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.
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.
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.
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.