Judge Kai Scott – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

A longtime public defender and judge, Judge Kai Scott’s background appears tailor-made for a federal appointment by the Biden Administration.

Background

The 51-year-old Scott received her B.A. degree from Hampton University in 1991 and a J.D. from the West Virginia University College of Law in 1995. She then spent two years as a law clerk for the Pennsylvania Bureau of Workers Compensation.

In 1998, Scott joined the Defender Association of Philadelphia. In 2004, Scott moved to become a federal public defender. In 2010, Scott became the Trial Unit Chief of the Federal Community Defender’s office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

In 2015, Scott was elected to the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas as a Democrat, where she currently serves.

History of the Seat

Scott has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. This seat opened on March 15, 2021, when Judge C. Darnell Jones moved to senior status.

Legal Experience

Before she became a judge, Scott spent her entire legal career as a public defender representing indigent clients, first in the state and then in the federal system. Among her notable clients, Scott represented Theodore Woodson, who plead guilty of having sex with multiple inmates while serving as a jail worker. See Jim Smith, Jail Worker Guilty of Sex With Inmates; Jersey Man Worked at Federal Center, Philadelphia Daily News, Mar. 23, 2005. She also represented Michael King, who was convicted for robbing five banks. Jim Smith, Mentally Ill Druggie Gets 70 Months For Bank Holdups, Philadelphia Daily News, Sept. 8, 2005. A later representation involved John Benjamin Desper, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison for soliciting sexually explicit images of minors over the internet. Michael Hinkelman, Child-Sex Offender Sentenced to 25 Years, Philadelphia Daily News, Nov. 9, 2010.

Jurisprudence

From 2015, Scott has served as a Judge on the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, which is the primary trial court in Pennsylvania. As a Judge, Scott presides over cases in civil and criminal matters, as well as domestic relations, juvenile, and family law matters.

Notably, Scott granted a motion to suppress drugs recovered from Tyree Carroll, ruling that officers lacked reasonable suspicion to stop Carroll simply because he was repeatedly riding his bicycle in an area known for drug sales. See Robert Moran, Judge Rules in Favor of Man in Violent 2015 Arrest, Philadelphia Inquirer, Feb. 17, 2017. Carroll’s subsequent arrest was captured in a viral video that appeared to show the officers beating and kicking him. See id.

Political Activity

Scott ran for the bench as a Democrat and has given to the Pennsylvania Democratic party.

Writings and Statements

In 2019, Scott was interviewed (alongside fellow judicial nominee and judge Mia Perez) in an article discussing African American vernacular creating issues with court transcripts and records. See Cassie Owens, Hearing What’s Really Said in Court: Lawyers, Judges Discuss African American English and How Not Understanding It Can Defeat Justice, Philadelphia Inquirer, June 7, 2019. In the article, Scott, who is described as “fluent in African-American English” noted that it’s difficult for judges to step in to clarify linguistic misunderstandings without appearing to influence the jury. See id.

Overall Assessment

Both as a public defender and as a judge, Scott’s record shows a willingness to hold law enforcement to account. While she has the support of Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, Scott is nonetheless likely to draw opposition in the Senate. However, she will likely still be confirmed before the end of the Congress.

Judge Mia Perez – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

A Philadelphia native, Judge Mia Perez is part of a four judge package for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Background

40-year-old Perez received her B.A. degree from Tufts University in 2003 and a J.D. from Temple University Beasley School of Law in 2006. Perez subsequently spent four years as a public defender in Philadelphia before joining Friedman Schuman as an associate. After a year there, Perez opened her own practice, handling criminal defense and family law.

In 2016, Perez was elected to the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas as a Democrat, where she currently serves.

History of the Seat

Perez has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. This seat opened on March 1, 2021, when Judge Timothy Savage moved to senior status.

Legal Experience

Perez started her legal career as a public defender representing indigent clients in the City of Philadelphia. She then spent six years in private practice handling both criminal defense and family law matters. Among her cases, Perez represented Democratic lawmaker Michelle Brownlee, who plead guilty to accepting money from an undercover informant. See Brad Bumsted, 4th Lawmaker Pleads Guilty in Sting Case, Pittsburgh Tribune Review, June 9, 2015.

Perez was also counsel for a co-defendant in a federal robbery case in which Judge Juan Sanchez excluded an out-of-court identification as unduly suggestive. See United States v. Centeno, Criminal Action No. 12-634-2, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 85913 (E.D. Pa. June 19, 2013).

Jurisprudence

From 2016, Perez has served as a Judge on the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, which is the primary trial court in Pennsylvania. As a Judge, Perez presides over cases in civil and criminal matters, as well as domestic relations, juvenile, and family law matters.

Among the matters she handled as a judge, Perez sentenced Blair Hawkins to two years of probation for operating an unlicensed mortuary. See Joseph A. Slobodzian, Unlicensed West Philly Undertaker Sentenced to Two Years’ Probation For Improperly Handling Bodies, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Mar. 8, 2017.

Among her legal rulings, Perez suppressed evidence of a gun recovered from a search of a defendant’s purse, ruling that the officers did not have reasonable suspicion to frisk the defendant and could not search her purse absent an arrest. See Comm. v. Thomas, 2016 Phila. Ct. Com. Pl. LEXIS 604 (Sept. 14, 2016). Perez also upheld a Defendant’s conviction for criminal trespass, finding that there was no statutory requirement that the Commonwealth prove a specific criminal intent in committing the trespass. Comm. v. Quijano, 2017 Phila. Ct. Comm. Pl. LEXIS 338 (Feb. 3, 2017).

In another notable case, Perez dismissed attempted murder charges against a defendant after the complaining witness failed to appear for the preliminary hearing and the Commonwealth attempted to establish probable cause by having the detective testify to statements the witness had made to him. See Comm. v. Harris, 269 A.3d 534 (PA Super. 2022). The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed Perez’s decision, finding that hearsay could not be the basis of establishing probable cause at a preliminary hearing. See id. at 536.

Political Activity

Perez ran for the bench as a Democrat and has given to the Pennsylvania Democratic party.

Writings and Statements

In 2019, Perez was interviewed (alongside fellow judicial nominee and judge Kai Scott) in an article discussing African American vernacular creating issues with court transcripts and records. See Cassie Owens, Hearing What’s Really Said in Court: Lawyers, Judges Discuss African American English and How Not Understanding It Can Defeat Justice, Philadelphia Inquirer, June 7, 2019.

Overall Assessment

Touted as a “millennial” judge when she was first elected, Perez, while young, has built up a significant reservoir of experience with the law. With the support of her two home state senators, Perez is likely to be confirmed before the end of the Congress.

John Frank Murphy – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Intellectual property attorney John Frank Murphy is Sen. Patrick Toomey’s selection in a package of four nominees to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Background

John Frank Murphy attended Cornell University, getting his B.S. in 1999, and then got a Masters in Science and a Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology in 2002 and 2004. Murphy then got a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2007.

After graduating, Murphy clerked for Judge Kimberly Moore on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Murphy then joined the Philadelphia office of Baker Hostetler, where he currently serves as a partner.

History of the Seat

Murphy has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. This seat opened on August 31, 2018, when Judge Lawrence Stengel moved to senior status.

Despite this seat opening with two years left in the Trump Administration, no nominee was put forward for this vacancy.

Legal Experience

Murphy has spent his entire legal career at Baker Hostetler, where he has primarily worked as an intellectual property litigator. At the firm, Murphy handled a significant amount of patent litigation. For example, Murphy was part of the legal team representing Muzak LLC in a suit covering patents for playback of music through telephones and public speaker systems. See Info-Hold, Inc. v. Muzac LLC., 783 F.3d 1365 (Fed. Cir. 2015). He also represented Nokia, Inc. in a patent infringement suit litigated in the Eastern District of Virginia. See Global Touch Solutions LLC v. Toshiba Corp., 109 F. Supp. 3d 882 (E.D. Va. 2015).

Notably, Murphy was part of the legal team for Comcast in a patent infringement suit filed against Sprint alleging that the latter had infringed four of its patents. See Comcast Cable Communications LLC v. Sprint Communications Co. LP., 203 F. Supp. 3d 499 (E.D. Pa. 2016).

Outside the intellectual property context, Murphy represented a number of plaintiffs suing to block the Pennsylvania Secretary of State’s certification of ExpressVote XL electronic voting machines, challenging the security, reliability, and accuracy of the machines. See Nat’l Election Def. Coalition v. Boockvar, 266 A.3d 76 (Pa. Commw. LEXIS 567 2021).

Political Activity

Murphy has donated to a number of candidates throughout his career, including Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, who has received approximately $4000. While most of Murphy’s donations have been to Republicans, he did donate $100 to the Attorney General campaign of Steve Dettelbach, a Democrat who currently serves as director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (Dettelbach was also a partner at Baker Hostetler).

Overall Assessment

With his background in intellectual property law and a willingness to back Republicans, Murphy is likely to attract support from members of both parties. As such, he will likely sail to confirmation.

Kelley Hodge – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

In 2017, Kelley Hodge became the first African American woman to serve as District Attorney for Philadelphia. Hodge is now poised to become a federal judge in the city.

Background

Born November 17, 1971in Abingdon, Pennsylvania, Kelley Brisbon Hodge grew up in Montgomery County. She received a B.A. from the University of Virginia in 1993 and a J.D. from the University of Richmond T.C. Williams School of Law in 1996. Hodge then joined the Richmond Public Defender’s Office.

In 2004, Hodge joined the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. In 2011, Hodge was appointed by Governor Tom Corbett to be safe schools advocate in Philadelphia and from 2015 to 2016, she was executive assistant to the president of the University of Virginia before returning to Pennsylvania to be of counsel at the firm of Elliott Greenleaf.

In 2017, after the resignation of Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, Hodge was appointed to be interim D.A., which she held until the inauguration of Larry Krasner in 2018.

Hodge subsequently returned to Elliott Greenleaf, where she stayed until moving to Fox Rothschild’s Philadelphia office in 2020, where she currently serves.

History of the Seat

Hodge has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. This seat opened on June 1, 2021, when Judge Petrese Tucker moved to senior status.

Legal Experience

Hodge has held a variety of legal positions throughout her career, from serving as a public defender, a prosecutor, in private practice, and in policy positions. She started her career at the Richmond Public Defender’s office, where she defended Roosevelt Brackett, who was charged with arson and murder for allegedly setting his friend on fire. See Alan Cooper, Man Convicted of Murder, Arson; Ruled Responsible for Friend’s Third-Degree Burns and Death, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Jan. 9, 2001. She also defended Donald McMillian, who was convicted of murder for stabbing Lonnice Wilson. See Alan Cooper, Judge Convicts Richmond Man of Murder in Stabbing, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Feb. 2, 2002.

In 2004, Hodge moved to become a prosecutor in Philadelphia. While with the office, Hodge prosecuted Dante Robinson for attempted murder, robbery, and weapons related charges arising from the shooting of a delivery driver in Southwest Philadelphia. See Julie Shaw, Daily News Driver Describes Holdup-Shooting, The Philadelphia Daily News, Aug. 11, 2007. Hodge also worked to establish Philadelphia’s Veterans Court. See Karen Heller, Veterans Court Winning Cases, The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 26, 2010.

In 2011, Governor Tom Corbett, a Republican appointed Hodge to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to be a safe schools advocate in Philadelphia. In her role, Hodge worked on issues of crime and bullying at Germantown High School. See Dylan Purcell and Susan Snyder, Crime Lurks in Little-Used Areas of Philadelphia Schools, The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 11, 2012.

In 2017, after the resignation of Philadelphia DA Seth Williams, the city’s judges chose Hodge to serve out his term. See Chris Brennan, Judges Will Vote, Via Top Hat, For Interim DA, The Philadelphia Inquirer, July 19, 2017. While she headed the office, Hodge oversaw a series of prosecutions on illegal street gambling. See Chris Brennan, ‘Family Affair’: 9 Nabbed in Alleged Long-Running Philly Street Lottery, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Oct. 21, 2017. She also worked with Attorney General Josh Shapiro to prosecute Democratic members of an election board with intimidating Republican and Green party voters and seeking to change ballots. See Chris Brennan, Election Fraud Charges Filed in 197th District Special Election, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Oct. 31, 2017.

After returning to private practice, Hodge was appointed to a three-person committee overseeing the distribution of funds to victims of child abuse from the Philadelphia Achdiocese. See Mark Scolforo, Pennsylvania Dioceses Outline Child Sex Abuse Victim Funds, A.P. State & Local, Nov. 8, 2018. Hodge was also hired to conduct an external investigation at Vassar University regarding innappropriate behavior by women’s basketball coach Candice Signor-Brown. See Head Coach Signor-Brown Departed from Vassar Amidst Multiple Investigations, Swarthmore Phoenix, Nov. 20, 2020. She was also hired by the Sharon Hill Borough to conduct an independent use of force investigation after the shooting death of an 8 year old at a football game. See Robert Moran, DA: Initial Tests Say Police Shot 8-Year-Old; Fanta Bility Died, 3 Were Injured After Sharon Hill Football Game. A Grand Jury Empaneling Is Sought, Philadelphia Inquirer, Sept. 28, 2021.

Political Activity

Hodge is a Democrat and donated $500 to the Presidential campaign of Kamala Harris in 2020.

Overall Assessment

Hodge has, over the course of a 25 year legal career, built experience in criminal and civil law. As she has the bipartisan support of her home state senators, she will likely sail to confirmation.