Judge F. Kay Behm – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan

Judge Frances Kay Behm, who has been tapped for the federal bench in Michigan, currently serves as a state court judge based out of Flint.

Background

Frances Kay Behm received a B.A. from the Albion College in 1991 and her J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School in 1994.

After graduation, Behm joined the office of Braum Kendrick Finbeiner as an associate. In 1997, Behm moved to the firm of Winegarden, Haley, Lindholm & Robertson. In 2008, Behm became a solo practitioner. In 2009, Behm was appointed to the Genesee County Circuit and Probate Court by Governor Jennifer Granholm. She has served on the court ever since, currently assigned to the Family Division.

History of the Seat

Behm has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. This seat opened on August 6, 2021, when Judge David Lawson moved to senior status.

Legal Career

Behm has held two primary positions in her pre-bench career. From 1994 to 1997, Behm worked as an associate at Braum Kendrick Finbeiner in Saginaw. Then, from 1997 to 2008, Behm was an associate with Winegarden, Haley, Lindholm & Robertson in Flint. In both positions, Behm focused on business litigation and property law.

Political Activity

Before her appointment to the bench, Behm made a handful of political donations, including to Granholm and to Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Jurisprudence

Behm has served as a probate judge in Genesee County since her appointment in 2009. Behm has also migrated through the other divisions on the court, including the family division, where she currently serves.

Among the criminal cases she handled on the bench, Behm sentenced Allen Brown of Flint to 22.5 to 45 years in prison upon his plea to second-degree murder. In the strangulation-related death of Jessica Flood, Behm sentenced Aaron Thornton to a minimum of 25 years in prison.

In 2021, Behm was sued in federal court by pro se plaintiff Ca’ron Lloyd, who alleged damages against several defendants arising from his arrest and conviction before Behm. See Lloyd v. Drigett, Case No. 2:20-cv-13099, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 81157 (E.D. Mich. Apr. 28, 2021). Judge Sean Cox dismissed Behm from the suit for judicial immunity but allowed the suit to proceed against two of the defendants. See id. at *9.

Overall Assessment

While Behm has served on the state bench for approximately a dozen years, and as an attorney for another dozen before that, her background in probate and family law is still unusual as a path to the bench.

Nonetheless, Behm’s record as a jurist lacks any significant notes of controversy and, as such, is not likely to attract significant opposition.

81 Comments

  1. Michigan nominees have been just like California & Massachusetts. Mostly state court judges in their 50’s. They are certainly qualified but it would be nice to see some young progressives as well like we have gotten from New York, Washington state & New Mexico.

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  2. Pan, Hanes, and all sentencing commission nominees reported out of SJC. Bloomekatz and Reyes held over, presumably because they were tied and Leahy couldn’t vote. So stupid that the minority gets to use proxy voting but all majority senators need to be present.

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    • It’s a shame that this was the best they could do, even with Smith and Leahy out. Ideally we would have held a cloture vote on Lee, Montecalvo, Merriam, or Mendoza, all of which should have had 2-3 GOP senators supporting.

      I can only assume Schumer has a plan, but we are down to basically 14 weeks remaining in the session.

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      • @Ryan Joshi. That is a plausible scenario for district court judges. Especially considering that’s how a bunch were confirmed at the end of 2021.

        But there’s still the problem of getting court of appeals judges confirmed, which Schumer has show little to zero interest in confirming in 2022 let alone having any strategy to achieve it.

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      • The Senate composition is the exact same this year as it was in 2021, so you’re full of BS as always Kevin. It can be done if Schumer cared enough about not taking vacations every month and canceled recess like McConnell did.

        I know you’ll make excuses for literally everything. It is not possible for Democratic Party bosses to do anything wrong. They are perfect geniuses who know everything. Pathetic to be that much of a robot.

        Btw, your comment on the last thread to me made zero sense. You listed a bunch of politicians. I’ve voted for Democrats my entire life. I voted for Obama, HRC, and Biden. Likely you’re a member of #khive who can’t get over the fact that 2016 is over. That’s on you. It’s not my fault HRC lost. I voted for her. In fact, I used to be a Democratic establishment robot like you who detested anyone who wasn’t centrist. Oh and I was 8 years old in 2000 and I’m a guy who just is very pro- choice .

        Aside from that, your no response to women dying or nearly dying post Roe is beyond disgusting and disturbing.

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      • We are just talking here. Yes, the Senate is still 50-50 but the senators who are available to vote fluctuates every day. Everyone knows that. If you have a beef with Schumer you are free to address him directly.

        I didn’t say Democratic leadership has been perfect. But, I also don’t see the need to heckle party leaders.on every issue every day,That’s bitching . It’s like the 3 year old having a tantrum in a grocery store.

        There’s lots of things that people say here that don’t make sense. When people say things like Schumer doesn’t know what he is doing or Democrats are messing up on purpose. It’s nonsense that occurs quite often here. Also, some of the banter having to do with age is quite disturbing at times. Disrespect for protected class people is despicable.

        I’m not a single issue voter. I care about all of the cases that involve substantive due process. This would obviously include Roe, Loving, Griswold and Obergefell However as a black man these those cases are not more important than voting rights ,

        When the Shelby County was ruled on in 2015,,I didn’t see much outrage from people who weren’t black. The people I see protesting near the supreme court building couldn’t care less. Or, they are single issue voters. Either one isn’t any good.

        I am black. The Democratic Party and Chuck Schumer are not out to get me. Were it not for black people like me the Democratic Party would not be above water. We had 8 years of Reagan and 4 years of Bush consecutively. That’s 12 years of Republican rule.

        Having been through that no one can tell me that the political prospects for Democtrats are any worse now than they were in the 1980’s. It’s not like time began in 1992. Some of us have been around longer.

        People can complain all they want. At a certain point it’s self defeating. We’re not on a college campus where you can assemble dissidents and get what you want a week later.

        .

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      • @Frank

        While I generally think your correct, that is changing little by little. But even if it wasn’t, the extra week or two in recess will give them time to vote on issues voters do care about since the current 3 day a week schedule doesn’t permit them that time apparently.

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    • An amendment I would make to this proposal is to allow for additional emergency appointments for understaffed courts. Make emergency appointments require approval of 2/3 of Senators so that these emergency appointments are less partisan. I’m assuming that judges can still take senior status under this plan, but if an active judge dies on a 2-judge court (Idaho for example) and the next scheduled opening isn’t for 4-5 years or so, that’s going to be a problem.

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  3. Really good article. I wouldn’t be surprised if one or more of these four black women could be nominated for federal judges. I had previously only heard of one of them. I’ll list them below along with the places they are admitted to practice law at.

    1. Danielle Y Conley (c. 1978) – New York, District of Columbia; Indiana

    2. Tona Maria Boyd (c. 1981) – California

    3. Funmi Badejo (She’s only 27 years old now so obviously she’s one to watch for the future. Also, she’s Nigerian born.

    4. Jaimie McFarlin (c. 1987) – New York

    (https://www.msn.com/en-us/tv/news/meet-the-black-women-lawyers-behind-justice-ketanji-brown-jackson-s-historic-confirmation/ar-AAZPDHV?ocid=msedgntp&cvid=f08a5495eebb489dab1556cfa4a21ec1)

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  4. Here’s another name I heard is being floated for the 10th (Kansas) vacancy.

    Gwynne Birzer (c. 1970) – I normally wouldn’t even entertain a Magistrate Judge being considered for an appeals court vacancy but we have seen Biden nominate two now. I still would guess Jacy Hurst is probably the front runner but this could be a wild card. Whoever is chosen we just need a nominee for the seat fast. I’m not sure who will be in Wednesday’s batch should we get one but hopefully at least two circuit court nominees.

    (https://ksd.uscourts.gov/index.php/judge/gwynne-e-birzer/)

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      • @Mitch

        Very good article. She seems to be more progressive then Jacy Hurst record but with her being born around 1969, she would be more then a decade older. But for Kansas at this point I’d take a judge in their mid 50’s with her food background over no nominee & the seat remaining vacant.

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    • Jacy Hurst is one of Kansas’s leading experts on health care law. She teaches a course on it at Washburn University School of Law. She’s the former lawyer for a clinic. She started out as a commercial litigator. A niche like that would come in handy with the population getting older.

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      • I’m truly surprised there has been no 10th (Kansas) nominee for almost a year & a half now. Jacy Hurst seems to check all of the boxes. She’s a black woman, sitting state court judge in a state with a Democrat governor in her low 40’s. Even if you wanted to give the two Republican senators a chance to negotiate in good faith, if they have not produced a consensus nominee by now, Biden should have just nominated her or somebody else by now.

        If you would have asked me a few months ago which circuit court nominee we probably won’t even have a nominee for by election day I would have probably said the 9th (Montana) seat. If you asked me today I would probably say the 7th (Indians) seat only because judge Kanne’s death was unexpected. But there’s a chance the Kansas & Montana seats will also not have a nominee at this rate. I hope we get at least two more circuit court nominees this Wednesday.

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  5. I had a thought that we might not get any more nominees until August 10 (28 days before that first Wednesday after the recess) but I would welcome another batch.

    I think realistically we only be able to work 2 or maybe 4 more nominees (beyond the ones we have) through committee and confirmation before the end of the year. But we will see how aggressive Durbin and Schumer

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    • He would be really good. Another white man, Carl Folsom would probably be my top pick just because in addition to him being good, he was denied a seat to the Kansas Court of Appeals. I was wondering if that would be a selling point to the two Republican senators over the other names we have mentioned.

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    • Judge Hanks is a brilliant legal scholar, and a dedicated & well-regarded public servant who in my humble opinion will be an excellent addition to the 5th Circuit regardless of any party affiliation past or present. And I think that it’s because of his impressive & unassailable qualifications to serve on the bench that he’s always seemed to garner bi-partisan support as a State District & Appellate Court Judge, Federal Magistrate, & US District Court Judge. He’s one of the nicest kindest persons & Judge I have ever met in my Law career. And it is my hope that this administration places him under consideration for the 5th Circuit in Texas.

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    • I wouldn’t rule him out just because he was considered by a conservative president in Bush. We have already seen that if the right conservatives have relationships with Biden, he will nominate conservative judges to seats on the federal judiciary. If the Democrats lose the midterms (or even if they win it), Hanks would make a solid compromise nominee for the seat.

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      • If Democrats lose the midterms then of course all options are on the table. But there’s no way while they are in the majority that Biden will nominate a circuit court judge that is not only conservative, was considered by GW Bush but is also 57. And that’s not even taking into account the 5th circuit doesn’t have a Hispanic judge out of the 17 considering all the flack Biden has taken for his lack of judges in that category for the circuit courts.

        I honestly see zero chance of him being the nominee with Dems in the majority & not much better prospects even if they lose it in my opinion. I’m sure he’s a fine judge & even better man but politics is politics & no matter if we want to admit it or not, politics plays a big role in judicial nominations.

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      • @Dequan

        I do not believe that Hanks should be on the table even if the GOP takes over the Senate. He’s not under any circumstances an acceptable choice in a Democratic President. I think Judge Diana Saldana is more likely in that circumstance, however.

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    • This is a great time capsule article! Thanks for sharing, @Dequan.
      To the Judge Hank boosters: Why should Biden pick up on Bush’s refuse? Bush had the opportunity to nominate Hanks while he was still in his prime but now you want Biden to nominate him while he’s on his way out? I’m not as optimistic as Dequan, especially when it comes to Biden and judges, so can’t rule out Hanks not being the pick.
      What’s worse than nominating someone much much older than the person they are replacing?

      Speaking of age, the article also confirms Republicans’ longtime strategic thinking on age at nomination of judges. Almost 40 years ago, Reagan understood this when he nominated and appointed Sidney Fitzwater as a district judge at 32 years old. Meanwhile in 2022 there are still people pining for 60 year olds, and think it’s too political to nominate younger candidates.

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  6. Joe Manchin has COVID and won’t be in the senate this week

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  7. I think we should brace ourselves for little to no progression on judges this week. Their legislative to-do list is just too long.
    -chips bill
    -VA benefits bill
    – starting process on some form of slim reconciliation bill just on Rx drugs and extended health subsidies.
    -passage of treaty to let Finland and Sweden into NATO.

    At least these are goals they can go back to their states and campaign on these accomplishments to hopefully increase chances of holding the majority. As long as they happen.

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  8. I bet all the Circuit nominees except Mathis and Freeman would get 3 or more GOP votes so even if Leahy is out to, they could confirm the other 5 circuit nominees waiting…..And they could easily confirm 2 of the District Court nominees

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    • Just give me a cloture vote on one circuit court judge. Doesn’t even matter who at this point.

      I do think Leahy is supposed to be back Thursday for SJC, possibly Tina Smith as well (she went home mid day last wednesday). So potentially Schumer would only be down Manchin.

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  9. It appears Murkowski also has COVID and will be out the rest of the week.

    Not sure how much this one even helps Schumer, but I suppose if Leahy and Smith can return then that’s enough for 50-49 majorities.

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    • Well Murkowski was one of the Republicans that probably would be voting FOR most nominees. But either way I wish her & Manchin a quick recovery. I’ll just be happy if Schumer files for cloture on 2 or 3 circuit court nominees on Wednesday so they can vote for cloture on Thursday & hopefully confirm them early next week. That & of course some announcement that next week will not be the last week the senate will be in session until September.

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      • I agree. Hurts with some of the less controversial nominees but ironically may help with Freeman and/or Mathis. Also puts Manchin in the position where he wouldn’t have to vote for them, so that may be a positive as well if Schumer is worried about that. We’ll see though.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Tina Smith is back in the Senate this week. Leahy’s staff has also put out that he is available for votes this week if necessary.

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  11. “Are there other judges whom you know personally?”
    @Mitch

    I’ve had many opportunities over a long legal career to meet countless Judges, and some I’ve gotten to know well. And as an African-American, diversity & inclusion on the bench at all levels is something I care deeply about and will continue to advocate for. So for those of you who specifically desire an Hispanic woman be appointed to the 5th Circuit in Texas, I equally desire that the nominee be an African-American (1st in Texas History).

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    • @Angie

      Even though I may not agree with one particular nominee you like for elevation, I admire you have been able to meet numerous federal judges over your life. I’ve had the pleasure to meet a few including Justice Sotomayor twice (Once I was in a room alone with her while she waited for her flight but she had a cold that day so I didn’t bother her much).

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    • @Angie I think I understand what your thought process is. No lawyers/jurors want a mean judge, and you consider the kindness/meanness of a potential nominee as a major factor in whether they are a good nominee. We would certainly be better off if both parties pushed harder for judges who treat clients fairly and with respect, even if they already know which way they are siding. While Hanks’ intelligence & kindness (I’ll take your word for it) should certainly be considered as a positive, his age and conservative ties should also be considered as negatives. If we could find a young progressive as intelligent & kind as Hanks and confirm them, that would be an amazing win. It really comes down to which qualities Biden thinks are the most important in a potential judge.

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      • “While Hanks’ intelligence & kindness (I’ll take your word for it)”

        Josh I give you my word regarding Judge Hanks’ temperament (A+) but his Wiki page is proof of his intelligence & brilliance:

        He graduated first in his class from Louisiana State University, receiving a Bachelor of Arts, summa cum laude in Economics. He received a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School. He received a Master of Laws degree from Duke University Law School. He began his legal career by serving as a law clerk for Judge Sim Lake of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas. He became a law partner at one of the largest African-American founded law firms Wickliff & Hall before starting his career in public service, where he’s served honorably on different levels of the State & Federal Judiciary:

        Texas State Civil District Court Judge (4 years & ran unopposed due to his favorability & like-ability)
        Justice of the First Court of Appeals of Texas (8 years total & again ran unopposed)
        US Federal Magistrate SDTX (selected by a Bi-partisan Committee)
        US District Court Judge SDTX (recommended by a bi-partisan Committee, Appointed by former President Barack Obama & was unanimously confirmed by a vote of 90-something to 0 & his conformation was supported by both Senators Cornyn & Cruz.

        While I do not have access to his full resume, you have my word that it is long & impressive from active member of The Texas State Bar, Adjunct Professor in Trial Advocacy, to American Law Institute Member, etc.

        Judge Hanks would be a welcomed addition to the 5th Circuit (Texas) in my humble opinion, because he’s an outstanding jurist, dedicated public servant, a true leader, well-respected & regarded, and his temperament is one that should be modeled after.

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    • I’ll give an example. Manuel Real was a young progressive when he became a federal judge in 1966. Real served as a federal judge for 52 years, handing down lots of liberal decisions. However, Real was known to be a mean judge, and certainly not somebody that I would want to be a lawyer or juror in front of. If I had to choose between Hanks and another Manuel Real, I would choose Hanks.

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  12. I would strongly prefer leaving the 5th Circuit seat open than filling it with George Hanks, period. Even with a GOP Senate. He is completely unacceptable to me.
    And I also strongly feel this seat need to go to a Hispanic period. In a situation with a GOP Senate, the more likely compromise nominee will be Judge Diana Saldana (a centrist Republican supported by John Cornyn)

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    • 100% agree with you on Judge Real. Justice William O. Douglas was also a notorious meanie. No way would I give him up over someone less progressive. As much as we don’t like meanness, a judge’s likability extends only over those immediate to them. Whereas their rulings can have national impact. This is real life.

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      • Yeah I forgot Justice Douglas too. He was an outright bully to his clerks and other lawyers, one of the biggest assholes around. He was also clearly in a class of his own as a dissenter who laid the foundation for the progressive legal movement in the 60s and 70s. I put him in the same class as Brandeis and Scalia as perhaps the most influential dissenters in the 20th century. Perhaps Hugo Black and William Rehnquist (before he became Chief) should be included there as well.
        Rehnquist was considered as one of the most pleasant people to sit on the bench. Even Thurgood Marshall admitted he was a super nice guy. Would any real progressive seriously prefer Rehnquist over Douglas?

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  13. From my calculations, Senate Dems are down 5 votes (including Sen Murkowski) this week, maybe 4 with Leahy on standby. Senator Carper was also out with COVID. Unclear when he’ll return.

    Expect senators to use COVID infections as the biggest excuse AGAINST truncating their August recess. An argument would be why stay in session if we can’t vote due to COVID absences.

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    • Who is the fifth? Tina Smith is back already.

      Carper could conceivably be back by Wednesday and Leahy is “available” if necessary. So it may be a few as two (Manchin and LM)

      Either way, seems like it ll be a light week on judges. Hopefully everyone is back next week and we Vance a week of recess to make up for it.

      Like

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