Anne Nardacci – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York

One of the oldest judicial vacancies in the country is on the Northern District of New York, open for approximately six years. After the two prior presidents failed to fill this seat, President Biden is taking a shot with Anne Nardacci.

Background

The 45-year-old Anne M. Nardacci got her Bachelor of Arts from Georgetown University in 1998 and, after a year on the staff of Congressman Michael McNulty, went on to earn her J.D. from Cornell Law School in 2002. After law school, Nardacci spent three years at the New York office of Skadden, Arps, Slate Meagher & Flom.

In 2005, Nardacci joined the Albany office of Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, where she still works.

History of the Seat

Nardacci has been nominated to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York. This seat opened on January 1, 2016, when Judge Gary Sharpe moved to senior status. While the seat opened with a year left in the Obama Administration, the Administration never extended a nominee for the vacancy and it was carried over into the Trump Administration. In October 2018, upon the recommendation of two Republican Congressmen in New York, Lee Zeldin and John Faso, President Trump nominated New York Judge Thomas Marcelle for the vacancy. Marcelle had also been nominated for a federal judgeship by President George W. Bush but was blocked by Senator Charles Schumer. Robert Gavin, Marcelle Seen in Line for Federal Judgeship, Houston Chronicle, May 4, 2018, https://www.chron.com/local/article/Marcelle-seen-in-line-for-federal-judgeship-12889507.php. This time around, Marcelle was blocked by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand over his record on abortion, and Marcelle withdrew his nomination in August 2019. Robert Gavin and Mike Goodwin, Gillibrand Blocks Area Judge’s Nomination, Albany Times Union, Aug. 30, 2019, https://www.pressreader.com/usa/albany-times-union/20190830/281535112661040. On August 12, 2020, McAllister was nominated in a second try to fill this seat. His nomination was also not processed before the end of the Trump Administration.

In November 2021, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer recommended Nardacci to fill this seat on the Northern District of New York. See Marco Poggio, Schumer Puts Forward Boies Schiller Partner for NY Court, Law360, Nov. 15, 2021. Nardacci was nominated on April 27, 2022.

Legal Experience

Nardacci has spent her entire career in private practice, starting at Skadden Arps, and then working at Boies Schiller in Albany. At Boies, Nardacci works primarily in antitrust litigation, both in defending companies, and on the affirmative side, working as outside counsel in state investigations and enforcement actions.

The notable cases that Nardacci participated in include antitrust litigation over cathode ray tubes in the Northern District of California. See In re Cathode Ray Tube Antritrust Litig. (N.D. Cal.) In another notable case, Nardacci represented AngioDynamics, a medical device manufacturer, in a suit alleging anticompetitive behavior by C.R. Bard, a rival company. See Caitlin Stefanik, AngioDynamics Lawsuit Alleges C.R. Bard is Violating Antitrust Laws, Harming Competition and Limiting Access, Financial Buzz, May 31, 2017. An attempt by C.R. Bard to dismiss the lawsuit for failure to state a claim was denied by Judge Brenda Sannes. See AngioDynamics, Inc. v. C.R. Bard, Inc., 1:17-cv-00598 (N.D.N.Y. Aug. 8, 2018) (J. Sannes).

Additionally, Nardacci represented a debtor in a class action lawsuit regarding whether the discharge provisions of the Bankruptcy Code conflict with the Federal Arbitration Act. See Vince Sullivan, High Court Won’t Hear Bank’s Bid to Arbitrate Ch. 7 Debt, Law360, Mar. 8, 2021. The suit ended in a Second Circuit judgment in the debtor’s favor and a denial of certiorari by the Supreme Court. See id.

Political Activity

Nardacci has been a frequent political donor, having given to the Presidential campaigns of Obama and Biden, as well as the Senate campaign of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

Overall Assessment

As a commercial and antitrust litigator, Nardacci has attracted little controversy over her career. Barring the unexpected, she should see a comfortable confirmation before the end of the year.

Judge Sarah Merriam – Nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

After only about six months on the federal district court bench, Judge Sarah Merriam is now poised for elevation to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Background

Sarah A.L. Merriam earned her B.A. from Georgetown University in 1993 and her J.D. from Yale Law School in 2000. After graduating law school, Merriam joined the Hartford office of Cowdery, Ecker, & Murphy as an Associate. In 2007, Merriam moved to the public sector as an Assistant Federal Defender, staying in the office for eight years. In 2015, Merriam was chosen to be a federal magistrate judge, replacing Judge Holly Fitzsimmons.

On June 15, 2021, President Joseph Biden nominated Merriam to the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut. Merriam was confirmed by the Senate on October 6, 2021 and has served as a U.S. District Court judge since.

History of the Seat

Merriam has been nominated to a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit for a seat to be vacated upon confirmation (likely by Judge Susan Carney).

Legal Career

Merriam started her legal career as an associate at Cowdery, Ecker, & Murphy, where she worked alongside partner Steven Ecker, who now serves on the Connecticut Supreme Court. Among the cases that Merriam and Ecker worked on together, they represented Directors of Reflexite Corp. in defending against a suit alleging that they violated their fiduciary duties to the corporation. See Frank v. LoVetere, 363 F. Supp. 2d 327 (D. Conn. 2005).

From 2007 to 2014, Merriam worked in the Office of the Federal Defender, representing indigent defendants in Connecticut federal court. Among the cases she handled with the office, Merriam represented Michael Danzi, one of two brothers charged with participating in a drug distribution ring importing marijuana from Canada. United States v. Danzi, 726 F. Supp. 2d 109 (D. Conn. 2009).

Jurisprudence

Merriam served as a U.S. Magistrate Judge since her appointment in 2015, where she handles detention, discovery disputes, misdemeanors, and social security/benefits cases. As an example of a matter she handled, Merriam affirmed an administrative decision denying disability benefits for Dana Poole, finding that substantial evidence supported the determination that Poole’s disabilities were not sufficiently severe to qualify her for the benefits. Poole v. Saul, 462 F. Supp.3d 137 (D. Conn. 2020).

In another notable decision, Merriam ruled against the Libertarian Party of Connecticut, finding that the plaintiffs had not shown that Connecticut’s petitioning requirements were overly burdensome on the party. Libertarian Party of Conn. v. Merrill, 470 F. Supp. 3d (D. Conn. 2020).

Since October 2021, Merriam has served as a U.S. District Judge. In her limited tenure as a District Judge, Merriam presided over the corruption trial of State Rep. Michael DiMassa, accused of embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars of epidemic relief money. See Chris Powell, Corruption in Connecticut Switches Political Parties, Manchester Journal Enquirer, Oct. 27, 2021. Merriam also presided over a suit by Yale Law students alleging retaliation for their refusal to lie in a faculty investigation, in which she declined to allow the plaintiffs to proceed pseudonymously.. See Eugene Volokh, No Pseudonymity in Yale Law School DinnerPartyGate Lawsuit, Volokh Conspiracy, Jan. 19, 2022.

In other rulings, Merriam found that a Federal Tort Claims Act suit brought by a Honduran immigrant was outside the statute of limitations. See Grace Dixon, Honduran Migrant’s Rape Case Against ICE Agent Too Late, Law360, Mar. 29, 2022.

Overall Assessment

Merriam’s initial confirmation to the bench was relatively uncontentious, even though she still drew opposition from the vast majority of Senate Republicans. While Merriam may draw 2-3 Republican votes for elevation at most, she is still favored for confirmation.

Ana Reyes – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

Williams & Connolly Partner Ana Reyes, nominated for the federal district court in D.C., would be the first Hispanic woman and the first LGBTQ judge on the District of D.C.

Background

Born in Uruguay, Ana Reyes received her B.A. from Transylvania University in 1996 and then spent a year organizing against California Proposition 209 (which barred affirmative action in public employment) before joining Harvard Law School for her J.D.

After graduating, Reyes clerked for Judge Amalya Kearse on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and then joined the D.C. office of Williams & Connolly, where she currently works as a Partner.

History of the Seat

The seat Reyes has been nominated for will open upon the move of Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to senior status.

Legal Experience

Other than her position as a clerk, Reyes has spent her entire career at Williams & Connolly, where she works in civil litigation and arbitration. Reyes has notably worked on a number of international disputes, including representing Spain in a dispute over the withdrawal of economic incentives for renewable projects. See Clark Mindock, Spain Wins Pause of $66M Energy Investor Award, Law360, Apr. 1, 2021.

In other matters, Reyes was part of the legal team challenging the Trump Administration’s restrictions on refugees entering the United States through ports of entry. See O.A. v. Trump, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 242294 (D.D.C. Nov. 20, 2018); see also Court Strikes Down Trump Administration Policy Barring Refugees From Asylum, States News Service, Aug. 2, 2019. Reyes has also been active in asylum representation on a pro bono basis, including the representation of three African women fleeing genital mutilation in Guinea. See African Women Win Appeal to Deportation, Washington Informer, July 10, 2008.

Statements and Writings

In 2011, Reyes authored an article discussing her experiences working with a family that was seeking to escape torture and mutilation in their home country. See Ana C. Reyes, Representing Torture Victims and Other Asylum Seekers, 37 Litigation 23 (Summer 2011). Reyes closed the piece by noting that representing torture victims and asylum seekers was a way for lawyers “to fundamentally change lives.” Id. at 27.

Overall Assessment

While Reyes’ background in international arbitration and civil litigation is unlikely to draw much fire as a judicial nominee, some senators may look askance at her suits against the Trump Administration. As such, while Reyes is favored for the bench, she may nonetheless have a rocky road to confirmation.

Judge Salvador Mendoza – Nominee to the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

U.S. District Judge Salvador Mendoza has served on the Eastern District of Washington since 2014. He has now been tapped for elevation to the Ninth Circuit.

Background

Born November 30, 1971 in Pacoima, California in an immigrant family from Mexico, Mendoza attended the University of Washington and UCLA School of Lawl. After graduating from law school, Mendoza had quick stints with the Washington Attorney General’s Office, and the Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, before he started his own practice, staying with the practice while working as a Municipal, Juvenile, and District Court Judge Pro Tempore until 2013.

In 2013, Mendoza was appointed by Governor Jay Inslee to be a Superior Court Judge in Franklin County.

In 2014, President Obama appointed Mendoza to replace Judge Lonny Suko on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington. Mendoza was confirmed 92-4 on June 17, 2014, and has served as a federal judge since.

History of the Seat

Mendoza has been nominated for a Washington seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. This seat will open when Judge Margaret McKeown takes senior status upon the confirmation of her successor.

Writings and Statements

While a student at UCLA, Mendoza authored a note that was sharply critical of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Hernandez v. New York, which permitted the striking of bilingual jurors from a criminal jury that was likely to hear testimony in Spanish. See Salvador Mendoza, Jr., When Maria Speaks Spanish: Hernandez, the Ninth Circuit, and the Fallacy of Race Neutrality, 18 Chicano-Latino L. Rev. 193 (Fall 1996). In the note, Mendoza is also critical of permitting “race-neutral” justifications for such strikes, arguing that the language of race neutrality allows prosecutors to hide covert biases. See id. at 204. Mendoza argues that, in the context of prejudice and hostility to Spanish speakers, Hernandez “can be seen as a continued attempt to place a badge of inferiority and continue the racial subordination of the Latino community.” Id. at 209.

In a speech given at his investiture when he joined the federal bench, Mendoza highlighted the “guiding principle” of his judicial career as “equal justice under law.” See Kristin M. Kraemer, Sal Mendoza Jr. of Kennewick Becomes First Latino Federal Judge on East Side, Tri-City Herald, Aug. 1, 2014.

Legal Experience

Before joining the bench, Mendoza worked in a variety of positions, but primarily worked as a solo and dual practitioner in state and federal criminal law. Throughout this time, Mendoza tried seventy-seven cases as either sole or co-counsel, including approximately sixty jury trials. Among these trials, Mendoza secured an acquittal for a client charged with conspiracy to distribute meth-amphetamines in federal court. United States v. Cisneros, No. CR-05-206-3-FVS, (E.D. Wash.).

Jurisprudence

In 2013, Mendoza was appointed to the Franklin County and Benton County Superior Court, where he presided over 36 cases to verdict/judgment, including twenty-two jury trials. Notably, Mendoza presided over the ongoing litigation in the Arlene’s Flowers case, which involved a florist who had declined to provide flowers for a same-sex ceremony and was sued for violating civil rights laws. State of Washington v. Arlene’s Flowers Inc., et al., No. 13-2-00871-5 (Franklin Cnty. Super. Ct.).

Since 2014, Mendoza has served as a U.S. District Court Judge for the Eastern District of Washington. In this role, Mendoza has handled a number of high profile cases. Most notably, Mendoza presided over the criminal case against James Henrickson, charged with hiring hitmen to murder a business partner and an employee. See Rachel Alexander, MURDER-FOR-HIRE TRIAL MOVED; Judge Cites Publicity in Sending Henrikson Trial to Richland, Spokesman Review, Sept. 18, 2015. The case involved many twists, including Henrikson’s decision to plead guilty and then to withdraw his guilty pleas. See Kip Hill, Henrickson Withdraws Guilty Plea in Murders: Spokane Businessman Was Killed in his South Hill Home, Spokesman Review, Nov. 4, 2015. The case ended with guilty verdicts, after which Mendoza sentenced Henrickson to two life sentences. See Kip Hill, Henrickson Receives Two Life Sentences: Showed No Remorse For Ordering Killings, Spokesman Review, May 25, 2016.

In other matters, Mendoza granted an injunction ordering Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences to accommodate the needs of a deaf student. See Molly Rosbach, Judge Orders PNWU to Accommodate Deaf Student, Yakima Herald-Republic, July 23, 2014. Mendoza also granted a restraining order requiring a local jail to release an inmate granted bail (the inmate was being held pursuant to an immigration hold). See Phil Ferolito, Federal Judge’s Order to Lift Immigration Hold on Yakima Inmate Could Have Nationwide Impact, Tri-City Herald, July 27, 2017.

Overall Assessment

While Mendoza’s first confirmation was widely bipartisan, it is likely that his elevation will attract strong opposition. Setting aside the more partisan attitudes towards confirmation today, Mendoza may attract questions about his injunctions on immigration holds. Additionally, his law school note and his role in the Arlene’s Flowers case, which largely avoided controversy when he was up for a trial court position, may be raised again in his elevation.

Nonetheless, Mendoza remains favored for confirmation, albeit with a significantly reduced margin.

Judge Stephen Locher – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa

Judge Stephen Locher served as a criminal defense attorney and a federal prosecutor for nearly two decades before becoming a federal magistrate judge last year. Now, Locher has been nominated for a lifetime judgeship on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa with the support of his home-state Republican senators.

Background

A native Iowan from Mason City, Stephen Henley Locker was born in 1978. Locher received a B.A. magna cum laude from Notre Dame University in 2000 and a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2003.

After graduating law school, Locher clerked for Judge John Gibson on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Locher then spent four years in Chicago at Goldberg Kohn as an Associate before joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa in 2008.

In 2013, Locher became a Partner at Belin McCormick P.C. in Des Moines. He maintained that role until 2020 when he was selected as a U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Southern District of Iowa, where he currently serves.

History of the Seat

The seat Locher has been nominated for opened on March 18,, 2022, with Judge John Jarvey’s retirement. Locher applied to a screening committee formed by Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst and was recommended to the White House in February 2022. Locher was formally nominated on April 25, 2022.

Legal Experience

After his clerkship, Locher’ first legal position was as an Associate at Goldberg Kohn P.C. in Chicago. In 2008, Locher was hired to be an Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa. In the office, Locher helped prosecute Rumeal Robinson, a former University of Michigan NCAA player. Robinson was convicted of defrauding a bank through a fraudulent loan and was sentenced to six and a half years in prison. See Tom Witosky, Prison Time for U-M Hero, Detroit Free Press, Jan. 8, 2011.

From 2013 to 2020, Locher was a Partner with Belin McCormick, P.C., working alongside Iowa Supreme Court Justice Matthew McDermott. The pair represented Sholom Rubashkin, the CEO of Agriprocessors, a kosher slaughterhouse and meatpacking plant that had allegedly hired thousands of illegal aliens. See Rubashkin v. United States, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11694 (N.D. Iowa Jan. 26, 2017). Rubashkin’s prosecution drew particular concern due to the participation of Judge Linda Reade (who eventually presided over the case) in a highly controversial raid of the Agriprocessor plant.

Jurisprudence

Locher has served as a U.S. Magistrate Judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa since 2021. Among the matters he has handled during his short tenure, Locher granted in part a defendant’s motion to amend the conditions of release, allowing him to communicate with his wife on matters unrelated to the case before him. See United States v. Martinez, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 179162 (S.D. Iowa Sept. 13, 2021). In another matter, Locher granted in part a plaintiff’s motion to file a third amended complaint in a suit involving life insurance sales. See Meardon v. Register, 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13261 (S.D. Iowa Jan. 21, 2022).

Overall Assessment

As a federal magistrate judge with experience both in private practice and as a federal prosecutor, Locher is a relatively uncontroversial choice for the bench. Furthermore, Locher has a powerful champion in Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley. As such, the odds look fairly good for a prompt confirmation for Locher.

Gregory Williams – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware

A fixture of the Delaware legal community, Fox Rothschild partner Gregory Williams is poised for a smooth confirmation to the Delaware federal bench.

Background

Gregory Brian Williams attended the Millersville University of Pennsylvania, getting his B.A. and B.Sc. in 1990. After graduating, Williams served in the Army Reserve until 1992, when he attended and got a J.D. from Villanova University School of Law in 1995.

Williams subsequently joined the Wilmington, Delaware office of Fox Rothschild LLP, becoming a Partner in 2003. Williams is still with the firm.

History of the Seat

Williams has been nominated for a vacancy opened by Judge Leonard Stark’s elevation to the U.S. Court of Appeals on the Federal Circuit. Williams was recommended for the seat by Delaware Senators Carper and Coons.

Legal Experience

Williams has spent his entire legal career at the firm of Fox Rothschild, where he focused primarily on intellectual property and commercial law. Among his notable cases at the firm, Williams represented the pharmaceutical company Ethypharm SA France in an antitrust suit against Abbott Laboratories. See Ethypharm SA France v. Abbott Labs., 271 F.R.D. 82 (D. Del. 2010). He was also lead counsel in defending Intervet, Inc. against an infringement suit for porcine circovirus vaccines. See Wyeth LLC v. Intervet, Inc., 771 F. Supp. 2d 334 (D. Del. 2011). Outside of Delaware, Williams defended Megabus in a D.C. suit for racial discrimination, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and assault. See Davis v. Megabus Northeast LLC., 301 F.Supp.3d 105 (D.D.C. 2018).

Williams has also handled appellate matters, including arguing before the Delaware Supreme Court in an eminent domain case involving the Delaware Department of Transportation. See Lawson v. State, 72 A.3d 84 (Del. 2013).

Writings and Statements

Outside of his role at Fox Rothschild, Williams has been active in the Delaware legal community, including serving as President of the Delaware State Bar Association and as Chair of the state’s Judicial Nominating Commission. In his various capacities, Williams has sometimes spoken and written on the law. For example, in 1999, Williams was interviewed as part of an article discussing the effect of Y2K. See The Millenium Bug, Journal of Business Strategy (1998). He also spoke in favor of electronic filing in Delaware federal courts. See Sean O’Sullivan, U.S. District Court Starts Electronic Filing; Legal Documents Will Be Available on Web, The News Journal, Mar. 6, 2005.

Overall Assessment

While many of Biden’s judicial nominees have attracted strong GOP opposition, Williams is likely to face a relatively uncontroversial confirmation. With a background in commercial and patent litigation, and a paucity of controversial statements, Williams should expect a confirmation within the next three months.