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.


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).


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.


  1. Not thrilled at her being over 50.

    Re: the Dems’ “strong” 50 member majority

    Just this year alone two senators have had a stroke and the favorite to win the party primary in PA for Senate seat would make three. THREE known strokes between sitting senators and someone hoping to be. Not to even mention stroke/heart attack or other serious non-COVID ailments that senators have had to deal with in recent years.
    These people aren’t even that old, relative to the senate.
    Dems should be moving like they could lose the majority at any moment BEFORE November. This is not rhetoric, it’s, unfortunately, reality.
    My very best wishes to Sen. Chris Van Hollen for his speedy recovery. Remember. Maryland’s Larry Hogan is NOT Vermont’s Phil Scott. Hogan is a partisan, if moderate, Republican. That’s why all elections matter.
    Now, we might be out of the confirmation business for another 6 weeks or so.
    No Dale Ho, and the SDNY is much worse for it.


  2. So far president Biden has elevated 10 district court judges out of his 24 circuit court nominees. As I’ve said before on this site, since you have to spend time backfilling those district court seats, this should only be done for nominees that are young & progressive enough to be considered for a SCOTUS appointment for the next decade. Also I would add a third category, which is if this was one of the best nominees for the seat they were upgraded to.

    Out of the 10, I would say the only nominees that meet all 3 in that criteria were Ketanji Brown Jackson, Leonard Stark & Salvador Mendoza Jr. (He barely makes the cut being 50 years old).

    In the case of Sarah Merriam, she’s a good nominee with a nice background. However with the lack of Hispanic circuit court judges, I would have went with Christina Rodriguez for this seat. Even out of the three Biden district court judges In Connecticut, with the lack of Black men on the circuit courts, none being confirmed in 3,043 days & Andre Mathis still not confirmed, Omar Williams would have been a good choice here.

    As @Gavi mentioned above the 50/50 majority can become a temporary, or even worse permanent minority any day even before the midterms. We will now have 5 Biden appointees to the 2nd circuit yet 2 Trump nominees will still be younger then all of them. We are losing when it comes to the judiciary & while I know some of this site likes to think we should be focused on other important items, I’m sorry but every other item mentioned will end up in the courts. I don’t like our chances at the rate we are going over the next decade plus.


    • “while I know some of this site likes to think we should be focused on other important items,”

      But the thing is, filling nominations really, at the end of the day, doesn’t take that much time…..The WH probably has a staff that works solely on lower court nominations, Biden is probably only directly involved on DC Circuit and SCOTUS nominations,….Then when nominee gets to senate, even with cloture (and perhaps even discharge votes) & then final floor vote, nominees can be confirmed fairly quickly…..And this is the senate – where they gavel in at 3pm on Mon, do one vote, then usually gavel out by 7pm….Tues they have weekly caucus mtg that is about 1.5 hrs….And the almost never work a Friday….

      And confirming nominees is still far easier and less time consuming than trying to get some bills thru, most of which won’t get thru the senate unless the get rid of the filibuster..

      Liked by 1 person

      • @Rick

        I agree with you out of the three players, Schumer has it the easiest. Getting nominees from Biden & processing them through the SJC with Durbin is much more time consuming.

        My concern is Durbin or Biden doesn’t need all 50 Dems in town & healthy to take care of their part. Schumer on the other hand now has another 49 – 50 “majority” temporarily because of another Democrat senator having a stroke. And this time it’s a senator in a state with a Republican governor. So while I’m upset with Biden for getting us to the point of after the next SJC hearing, missing a scheduled bi-weekly hearing because he hasn’t given us enough nominees to fill that slot, Schumer simply isn’t doing enough when all 50 Dems are healthy. If he would have just worked last week Friday we could have discharged all six nominees so once Van Hollen is back they are set up for votes. It’s already the middle of May. You can’t count August as they are out most of that month unless they plan on cancelling a week (I could barely write that without passing out from laughing) so time is running out.


    • Merriam seems like a candidate who’s acceptable to bold progressives and establishment Democrats. Most of her resume is traditional, but it also includes being a former Public Defender. Other than her age, she seems to be the candidate who threads the needle.


    • @Zack

      Even those provisions scare me. Knowing the GOP being so good at playing the long game, they probably have some John Eastman type that has been registered as a Democrat in the state for years so governor Hogan could simply appoint him & still follow state law. They are so much better then Democrats it’s a shame.


      • Not sure of law in Maryland, but Gov Hogan might have to select from names given to him by Maryland Democrats…..I don’t think he can just pick some random person whose really a Republican, but happens to have registered as a “D” for appointment purposes.


      • I know Kentucky changed their law a few years back after they elected a Democrat to governor so that the Republicans give the governor of here names he must chose from. So hopefully Maryland Democrats did something similar with their law. Now of course we would have to see how many days the governor could wait to chose a successor. If it was let’s say 90 days then of course he would wait the maximum allotted time to gone the Republicans a one senator advantage as long as possible.

        I read Van Hollen’s statement. He said he should be back to work by the end of the week. With the three day work week I guess that means next Monday at 5pm.


    • I’m a little confused. I don’t see any vacancy in the central district of Illinois. Sue E. Myerscough is the only one of the four judges even eligible for senior status but I haven’t seen any announcement from her. Are they going in advance accepting applications? If so that is GREAT news & as @Frank said, should be the standard for all blue states.


  3. While I would have probably preferred Cristina Rodriguez or someone younger here, Merriam is a solid progressive. I can’t complain too much.

    I’m glad that we didn’t get Raheem Mullins or Jesse Furman, both who are just plainly horrible. And I don’t want them considered for the Cabranes seat either.


  4. I would have preferred Omar Williams if any of the district judges were going to be elevated here.

    Also, as I live in New Orleans, I wanted to throw a name into the mix who I’d LOVE to see for the LA 5th Circuit vacancy, since it was announced wayyyyy too long ago now: Judge Angel Harris, who is a former public defender and also worked for the ACLU and NAACP. She is in her late 30s, born around 1984.


    • I doubt we get any nominees for the 5th circuit. Biden has made it clear he values republican pandering and insight over the judiciary. Why else over a year is there no nominee to the open kansas seat and the open 5th circuit seat? The answer is likely biden is trying to work in good faith with the GOP senators to find an ”acceptable” moderate nominee while the GOP senators are working in bad faith as usual. This is the stuff that really pisses me off more than any other, one rule for democrats another rule for republicans. Cory booker and senator menendez had no input whatsoever when trump nominee was appointed to the third circuit, he didn’t seek out their view, he didn’t work in good faith with them to get an acceptable nominee, so why is biden and dana remus doing this? Why are they even seeking GOP insight on circuit court seats? Why not treat them exactly as they treated us? Its because they think their voters are chumps and wont notice their negligence. They think we are fools and chumps

      Liked by 2 people

      • I don’t usually have reasons to disagree with @aangren and don’t have any here.
        Everyone knows how I feel abut the Kansas 10th seat.
        But the LA 5th seat? Fuggedaboutit! Kennedy is very touchy with nominees from his state, and he’s publicly expressed his displeasure with at least one of Trump’s LA nominees. If he’s done so with Trump, I expect that he’s doing some serious pushback with Biden. And Biden being Biden IS being Biden. But think, the eventually person might be so unrecognizable as a Dem nominee that it may as well be left vacant… and I don’t say that lightly.
        I’ve written and spoken about this so much that I don’t know if there’s anything new to say. Biden sucks because he thinks that doing marginally better than other Dem presidents on judges makes him great. It doesn’t and he isn’t.
        One of the leading judicial nominations expert, Prof. Collins, said yesterday that he thinks that Biden may indeed run out of time to nominate and appoint some circuit court judges. That is a crying shame…
        Where is Demand Justice?
        Where is The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights?
        Where are all the other groups that howl at the nomination of Kavanaugh, Neomi Rao, Wendy Vitter, James Ho, Kyle Duncan, Justin Walker, and a host of others?

        Liked by 1 person

    • Congratulations to U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves from MS for being selected as the first African-American to serve as Chair of the Sentencing Commission & I would love nothing more than to now see a well-qualified African-American male nominated to replace Judge Greg Costa on the 5th Circuit in Texas, because Texas has never in it’s long history of Judges, had an African-American to serve on the 5th Circuit. (whereas Clinton appointed Carl Stuart in La & Obama appointed Graves in MS). And in doing my research, sitting U.S. District Court Judge George C. Hanks Jr would be an excellent well-qualified solid candidate who would surely garner bi-partisan support based on his impeccable resume, qualifications, judicial temperament, & long commitment to public service as a Texas State Civil District Court Judge & his elevation to the Texas 1st Court of Appeals, followed by being selected as a Federal Magistrate Judge in the SDTX by a non-partisan Committee & finally being being elevated by Obama to the District Court in 2014 & being confirmed 90-something to 0 in the Senate.
      Hanks replaced Costa on the U.S. District Court Bench in Galveston & would be an excellent choice to now replace him on the 5th Circuit.


  5. @Shawn

    I completely agree with you Jesse Furman would be a disaster of a pick. Luckily since this seat will remain in Connecticut, we won’t have to worry about him.

    As for Raheem Mullins, I still have not seen anything in his record that makes him so bad. With the need for more Black men on the circuit courts, I would be fine with him but I will admit there are better choices for the seat.

    Omar Williams would be great, the only issue would be we have to backfill his district court seat. My personal pick would be Jamal Greene. He was born c. 1977, seems to be very progressive & his mom was even an activist. Also with Quincy Jones brother retiring from the Western district in Washington state, it would be nice to have another brother of a famous musician on the courts. Albeit I doubt any of the senators ever heard of Greene’s brother Talib Kweli… Lol

    As for the comments by @EJ, I’m not familiar with Judge Angel Harris but she sounds good. But I do agree with @Gavi on the likelihood the eventual nominee won’t be that good if Biden is trying to negotiate in good faith when the senators are not.

    Now we wait for to see when we will get another batch. It’s beyond belief we will miss a SJC hearing because we have run out of nominees. It’s downright shameful.


    • I wonder why Demand Justice doesn’t speak out about the lack of circuit court nominees….They seem to only focus on expanding the court, but that won’t happen unless Democrats increase their senate majority…But they CAN fill circuit seats…..DJ should use their bully pulpit and talk/tweet/write about filling all the vacant circuit seats and drop the talk about expanding SCOTUS

      Liked by 1 person

      • @Rick

        The funny thing is both Demand Justice & Alliance for Justice (I’m a member of both) have praised president Biden in the area of judicial nominations. I have actually spoken up on conference calls regarding the slow pace as well as nominees I don’t think they should be endorsing. However them seem fixated on the good parts only.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I practice in the SDTX & would love to see someone solid like U.S District Court Judge George Hanks Jr replace Judge Greg Costa on the 5th Circuit in Texas. Judge Hanks is well-respected & regarded both locally & Nationally by the HBA, HLA, ABOTA, ABA, NBA, & ALI. He is beyond well-qualified having a proven record in public service serving first as a Texas Civil District Court Judge before being elevated to the 1st Court of Appeals of Texas, followed by being selected to serve as a Federal Magistrate Judge in the SDTX before President Obama elevated him to the U.S District Court replacing Judge Costa on the Bench in Galveston. And if he is nominated to replace Costa on the 5th Circuit, history will be made because he would be the first African-American to serve on the 5th Circuit in Texas (Louisiana of course has Judge Carl Stuart & Mississippi has Judge Graves).


  6. @ Dequan,

    When you were on those conference calls, did they ever give you a good reply to the slow pace of nominations or do they just say “Well, you know, well, maybe you’re right, we’ll look into it”


    • The answer was basically no matter what, he’s ahead of the pace of any other president since we have been alive. Also the quality of most nominees are good. So it’s hard for them to criticize. I focused more on individual bad nominees that they had endorsed.

      I will say this. Early last year me & a few others were fuming when Colorado recommended Regina Rodriguez. Demand Justice was one of the groups that put pressure on the senators to get a better commission & they did resulting in Charlotte Sweeney for the next nominee. So they do push back sometimes & it works.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. DC Circuit Judge David Tatel took senior status yesterday instead of waiting for confirmation of his successor like originally planned. He initially announced he was taking senior status last February so I guess he got tired of waiting for J Childs to be confirmed. I don’t blame him. Happy retirement.


  8. Three district nominees pass cloture today as expected. But Schumer has now filed cloture for Stephanie Davis, bypassing Mathis. He must feel he can get her confirmed without all his Dems present, while he has to wait for health and stars to align perfectly for Mathis. Frustrating, but seems to be our reality.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The congressional calendar. Feast your eyes and weep. I don’t care about those who are easily satisfied with the “just ok,” this White House is committing political malpractice with its glacial pace of judicial nomination in 2022:

    Liked by 1 person

      • @Ben

        I noticed that too. I can’t believe the FBI is that backlogged that it is taking this long to vet nominees. I could understand if we had some J6 indictments but without that I don’t understand what the backlog is 483 days into the administration.

        As for what seat Merriam should be nominated for, I don’t understand why there is even a dispute. Cabranes is clearly more conservative then Carney. So knowing this administration, they will surely fill Carney’s seat first & probably not nominate anybody to Cabranes seat until the Summer.


    • Schumer filed cloture on Evelyn Padin, Charlottle Sweeney, Nina Morrison & Robert Huie tonight. Along with Stephanie Davis yesterday, hopefully this will clear some of the back log so we can start to focus on discharging the best nominees (Albeit Nina Morrison is great). I just hope Schumer has enough sense to start discharging them & confirming Andre Mathis once all 50 Dems plus the VP are healthy & back in town. The senate is in session next week then on a one-week recess.

      Liked by 1 person

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