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.

43 Comments

  1. This is a good district court nominee for a red state. I’m happy Grassley & Ernst both worked in good faith to fill the seat with a moderate, young nominee. He should be confirmed almost unanimously if not unopposed. Sadly this pick has been better then some blue state nominees.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Oh I completely agree with you, he’s not better then most of the New Jersey selections (Although I still would put him well ahead of O’Hearn because he at least seems highly qualified). My point is if he is bad enough to say it’s better to leave the seat vacant until next year. That is the disagreement I have with you unless we have a list of progressives that have been vetted already & he was put ahead of them. I doubt that is the case.

        Virginia is a great example. Juval Scott was recommended last year & the two black guys were nominated a couple months ago yet we still have not had either of them nominated yet. I’m assuming they are stuck in the vetting process. I highly doubt they are ready to be nominated but are being passed over for nominees like Locher.

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    • @Rick

      Sadly your probably right. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him at the SJC hearing this Wednesday. Speaking of the SJC, did anybody else notice they had an executive meeting last Thursday & the nominees from the previous week wasn’t on the agenda?

      They still aren’t on the agenda for this Thursday either. I’m not sure why Durbin doesn’t put them on the agenda the following week to be held over every time. Another lost opportunity to get judges for firmed quickly.

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  2. It is absolutely awful that this nominee was nominated by Biden. There should be no red state moderates nominated before every single Circuit Court and blue state District Court vacancy is filled. In particular I would just refuse to fill any red state vacancy unless the GOP senators accept a strong progressive.

    This is completely disgusting, even worse than the slow performance of Biden, Schumer, and Durbin.

    I give this nomination an F. Locher himself may not be a bad nominee, but this nomination should have been held until 2023.

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    • @Shawn

      The only was I would agree with you is if one or two things happened.

      First, if Biden has a list of blue slip nominees he’s passing over to nominate Locher. I have little confidence that the senators from Massachusetts, California or any other blue states have sent him recommendations far enough back to be vetted, let alone them being passed over for this nominee.

      Second, if there was a senate race that looked winnable for the Democrats to flip a senate seat in the state then I would say take a chance & perhaps get a better nominee after the midterms. I suggested that in an earlier post regarding Pennsylvania. In that case you could have two Democrats so there would be no need rush to fill the vacant seats because you have a good chance of getting a much better nominee in just a year. In this case, Grassley’s opponent barely got on the ballot with a last minute ruling from the Iowa SCOTUS. I doubt she will beat Grassley & even if she did you still have another Republican senator with blue slips in play so I don’t see how you get a better nominee next year from Iowa.

      The way I see it,if you don’t nominate Locher here you just have a SJC hearing with only four nominees. As for Locher being a F, I just disagree with you there. He might be an F from a blue state, but factoring in this is Iowa, this is a pretty good consensus nominee to me.

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      • As I said the other day, I strongly suspect the issue with MA nominees is not the senators but Biden’s White House. Your repeated bashing of the MA senators is really unwarranted there is clear evidence that suggests that they did not send nominees. Given whom they recommended for US Attorney, I seriously doubt that they did not recommend progressives.

        I’m not giving Locher an F, I give Biden an F for nominating someone who is not from a blue state. I would much rather put up someone who Warren/Markey sent to the White House, but may be rejected by Manchin.

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      • I don’t see the evidence that my repeated bashing of the MA senators is really unwarranted. The one nominee we have is a decent, but by no means progressive nominee born in 1967. And I read an article they extended the period to apply for the third district court vacancy, I believe it was until next month.

        Sorry @Shawn, I usually agree with you but can’t in this one. Unless I read the SJC questionnaires when we finally get nominees from MA, I see nothing that shows me they have any sense of urgency for current vacancies. They are more concerned with adding seats then filing them more so then the ones we can fill right now.

        Yes, that upsets me. That’s why I can’t agree that Biden should be waiting to fill red state seats. I don’t see a long list of blue seat recommendations collecting dust on The Resolute Desk.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes it is completely and totally unwarranted. You are making an unfounded assumption that the senators are the bottleneck and not the Biden admin. We have seen time and again that the Biden admin has dragged its feet on nominees that senators have recommended.

        Take for example Virginia. This administration has not yet sent up two nominations from Virginia that were recommended a while ago (and just sent up Hanes), while they they couldn’t send up shitty red state nominees like Locher fast enough. This is a pure failure on the Biden administration, and should be said as much.

        When it comes to judges, Warren has proved to be far more reliable than this administration. And that is why your trashing of them is completely unwarranted.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I guess my definition of “proven” is much different then yours. I don’t call sending a 54 year old left of center Angel Kelly “proven”. Now if we were talking about New York I would say they have a more proven record even with one bad nominee I disagree with because the overwhelming number of nominees from that state have been solid. Massachusetts is just hasn’t proven anything to me to date. Hopefully they will soon so I can be as optimistic as you are.

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      • You do not know who else was recommended with Angel Kelley. It is quite possible that they sent up several several other candidates with Kelley and the Biden admin picked Kelley. You are making conclusions with incomplete and erroneous information.

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  3. It really seems as if the WH and senate Democrats are content now that they got one SCOTUS nominee confirmed….

    I mean, we’ve had one confirmation in last month, and the only votes scheduled are all executive nominees including a couple filed today….

    Voting rights and now abortion rights are in severe danger, and senate democrats are doing nothing other than holding symbolic votes /(ie like the one for abortion bill on Wed) and voting on executive nominees…

    We’ll probably see a judge confirmed by the time the NFL season returns

    Like

    • Don’t worry @Rick, in 48 hours we will get a whole new FIVE nominees. I swear I can’t with these people.

      But since we know the most we are going to get is five new nominees, allow me to speculate which two circuit court nominees we will get nominees for. Here are the current seats with no nominees;

      DC
      1st (NH)
      1st (MA)
      2nd (CT)
      3rd (PA)
      3rd (DE)
      4th (SC)
      4th (MD)
      5th (TX)
      6th (OH)
      7th (IN)
      9th (AZ)
      9th (MT)
      10th (KS)

      It almost hurts to write all of those seats down knowing we will only get two nominees every other week. If I had to guess what two we will get this week, I would say two of these seats… 2nd (CT), 3rd (PA) or 3rd (DE).

      There’s a slight chance we might get a nominee for the 4th (SC) seat. We already know from reports there are two women in the running for the 6th (OH) seat but I do not believe the vetting is complete yet. The 10th (KS) seat still not having a nominee is a running joke at this point. The DC seat would be great to have a nominee but knowing this administration, they probably didn’t even begin the process to get a nominee until after KBJ was confirmed. All of the other seats are too new for me to see a nominee this week.

      Like

  4. @Dequan and @Shawn

    I think the both of you are right in certain respects.
    I think Dequan is right about Locher being a good red state nominee. I would take this nominee and run.
    I think Shawn is absolutely right about everything else. I’m actually surprised of Dequan’s full-throated defense of Biden’s nomination people. They SUCK! So yeah, Angel Kelly might not be the best recommendation, but I just don’t think that the two most liberal senators are sitting on their hands with these seats. I think the hold up is with the WH, probably pushing back at how liberal the recs are. Again, we can find out on the SJC questionnaire.
    Another one of Shawn’s points is every red state nom you have to vet and process, takes away from the vetting and processing of a blue state (or circuit!) nominee. Thankfully, Locher’s vetting didn’t take too long, only a couple months.

    I hope everyone will join me in absolute outrage if Biden doesn’t nominate someone for the 1st circuit and Kansas’s 10th this week, at the very least.

    Dequan, you also talked about winning individual senate seats and how that will impact recs. But I wonder if you consider that individual seats won’t matter much is the full senate is lost? There could be two Dems for Pennsylvania but if McConnell returns as the Majority Leader, expect a reprise of the near-total blockade of judicial nominees. This is the only few months we can reasonably expect to confirm judges, if the 50-50 senate holds.

    And on the Senate attendance front, looks like everyone’s back in town:

    https://www.politico.com/minutes/congress/05-9-2022/
    “For attendance watchers: Schumer also moved Monday to end debate on two nominees whose nominations were previously discharged from committees. This suggests (at least for the moment) that he thinks he’ll be able to avoid Covid-related attendance issues that have plagued his caucus in recent weeks.”

    DALE HO???

    Like

    • @Gavi

      I absolutely agree no single senate race will matter if the senate is lost. When I speak, I always am under the assumption the Democrats will lose the senate after the midterms. That’s part of my anger, the current senate majority isn’t acting with any sense of urgency assuming the same.

      One slight correction. It’s not so much that I am giving Biden a full throated defense. Believe me, you can look at my past writings & see I’ve given The White House PLENTY of the blame when it comes to the pace of judicial nominations… Lol

      I more so am just irritated because I repeatedly keep hearing Elizabeth Warren talk about adding seats when only one of the 5 vacancies from her home state have been filled. Now @Shawn could be right that, as you said, two of the most liberal senators have sent Biden a laundry list of nominees & The White House is just sitting on their hands. The only reason why I don’t believe it in this case is because almost every time senators have released the names or at least a statement that they have made recommendations, The White House has nominated them within months. Juval Scott in the WD of Virginia & the two black guys in the ED of Virginia are the only ones I can think of that have been recommended & not nominated yet & I bet they will be within the next month. I’m not counting the three men recommended by the Colorado senators because that was just last week.

      Chuck Schumer, the Colorado, Virginia, Illinois senators & senator Whitehouse during the KBJ hearings have all mentioned either in a statement or press release they have made recommendations. In all cases we have seen nominees within months. I haven’t heard a peep from either of the Massachusetts senators that they have recommended anybody. Now they could be just not saying anything but I think it’s more likely then not that Warren, with all of her interviews & public statements would have let it slip at least ONCE that she had made recommendations. The only public statement I have seen from them regarding judicial nominees was about a month & a half ago when they released a statement that they were extending the application process for the third (The newest of the three) district court vacancy.

      So I just don’t see anything from them that gives me hope they are piling the Resolute Desk with recommendations. But as I mentioned we will see when we finally get nominees & read the questionnaires.

      As for your last point, I don’t expect a 10th circuit nominee tomorrow. It’s beyond ridiculous at this point. I don’t understand why you give senator Moran any more then a customary call or email them nominate somebody. And I hope your right now that we have full attendance that we will finally get some discharge votes but don’t hold your breath. Schumer is more focused on votes for things everybody knows won’t pass them things that could actually change things decades later.

      Like

      • The 10th circuit and the Dale Ho freeze rile me to no end.
        (Schumer is teeing up Lisa Cook for final confirmation to the Fed this week, which confirms that all Dems are present.)

        Is the questionnaires reveal that the hold up was with Biden, it would, sadly, be par for the course. If the problem was the Mass. senators, I would be highly disappointed to the point of no longer supporting them, especially if their potential delay causes the seats to go unfilled because Dems lose the Senate.

        One last point about recs and the ultimate nominee: I wouldn’t hold Angel Kelly forever against the Mass. sens. Remember that this White House doesn’t always go with the best candidate on a list of potential nominees. Remember that Krista Ann Halla-Valdes was on the very same list that William Pocan was on. The rest is history…
        I just have very little confidence in this White House on judicial nominations.

        Like

      • While I know it may be blasphemy to say but this week, of all weeks can the senate work Friday. For Gods sake the SCOTUS is on the verge of overturning Roe, we have six judicial nominees that need discharge votes, we have one 50 something year old centrist from California confirmed in the past month & time is running out.

        Can we skip the fundraisers & yacht parties just for ONE weekend? It would be nice before the next Democrat senator gets Covid & another week is lost or worse.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. @ Dequan

    Schumer should let you and I me co majority leaders for one month…We’ll get everybody confirmed….

    Schumer can take a month off, go watch the NY Yankees and see a Broadway show or to and we’ll conduct senate business…..I bet we’d alot more done – no symbolic votes, no votes on Assistant Secretary to the Assistant Associate of Guam for a period of 4 years….Only judicial nominees get votes, unless a critical executive position opens up……And yes, we are going to work a few Fridays….And we’ll even supply pizza and cookies.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haaaaaa… ONE MONTH? We would only need two weeks. Both weeks would start Monday at noon with the morning prayer then immediate votes after. Each day work until 8pm & Tuesday to Friday start at 10am. Cut down on the during the day speeches. Leave the senate floor open 8pm to 11pm for most speeches. Let’s see how much talking they want to do then.

      As soon as the SJC votes nominees to the floor on Thursday we vote for cloture or discharge then cloture that same Thursday. If Republicans want to play nice & voice vote US attorney’s, local DC judges & naming post offices then we can close session Friday at 2pm as a reward. Otherwise we work until 8pm Friday too.

      This shouldn’t be this hard.

      Like

    • Another good idea… we should name every vote that will be taken that day, give every Senator a giant piece of paper to mark how they will vote on every nominee. Then, let the Senators fall asleep at their desks and go around marking how they voted on each nominee. At the end, wake up all the Senators and read off the name of every judge who was confirmed that day. Done in 1 hour!

      The problem with this plan is… any Senator can unilaterally demand a certain amount of debate time. And it’s clear that Cruz, Hawley, et al. care more about obstructing than having extra time off. Coupled with Democrats’ preference to have extra time off over actually getting stuff done, this is a bad, bad cycle.

      Like

  6. On Judges Michael Kanne, Robert King, and (potentially) Johnnie Rawlinson

    Click to access judicial-retirement.pdf

    Look what I found! An OLC opinion on the withdrawal judicial retirement from 1974. I know this is very much in the weeds but it’s fascinating that people long since dead also tackled this issue that we’ve discussed here.

    Some thoughts:

    To start off, OLC opinions are binding on the executive branch. Sure, a different DOJ could reach a different opinion, thus overruling the previous opinion, but until that is done the most current opinion prevails — it’s like stare decisis, but only for executive branch lawyers. I make this point to say that this OLC opinion in question is still operative unless it was overturned, and I could not find an opinion that did that.

    The withdrawal of intention to retire by federal judges is countenanced by the OLC. I agree with this. I know some, like @Shawn, think the practice is either illegal or should be. But I like this flexibility. While I am in support of rescinding a notice of retirement, I definitely do not support a judge doing so in a pique because they didn’t get their preferred successor. That is outrageous, and quite possibly unlawful.

    The most salient paragraph is (faintly) highlighted: “However, in the closely related field of resignations it has been established by a number of recent court rulings that a resignation to take effect in the future may be withdrawn PRIOR to its effective date, especially where… it has not been accepted prior to that time.”
    So, Judges Kanne and King would be on firm legal footing… EXCEPT for the “…it has not been ACCEPTED prior to that time” part. If a president really wanted to play hardball with these retractions, they should claim to have “accepted” the retirement. This could be legally satisfied with their announcing a replacement nomination, even if it’s not officially sent to the US Senate. But the two judges would ultimately prevail, because neither Trump nor Biden actually announced replacements (we just happen to know who those replacement would be if they were made).

    Of course, this OLC opinion does not stop Congress from addressing the issue and passing statuary limits to the retraction of retirement.

    Just thought I’d share.

    Like

    • Hmmmm… I wish congress would just pass a law that once a retirement is announced, it is official. I get real shaky when there is no law on the books knowing the tricks Mitch & the Republicans
      could pull.

      That’s why my heart stopped when Biden initially signed KBJ commission before Breyer retired. It makes no sense to risk a removal based on procedure not being followed properly later on then just waiting until Breyer retires.

      Like

  7. Well tomorrow’s SJC hearing list has finally posted. It’s Lee and Mendoza, as expected. But then Locher, Maldonado, and Williams. For some reason skipping Cartwright and Wang who have been waiting quite a while. Strange.

    Like

      • WHAT… I get skipping Wang since her seat isn’t going to be vacancy until the end of July, but Cartwright I can’t explain being skipped over. To be honest I wouldn’t be upset if she was at tomorrow’s hearing for the Washington state circuit court seat anyway but at least don’t skip her with 5 nominees that were announced after her.

        Looks like the chairman & minority leader are fast tracking their nominees along with the nominee from the presidents home state.

        Like

    • I just took a look at the ABA ratings, and Cartwright and Wang don’t have one yet. But neither does f-ing Stephen Locher or any of the most recent Biden nominees.

      I think it is time to just ignore the ABA ratings entirely as they are biased against those who are not corporate lawyers or prosecutors.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have seen them have hearings for nominees without an ABA rating before. This was a calculated decision to process nominees from the top two committee members home state as well as Biden’s home state. They should have just had six nominees in tomorrow’s hearing. Tiffany should be expedited.

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  8. I will say it makes sense for Gregory Williams to have his hearing this fast given how many cases Delaware hears.
    It’s already listed as a judicial emergency despite it only being vacant for a couple of months.
    The other district court nominees though…they could and should have had the January ones first.

    Like

  9. Un an unrelated matter, Lisa Cook was confirmed to the Federal Reserve by a 50-50 vote, with Kamala Harris breaking the tie. Democrats claim she’s a respected economist who’ll bring diversity to the Federal Reserve. Republicans claim that she’s a far left extremist who isn’t serious about inflation and unable to work with others who have differing views.

    Liked by 2 people

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