Jamal Whitehead – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington

Seattle attorney Jamal Whitehead, tapped for the federal bench, brings a background in a variety of civil litigation.

Background

Jamal Whitehead received his B.A. from the University of Washington in 2004 and his J.D. from Seattle University School of Law in 2007. After graduating, Whitehead worked for Garvey Schubert Barer in Seattle. In 2010, he became a senior trial attorney with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In 2014, Whitehead joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington. Two years later, he became a shareholder at Schroeter Goldmark & Bender in Seattle, where he currently serves.

History of the Seat

Whitehead has been nominated to replace Judge Richard Jones on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. Jones will take senior status upon confirmation of a successor.

Legal Experience

From 2010 to 2014, Whitehead worked at the Equal Opportunity Commission, where he sued Cottonwood Financial for discriminating against an employee based on his diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Press Release, EEOC Wins Disability Discrimination Suit Against Payday Lender ‘The Cash Store’, Mar. 28, 2012.

Since 2016, Whitehead has worked at Schroeter Goldmark & Bender in Seattle. In his work with the office, Whitehead represented Dr. Ming Lin in conjunction with the American Civil Liberties Union, who sued alleging that he was terminated for expressing concern about his hospital’s Covid-19 readiness policy. Will Stone, An ER Doctor Lost His Job After Criticizing His Hospital on COVID-19. Now He’s Suing, Nat’l Pub. Radio Shots, May 29, 2020. Whitehead also sued a private prison for paying incarcerated ICE detainees $1 a day in its work program. See Cara Salvatore, ICE Contractor Trial Over Dollar-a-Day Wages Set for June, Law360, Mar. 16, 2021. The suit ended with a jury verdict in favor of the detainees, and is currently on appeal. See Cara Salvatore, Wash. AG, Detainees Win GEO Group $1-A-Day Wage Retrial, Law360, Oct. 27, 2021.

Political Activity

Whitehead has two donations to his name: to Washington state representatives Liz Berry and David Hackney, both Democrats.

Overall Assessment

Like his fellow nominees Evanson and Cartwright, Whitehead is a young liberal attorney who is likely to draw enough opposition to his confirmation to make the vote close but not so much that it would endanger his confirmation.

27 Comments

  1. This is the finest pick of a black man to a federal judgeship in the past 3,145 days when Robert Wilkins was confirmed. He’s a solid progressive born c. 1982. If judge Gould steps down from his seat on the 9th circuit, I would hope this is the nominee. This is easily an A, possibly A+ pick.

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  2. Since this article is on my Jamal Whitehead, my personal favorite black man nominated to a federal judgeship since Robert Wilkins was confirmed to the DC circuit, I thought I would go back to that day. Since Wilkins is the last black man to be confirmed to ANY circuit court in this country, here’s how many of the following demographics have been confirmed to a circuit court in the past 3,145 days. I am not going to count Biden circuit court nominees that have not been confirmed yet.

    AAPI – 8
    Hispanic – 5
    LGBT – 3
    Women – 34

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  3. I think I finally figured out why the ADA had some not qualified votes for Anne M. Nardacci. She didn’t clerk for a judge, ANY judge at all. She served on the staff of Congressman Michael McNulty but no clerkship. That combined with her young age probably was too much for at least one of the ADA voters.

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  4. Whitehead is a good pick – given this administration’s other picks, I’m a little surprised they filled all the WDWA seats without nominating a federal defender from the district. I guess Tana Lin has some public defense background, but not that much.

    If Gould steps down under a Democratic administration, my guess is that Lauren King will be elevated because she would be the first Native American on a federal appeals court. Whitehead would also be a good option though. My hope is that if Dems can keep the Senate (odds are looking better these days, but you can always count on the Dems to blow it), maybe Gould will retire before 2024 – with his health, I always thought he would’ve been one of the first judges to retire.

    Biden’s actually appointed lots of nominees who have never clerked – more than past administrations, and enough for someone to run a story on it: https://www.law.com/nationallawjournal/2022/08/17/in-departure-from-trump-era-nominations-biden-relies-less-on-feeder-judges/?slreturn=20220725231244.

    Just off the top of my head, Lauren King didn’t clerk, and this post indicates that Whitehead didn’t either. For COA nominees, at least Mathis and Montecalvo neither clerked nor were sitting judges (federal or state). I’m not sure why Nardacci got the rating she did, but it doesn’t seem like it’s because she didn’t clerk. We also shouldn’t care about what the ABA thinks – Republicans certainly don’t when picking their nominees.

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    • @Hank

      I also thought judge Gould would be one of the early circuit court judges to retire. I believe he is the only sitting active circuit court judge in a wheelchair, but he seems to be in relatively good health so not sure when he will finally step down.

      As for who could replace him, you might be right. Judge King would be a strong contender as she would be the first Indian American circuit court judge to go along with her being in her low 40’s. We will have to see how progressive she turns out to be in her decisions as I am sure Jamal Whitehead & Marsha Chien would be very progressive.

      And I agree with you Democrats should just stop caring about the ABA ratings. Trump happily nominated 10 with unqualified ratings.

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    • @Mitch

      Probably not in the near future. There is still a number of nominees who haven’t had their bios posted yet due to the large number of batches over the past couple of months. They usually do that type of thread during a long recess when not much action is going on but thankfully there was plenty of action prior to this years August recess… Lol

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  5. In state Supreme Court news, Nevada Supreme Court justice Abbi Silver is resigning next month

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  6. For the first time in his presidency, I can actually say that I was impressed with Biden’s performance. He made a pretty strong case for the cancellation of student debt, and for the first time, I saw some boldness and willingness to fight. Hopefully this is a beginning.

    That said, I don’t fully agree with Biden’s decision on the merits. I’m fine with cancelling debt, but not with no strings attached. It should come with a requirement of public service. If you served in the military, absolutely your debt should be cancelled. Served long term in a public service career, like a nurse or a teacher or even a government employee, sure. Did a couple years of national service or spent many hours volunteering, yes.
    But I’m not supportive of simply cancelling debt from the principal of a loan without giving back in some way. As Paul Begala said, earn it.
    Now I do support a total cancellation of all interest from these loans and an easier payment plan. And I also support cancelling all debt from bogus Trump University style institutions.

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    • @Shawn

      I 100% agree with everything about the student loans. I’m happy he did it because he kept his campaign promise, but I would have liked some service requirement attached.

      As for a future replacement for judge Gould, I also agree none of the 4 would be bad in any way. I would move Jamal Whitehead ahead of Tiffany Cartwright just because of the lack of black men on the circuit courts. I don’t know of any other young progressive Native American that is in a state that has a circuit seat more likely to become vacant before Gould’s seat so like it was said earlier on, that may give King the edge in the end.

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  7. This is a great (long!) article. Sorry about the paywall. It really highlights how Republicans and conservatives are lightyears ahead of Dems/liberal in having a similar infrastructure on the bar side of the judiciary, let alone the bench:

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    • Well we know there are at least 5 seats that have recommendations of 6 people for those 5 seats. Biden has chosen every nominee Schumer has recommended so those 3 are a lock to be nominated. Colorado has 3 recommended for 2 open seats so I’m sure it shouldn’t take long for them to pick which 2 they want so they can begin vetting them.

      Out of the 5 circuit court seats vacant, 2 are in blue states. I will assume those senators have already recommended somebody. 1 of the tensing 3 seats is in a purple state & the Democrat is the senior senator so Montana should send a recommendation soon if not already done as well.

      If I had to guess I would say not this week but we could see more nominees either next week or the week after. Biden still hasn’t officially nominated DeAndrea G. Benjamin or Jabari Wamble so that makes me think the FBI background checks are a little slow right now. I will assume the Mar-a-laro search as well as increase in death threats against the FBI has slowed things down a bit.

      Getting them hearings really depends on Durbin. If he holds hearings 2 weeks in a row, puts more then 5 nominees in a hearing or has more then 2 panels in a week then Schumer could get votes on everybody before the end of the year. I think the results of the midterms will go a long way to decide how hard they work in the end of the year. Dems holding the majority will likely mean they don’t work too hard after November for the rest of the year.

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      • I remember last year The White House was looking at four woman for the Idaho seat & the state has never had a female federal judge. The Republican senators worked well with Obama to get a nominee even though it was Trump that was president when he was finally confirmed. I’m surprised there has been no nominee yet for that seat along with Alaska.

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    • I think we’ll probably see a batch that first Wednesday in September. As you said, unless more hearings are added, they likely won’t get a hearing date until after the midterms and it’s probably 50/50 on whether or not they get confirmed in December. Schumer was able to get some people who were nominated on Sept 20 across the finish line last year, so never rule it out.

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  8. I was going over all of the batches from president Biden to see which r was my favorite & I came across something I never noticed before. I can’t find a 15th batch. At first I thought I just missed it, but when I checked a second time I still couldn’t find it. I even looked at the dates for the 14th batch (Stephanie Davis) & the 16th batch (John Lee…etc) & don’t see any dates for nominees between those two dates.

    Am I just missing it, can anybody find a 15th batch? It’s crazy to think The White House could have just skipped it & nobody notice until I just did… Lol

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    • I guess they are considering the KBJ SCOTUS announcement as the 15th batch. That announcements came between the 14th & 16th batches. It sucks when both that & the 14th had just one nominee but they are calling it a batch. There have been a few batches with just two nominees such as the Allison Nathan/Andre Mathis batch or the most recent one earlier this month.

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