Brad Garcia – Nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit

The D.C. Circuit is frequently home to future SCOTUS superstars, with three Justices having been former D.C. Circuit judges, a fourth having been a D.C. Circuit nominee, and a D.C. Circuit judge waiting to join the high court in a few days. As such, it’s been a matter of some controversy that the court has never had a single hispanic judge. The last hispanic nominee to the court, Miguel Estrada, was never confirmed and no president of either party chose to fill that gap for the last twenty years. However, President Biden’s nomination of Bradley Garcia could add a young, dynamic voice to the court who would also be the first Hispanic on the bench.

Background

The 35-year-old Garcia received a B.A. from Johns Hopkins University in 2008 and a J.D. from Harvard University in 2011. After law school, Garcia clerked for Judge Thomas Griffith on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and then clerked for Justice Elena Kagan on the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 2013, Garcia joined O’Melveny & Myers as an Associate and became a Partner in 2021. In 2022, he moved to become Deputy Assistant Attorney General with the Department of Justice where he currently serves.

History of the Seat

Garcia has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to be vacated on September 1, 2022 by Judge Judith Wilson Rogers.

Legal Experience

After his clerkships, Garcia joined O’Melveny & Myers as an associate, and transitioned into becoming a partner in 2021. At the firm, Garcia largely worked in commercial litigation, focusing largely on appellate litigation.

For example, Garcia represented Google before the Federal Circuit in litigation involving patents that Google had convinced the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”) to limit. See Nadia Dreid, Federal Circuit Mulls Overturning Google Victories at PTAB, Law360, Feb. 3, 2021. The PTAB decision was upheld by the Federal Circuit in per curiam opinions. See Andrew Karpan, Fed. Circ. Quickly Signs Off on Google PTAB Wins, Law360, Feb. 4, 2021.

Notably, Garcia represented Samsung and LG in suits involving patent infringement that were filed before Judge Alan Albright in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas. See Ryan Davis, Fed. Circ. Faults Albright’s OK of Patent ‘Venue Manipulation’, Law360, June 30, 2021. Garcia was able to get mandamus from the Federal Circuit to move the case from Albright’s courtroom, successfully arguing that the plaintiffs in the case were attempting to manipulate venue to find a favorable judge See id. An effort to seek en banc review of the grant of mandamus by the plaintiffs failed as well. See Dani Kass, Full Fed. Circ. Won’t Review ‘Venue Manipulation’ Ruling, Law360, Aug. 31, 2021.

Garcia later pushed the Federal Circuit to move another suit from Albright’s courtroom involving Google. See Tiffany Hu, Albright Keeps Making Same Mistakes, Google Tells Fed. Circ., Law360, Oct. 18, 2021. Albright granted the transfer in November 2021, while criticizing the Federal Circuit for “muddled” rulings. See Dani Kass, Albright Gets Defensive While Allowing Google Transfer, Law360, Nov. 8, 2021.

As part of his pro bono work, Garcia argued one case before the U.S. Supreme Court. See United States v. Palomar-Santiago, 593 U.S. __ (2021). The question in the case was whether, under 8 U.S.C. 1326(d), an immigrant who was deported under an erroneous classification of his conviction as a “crime of violence”, needs to establish an additional two elements in order to secure relief from deportation. In a unanimous opinion by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the Supreme Court ruled against Garcia’s client and found that all three elements were required by the statute even if the immigrant could establish that his deportation was conducted under an erroneous classification of his conviction. See id. In another case, he was part of the legal team representing El Paso County in a suit challenging the diversion of Department of Defense funds to build a border wall. See Daniel Wilson, High Court Vacates Border Wall Case After Construction Halt, Law360, July 2, 2021.

In February 2022, Garcia joined the Department of Justice as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel, responsible for advising on the legality of executive actions. See Justin Wise, O’Melveny Appellate Atty Takes Senior DOJ Legal Office Gig, Law360, Feb. 8, 2022.

Overall Assessment

When Justin Walker was nominated to the D.C. Circuit two years ago, the 38-year-old was criticized by some for being too young to join the court. Garcia, at 35, is even younger. However, unlike Walker who spent most of his legal career as an academic, Garcia has extensive experience with litigation, having argued multiple appeals, including at the Supreme Court.

However, it is nonetheless likely that Garcia’s youth is likely to be a strong motivator for opposition to his nomination. While Garcia is still more likely than not to join the bench (given that Republicans had oked the even younger Kathryn Mizelle to the bench two years ago), his confirmation is nonetheless likely to be a fight.

Maria Antongiorgi-Jordan – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico

Unlike magistrate and bankruptcy judges, who are frequently considered for lifetime appointments to the federal bench, it is relatively uncommon for court clerks to be appointed to the bench. As such, the nomination of Maria Antongiorgi-Jordan is a rarity: a chance for her to replace the Chief Judge she worked closely with.

Background

Maria del R. Antongiorgi-Jordan received her B.A. from Seton Hall University in 1989 and her J.D. from the Intramerican University of Puerto Rico School of Law in 1992. After graduating, Antongiorgi-Jordan earned an M. Laws from the Georgetown University Law Center and then joined McConnell Valde in San Juan.

In 2018, Antongiorgi-Jordan became Chief Deputy Clerk for the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, becoming Chief Clerk in 2019. She currently serves in that role.

History of the Seat

Antongiorgi-Jordan has been nominated for a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico. This seat opened when Judge Gustavo Gelpi was elevated to the First Circuit on October 19, 2021.

Legal Experience

Antongiorgi-Jordan has spent the vast majority of her legal career, between 1995 and 2018, at McConnell Valde in San Juan. At the firm, she primarily engaged in employment litigation. For example, Antongiorgi-Jordan represented Bristol Myers Squibb in defending against a discrimination action brought by a former employee. See Dilcia Ocasio Berrios v. Bristol Myers Squibb, 73 F. Supp. 2d 171 (D.P.R. 1999). Her work has also included appellate litigation before the First Circuit, including defending a grant of summary judgment in favor of Wyeth Pharmaceuticals in a military service discrimination case. Vega-Colon v. Wyeth Pharms., 625 F.3d 22 (1st Cir. 2010).

Since 2018, Antongiorgi-Jordan has served with the clerk’s office for the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico. In this role, she worked with then Chief Judge Gelpi on the District’s plan to adjust its operations to the Covid-19 pandemic. See Federal Court Ready For Face-to-Face Cases, CE Noticias Financerias English, Mar. 12, 2021.

Overall Assessment

Nominations to the District of Puerto Rico have rarely brought the same degree of partisan fervor as those to other courts. Antongiorgi-Jordan’s nomination is unlikely to be too different. While her background as a clerk is unusual for a judicial nominee, Antongiorgi-Jordan also brings extensive litigation experience on both the trial and appellate levels to the bench, and will likely be able to hit the ground running as a federal judge.

Judge Doris Pryor – Nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Judge Doris Pryor, who has served as a federal magistrate judge on the Southern District of Indiana for the past five years, has been tapped for an appellate judgeship on the Seventh Circuit.

Background

Born in Hope, Arkansas, Pryor attended the University of Central Arkansas, getting a B.Sc. in 1999. She continued on to Indiana University Maurer School of Law, getting her J.D. in 2003.

After graduating law school, Pryor clerked for Judge Lavenski Smith on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit and for Judge J. Leon Holmes on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas. Pryor then spent a year as a public defender in Arkansas before becoming a federal prosecutor with the Southern District of Indiana.

In 2017, Pryor was appointed to be a U.S. Magistrate Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.

History of the Seat

Pryor has been nominated for an Indiana seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. This seat opened when Judge David Hamilton indicated his intention to take senior status upon confirmation of a successor.

Legal Career

Other than a year as a public defender, Pryor has spent her entire career pre-bench as a federal prosecutor in Southern Indiana.

Among the notable cases she has handled, Pryor has handled a number of appeals before the Seventh Circuit. See United States v. Hawkins, 480 F.3d 476 (7th Cir. 2007). For example, Pryor unsuccessfully sought to defend an Armed Career Criminal Act enhancement for a defendant convicted of felon in possession. United States v. Smith, 544 F.3d 781 (7th Cir. 2008). In another case that Pryor presented to the Seventh Circuit, the court remanded for further fact-finding on a Batson challenge after the only two African American jurors on a venire were struck. See United States v. Rutledge, 648 F.3d 555 (7th Cir. 2011).

Political Activity

Pryor has a single political contribution to her name, to Indiana gubernatorial candidate John Gregg in 2016.

Jurisprudence & Reversals

Since 2017, Pryor has served as a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Indianapolis. In this role, she presides over settlement, preliminary hearings, bail, and any cases where the parties consent to her jurisdiction. Among the notable cases that Pryor has handled as a magistrate, she denied a motion by attorneys for the City of Indianapolis to strike expert testimony brought by a plaintiff who was attacked by a police dog while sitting in his backyard. See Mitchum v. City of Indianapolis, 534 F. Supp. 3d 1001 (S.D. Ind. 2021). In another case, she granted a defense motion to strike the testimony of the plaintiff’s expert, an oncologist who sought to discuss the standard of care in radiology. Lyons v. United States, 550 F. Supp. 3d 588 (S.D. Ind. 2021).

Overall Assessment

Judge Pryor enters the confirmation process with the support of Sen. Todd Young, one of Indiana’s Republican senators. This support should go a long way in smoothing the road for her, even if Indiana’s other senator, Sen. Michael Braun, chooses to oppose her.

As such, barring the unexpected, it is likely that Judge Pryor will be confirmed in the next few months.

Rachel Bloomekatz – Nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

In 2019, the Trump Administration nominated former Jones Day attorney Chad Readler to the Sixth Circuit. Now, the Biden Administration is seeking to tap one of Readler’s old associates, Columbus attorney Rachel Bloomekatz.

Background

Born December 3, 1982, Rachel Bloomekatz received a B.A. magna cum laude from Harvard University in 2004 and a J.D. from UCLA Law School in 2008 before clerking for Judge Guido Calabresi on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and for Chief Justice Margaret Marshall on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. She then spent a year at the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office before clerking for Justice Stephen Breyer on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Bloomekatz then spent two years at Jones Day before becoming a principal at the civil rights firm Gupta Wessler PLLC. Since 2019, Bloomekatz has been a solo practitioner at Bloomekatz Law LLC.

History of the Seat

Bloomekatz has been nominated for an Ohio seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. This seat opened in December 2021 with Judge Ransey Guy Cole’s announcement that he would move to senior status upon confirmation of a successor. Bloomekatz was nominated on May 25, 2022.

Legal Experience

Bloomekatz started her career as an associate at Jones Day. While at the firm, she worked with future Sixth Circuit Judge Chad Readler in challenging the granting of class certification to a series of suits brought against Proctor & Gamble for alleged deceptive marketing of probiotic digestive supplements. See Rikos v. P.G., 799 F.3d 497 (6th Cir. 2015). The grant was affirmed 2-1 by the Sixth Circuit. See id.

From 2016 to 2019, Bloomekatz worked as a principal at Gupta Wessler PLLC. At Gupta Wessler, Bloomekatz particularly worked on a number of election law cases, including successfully suing to allow 17 year olds to vote in the 2016 primary elections. See Tom LoBianco, In Victory for Sanders, Ohio Judge Says 17-Year-Olds Can Vote in Primary, CNN, Mar. 11, 2016. Bloomekatz’s expertise in election law also resulted in her appointment by the Sixth Circuit as amicus. See In re 2016 Primary Election, 836 F.3d 584, 586 (6th Cir. 2016) (Sutton, J.) (noting that Bloomekatz “admirably” defended the district court order after appointment from the court).

Additionally, Bloomekatz represented Brandon Moore in challenging a sentence of 112 years in prison for a series of convictions arising from an incident when he was 15 years old. Andrew Welsh-Huggins, Teen Rapist Given 112-Year Sentence Appeals to Top Court, A.P., Feb. 4, 2015. The Ohio Supreme Court struck down the sentence as unconstitutional in a 4-3 vote. See Andrew Welsh-Huggins, Ohio Supreme Court Rejects Teen Rapist’s 112-Year Sentence, A.P., Dec. 22, 2016.

Bloomekatz also represented the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network in multiple suits involving harms from tobacco, see Graham v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 857 F.3d 1169 (11th Cir. 2017), and beverages. See Am. Bev. Ass’n v. City & Cty. of San Francisco, 916 F.3d 749 (9th Cir. 2019) (en banc).

Since 2019, Bloomekatz has served as a solo practitioner based in Columbus. During her time as a solo practitioner, Bloomekatz has notably represented parents in a suit against the Madison Local School District over their plan to arm teachers without conducting law enforcement training otherwise required. See Gabbard v. Madison Local Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ., 153 N.E.3d 471 (Ohio App. 2020). The policy was ultimately struck down by the Ohio Supreme Court. See Louise Hall, Teachers Must Have Police Training to Carry Guns at School, Ohio’s Top Court Rules, The Independent, June 24, 2021. Bloomekatz has also filed suit against Ohio’s “Stand Your Ground” law for violating the state’s single-subject rule and three-day consideration provisions. See Anna Staver, Group Challenges Ohio’s Stand Your Ground Law, Columbus Dispatch, Sept. 10, 2021.

Statements and Writings

Like a number of other judicial nominees, Bloomekatz authored a law review note as a student. Her paper discusses the protections that immigrants have from employment discrimination and exploitation. See Rachel Bloomekatz, Rethinking Immigration Status Discrimination and Exploitation in the Low-Wage Workplace, 54 UCLA L. Rev. 1963 (August 2007). The comment discusses various applications of particular federal statutes on discrimination based on immigration status, including discrimination against U.S.-born workers. In the paper, Bloomekatz suggests that an expansion of Section 1981, which bars racial discrimination in contracting, to cover alienage discrimination, is the best legal tool to address such issues. Id. at 1989-90.

Political Activity

Bloomekatz has been a frequent political contributor throughout her career. Among the recipients of her donations are President Biden, Senator Sherrod Brown, and Hillary Clinton.

Additionally, Bloomekatz has worked as counsel for the campaigns of several Ohio Democrats, including Brown. Bloomekatz also served for the campaign of Danny O’Connor, who narrowly lost a house seat to Rep. Troy Balderson in 2018.

Overall Assessment

For her part, Bloomekatz, at 39, is the youngest Biden appointee to the federal appellate bench so far. However, her youth belies extensive experience with both trial and appellate litigation. Furthermore, given that a number of members of her clerk class at the Supreme Court were appointed to the federal bench under Trump, senators are unlikely to gain much traction by arguing that Bloomekatz is under-qualified for the federal bench.

This is not to say that Bloomekatz will not face strong opposition. Her role in election litigation, as well as her work on firearms regulations, are likely to draw particular fire, and Bloomekatz will likely face a hotly contested confirmation. Nonetheless, with the support of Sen. Sherrod Brown, Bloomekatz is nonetheless favored to join the bench before the end of the session.