and 2015.[10]


Davis served as a U.S. Magistrate judge from her appointment in 2016 to 2019.  In this role, she handled settlement, discovery, and made recommendations on dispositive motions.  She also presided over cases where the parties consent.  Between 2016 and 2019, Davis presided over sixteen civil cases that proceeded to judgment.[11]  Davis’s more prominent trials include a Computer Fraud Act case against a former employee who stole information before setting up a competitor,[12] and a bench trial arising from a traffic collision at Fort Meade.[13]  Additionally, in another matter, Davis denied summary judgment against Muslim plaintiffs who argued that they were denied calorically equivalent meals during their fasts for Ramadan.[14]

Since her confirmation in 2019, Davis has served as a U.S. District Judge on the Eastern District of Michigan.  Among the notable matters that Davis handled as a district judge, she was assigned to review a Michigan law that criminalized the practice of hiring drivers to transport voters to the polls.[15]  Davis granted a preliminary injunction against the law, finding that the statute was pre-empted by federal law.[16]  However, Davis’ decision was subsequently overruled by a 2-1 decision of the Sixth Circuit, although Chief Judge R. Guy Cole supported Davis’ decision in dissent.[17]

Overall Assessment

Davis has already been unanimously approved by the Senate less than three years ago.  While she is unlikely to repeat that feat, some of the gloss from her earlier confirmation is likely to carry over to this one.  Davis’ background as a federal prosecutor and magistrate judge makes her a fairly traditional nominee, and is unlikely to draw significant controversy.  For senators who oppose Davis, her reversal by the Sixth Circuit in the voter transportation case is bound to be closely cited.

[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 114th Cong., Stephanie Davis: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] Id. at 2.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id. at 58.

[6] Michigan Physician Guilty of Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substance, Targeted News Service, Sept. 3, 2009.

[7] Jury Convicts Former Detroit City Treasurer, Pension Officials of Conspiring to Defraud Pensioners Through Bribery, U.S. Fed News, Dec. 8, 2014.

[8] Id. at 40.

[10] See Davis, supra n. 1 at 4.

[11] See id. at 12.

[12] Am. Furukawa, Inc. v. Hossain, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 161650 (E.D. Mich. Sept. 29, 2017).

[13] United States v. McNeill, Traffic Violation No. 2359730.

[14] Conway v. Purves, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 128171 (E.D. Mich. Aug. 1, 2016), report and recommendation adopted, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 127648 (E.D. Mich. Sept. 20, 2016) (Parker, J.).

[15] See Marshall Cohen, Michigan Judge Blocks Law That Banned Paid Transportation to Polls,, Sept. 17, 2020.

[16] See id. 

[17] Colin Kalmbacher, Conservative Appeals Court Allows Michigan to Enforce Ban on Paid Transportation to the Polls in Loss for Voting Rights Advocates, Newstex Blogs, July 21, 2021.

Judge Ana de Alba – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California

The Eastern District of California is one of the most heavily overworked courts in the country. The Court has not been expanded in decades, even as caseloads explode, and has relied heavily on senior judges to carry the burden. In an effort to bring some relief, President Biden has nominated state judge Ana de Alba.


A native Californian, de Alba received her B.A. from the University of California Berkeley in 2002 and her J.D. in 2007 from the UC Berkeley School of Law. While a law student, de Alba worked with elementary and middle school students on mock trials. See Minerva Perez, Pupils Convene Court, Los Banos Enterprise, Mar. 30, 2007 After law school, de Alba joined Lang Richet & Patch PC. She also continued her work with mock trial. Thaddeus Miller, Mock Trial Enlightens View of Future for Los Banos Sixth-Graders, Los Banos Enterprise, Mar. 16, 2012. In 2018, de Alba was appointed to the Fresno County Superior Court, where she currently serves.

History of the Seat

de Alba has been nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, to a seat vacated on December 17, 2019 by Judge Morrison England. On May 21, 2020, the Trump Administration nominated attorney Dirk Paloutzian to replace England, but he was not confirmed before the end of the 116th Congress. de Alba was nominated on January 19, 2022.

Legal Experience

de Alba spent her entire career before becoming a judge at Lang Richet & Patch PC. Among her work there, de Alba represented a credit union in a suit by borrowers alleging promissory fraud that went up to the California Supreme Court. See Riverisland Cold Storage Inc. v. Fresno-Madera Product, 55 Cal. 4th 1169 (Cal. 2013). The California Supreme Court overruled a prior ruling limiting the use of “parol evidence” (evidence of verbal or written agreements outside the language of a contract) in cases of promissory fraud. See id. at 1172. Additionally, while at the firm, de Alba received the Jack Berman Award of Achievement from the California Young Lawyers’ Association in 2012 for her pro bono work, including serving on the Board of Directors for Central California Legal Services, Inc. California Lawyers, Judges to Receive Awards for Legal Service and Excellence, Targeted News Service, Oct. 4, 2012.


Since 2018, de Alba has served as a Superior Court judge in Fresno County. In this role, she presides over civil, criminal, and domestic cases. Among the matters she handled on the bench, de Alba presided over a suit by the American Chemistry Council alleging that California had improperly listed SPF systems using methylene diphenyl diisocynates (MDI) as priority products for the state’s green chemistry program, restricting their commercial use. See Judge Questions Core ACC Claim in Suit Over DTSC Spray Foam Listing, Inside Cal/EPA, Jan. 15, 2021. de Alba ordered the delisting of the challenged products, while rejecting three other challenges. Judge Scraps California DTSC’s Spray Polyeurethane Foam Listing, Inside Cal/EPA, Apr. 2, 2021. California’s appeal of the ruling is currently pending. California Urges Appellate Court to Uphold Green Chemistry Product Listing, Inside Cal/EPA, Feb. 4, 2022.

Additionally, during the COVID-19 pandemic, de Alba gained some news attention for her rulings relating to scheduling and court compliance. In one ruling, de Alba refused to extend or excuse deadlines for a defendant’s community service, noting that she had seen no evidence that the defendant had worked towards the service before the pandemic hit. See Jeannette Parada, COVID-19 or No COVID-19, Fresno Judge Wants Defendant’s Community Service Done – Or It’s Jail, The People’s Vanguard of Davis, June 29, 2020. In another case, de Alba withdrew bench warrants that had been issued for defendants who failed to appear, noting that they did not have access to steady housing or transportation, and allowed them to participate virtually. See Phoebe Glick, Coronavirus Court Precautions Can Lead to Unforeseen Complications, The People’s Vanguard of Davis, Aug. 7, 2020.

In other rulings, de Alba found probable cause that a defendant had committed an act of domestic violence based on the testimony of the reporting officer. See Angelina Caplanis, Defender Argues Victim Lied on 911 Call; Judge Still Finds Probable Cause for Arrest, The People’s Vanguard of Davis, July 15, 2020.

Overall Assessment

Despite her youth, de Alba has built a significant amount of experience on issues of criminal and civil law. It will be interesting to see if her rulings during the Covid-19 pandemic are questioned, either on the right or the left, during confirmation.

Robert Huie – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California is currently short five judges. Having appointed two judges to the court already, the Biden Administration is slowly naming candidates for the remaining vacancies, including Jones Day partner Robert Huie.


Robert S. Huie received his B.A. from Calvin University, a private evangelical university in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1998 and his J.D. from Yale Law School in 2002.

After law school, Huie spent a year at Wiggin Dana before clerking for Judge Jose Cabranes on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Huie then joined Latham & Watkins as a civil litigator.

In 2008, Huie became an Assistant United States Attorney based in San Diego. In 2020, he moved to become a Partner at Jones Day, where he currently serves.

History of the Seat

Huie has been nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, to a seat vacated on October 31, 2018, by Judge Michael Anello’s move to senior status. On November 21, 2019, President Trump nominated federal prosecutor Michelle Pettit to fill this vacancy. However, Pettit was not processed by the Senate Judiciary Committee before the end of the Trump Administration.

On January 19, 2022, President Biden nominated Huie to fill this seat.

Legal Experience

Throughout his career, Huie has worked both as a federal prosecutor and in private practice at a number of different law firms. In the latter capacity, Huie has worked as part of lawsuits related to insurance payouts from the September 11 terrorist attacks. See, e.g., S.R. Int’l Bus. Ins. Co. v. World Trade Ctr. Props. LLC., 467 F.3d 107 (2d Cir. 2006).

Notably, as a federal prosecutor, Huie was one of the leading prosecutors in the Fat Leonard scandal, in which 33 people were charged as part of a conspiracy to bribe U.S. Navy officials in exchange for classified intelligence. See Craig Whitlock, ‘Fat Leonard’ Probe Expands to Ensnare More than 60 Admirals, Wash. Post, Nov. 5, 2017. Huie’s work led to a number of guilty pleas, including of U.S. Navy Commander Jose Luis Sanchez. See Elliot Spagat, Navy Official is Highest Yet to Plead Guilty in Bribery Case, A.P. State & Local, Jan. 7, 2015. In other matters, Huie prosecuted Terry Lee Steward for threatening judges who presided over his medical malpractice case. Man Gets Time Served and Home Detention for Threatening to Kill Judges, City News Service, Feb. 28, 2011.

Overall Assessment

While the Biden Administration has generally sought out “unconventional” backgrounds in their judicial nominees, Huie, a former federal prosecutor and current biglaw partner, represents a brand of nominees that generally skated to confirmation in the past. While Huie may still draw some opposition, he is likely to be confirmed comfortably nonetheless.

Natasha Merle – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York

The Biden Administration has tapped attorneys from many prominent civil rights organizations for the bench. Eastern District nominee Natasha Merle, who works for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, is part of this trend.


Merle attended the University of Texas at Austin, graduating in 2005. Merle then attended New York University Law School, graduating in 2008. She then clerked for Judge Robert Carter on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York before joining the Gulf Region Advocacy Center.

After two years at the Advocacy Center, Center became a federal public defender in the Eastern District of New York and then clerked for Judge John Gleeson on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. She then joined the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, where she currently serves as deputy director of litigation.

History of the Seat

Merle has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. This seat opened on February 1, 2021 by statute because Judge Roslynn Mauskopf was designated to the Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts.

Legal Experience

Merle has held a number of legal positions throughout her career, although she has spent the majority of it at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Early in her career, Merle spent a year as a federal public defender, where she worked on appeals. See, e.g., People v. Rowser, 139 A.3d 489 (N.Y. App. Div. 2016).

Merle has been with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund since 2013. Notably, she was part of the legal team representing Duane Bell, a Texas man whose death sentence was overturned by the Supreme Court because of racially prejudiced comments presented by a defense expert during the sentencing phase of his trial. See Buck v. Davis, 137 S. Ct. 759 (2017). In a media statement, Merle noted that the case was about whether a state could execute someone after a sentencing infected with “racial bias.” Feliks Garcia, Supreme Court Slams Texas Man’s ‘Racially Tainted’ Death Sentence, Calls It “Indefensible”; The Jury’s Decision Hinged on Expert Witness Testimony That Claimed That Black People Were Statistically More Prone to Violent Criminal Behavior, The Independent, Oct. 5, 2016.

In additional matters, Merle was part of the legal team suing Alabama over its voter ID law, and argued the case before the Eleventh Circuit. Mallory Moensch, Civil Rights Groups Appeal Alabama Voter ID Ruling, A.P. State & Local, Feb. 22, 2018. See also Greater Birmingham Ministries v. Merrill, 250 F. Supp. 3d 1238 (N.D. Ala. 2017). She also brought suit against Arkansas for vote dilution of black voters in judicial elections. See Frazier v. Kelley, 460 F. Supp. 3d 799 (E.D. Ark. 2020).

In non-voting matters, Merle sued on behalf of black communities in Philadelphia over excessive force used during protests over police brutality in 2020. See Ellie Silverman and Mike Newall, Trump: May Send Officers to Phila.; It Was Among Cities He Named as He Lauded Use of Force Against Oregon Protesters. Kenney Said They Are Not Wanted Here, Philadelphia Daily News, July 21, 2020. She also sued the Alamance County Sheriff for allegedly using excessive force against protesters. See Isaac Groves, Second Lawsuit Charges Sheriff, Police with Suppressing Vote, Times-News, Nov. 9, 2020.

Statements and Writings

In her role at the NAACP LDF, Merle has frequently written and commented on the law, particularly in relation to pending litigation. For example, Merle noted, in connection with a lawsuit against President Trump’s Election Integrity Commission, that “[a]llegations of voter fraud have historically been used to target minority voters and deprive them full access to the franchise.” See Press Release, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, LDF, Local Alabama Organization File Federal Lawsuit Challenging President’s ‘Election Integrity’ Commission, Targeted News Service, July 18, 2017.

Additionally, Merle has also submitted letters to government officials, for example, sending a letter to the Texas Secretary of State asking for additional efforts to accommodate voting for those internally displaced by Hurricane Harvey. See Sam Levine, Civil Rights Group Threatens Texas If It Doesn’t Protect Voting Rights of Hurricane Victims, Huffington Post, Oct. 13, 2017.

Overall Assessment

Like many of her colleagues tapped for the bench and executive positions, Merle is likely to see strong opposition. Nonetheless, given Democrats’ relative discipline on judicial nominations, Merle is still favored to join the bench by the summer.