Justice Maria Araujo Kahn – Nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

Connecticut Supreme Court Justice Maria Araujo Kahn has served the last sixteen years as a state judge, building a long judicial record that may be parsed for her appellate nomination.


Born to a Portuguese family in Angola in 1964, Maria Araujo Kahn immigrated to the United States at age 10. Kahn graduated from New York University in 1986 and the Fordham University Law School in 1989. After graduating, Kahn clerked for Judge Peter Dorsey on the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut.

In 1993, Kahn joined the Connecticut Office of Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Disabilities. She subsequently became an Assistant U.S. Attorney based in New Haven. In 2006, Republican Governor Jodi Rell appointed Kahn, a Democrat, to the New Haven County Superior Court.

In 2013, Kahn was recommended to President Obama for the federal district court in Connecticut, but another nominee, Jeffrey Mayer, was nominated and confirmed instead.

In 2017, Kahn was elevated to the Connecticut Appellate Court by Governor Dannel Malloy. Malloy subsequently appointed Kahn to the Connecticut Supreme Court, replacing Justice Carmen Espinosa. Kahn has served on the court since.

History of the Seat

Kahn has been nominated to replace Judge Jose Cabranes, who has announced his desire to take senior status upon the confirmation of a successor.

Legal Career

After her clerkship, between 1993 and 1997, Kahn worked for the Connecticut Office of Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Disabilities, where she litigated in support of plaintiffs seeking medical and legal rights in health care litigation. For example, Kahn filed an amicus brief in support of a plaintiff seeking to stop the forcible administration of medication for his mental illness in non-emergency situations. See Doe v. Hunter, 667 A.2d 90 (Conn. Super. 1995).

Kahn subsequently became a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut. In this role, Kahn worked alongside future federal judge Stephen Robinson and future federal judicial nominee Barbara Jongbloed to prosecute Dr. Oscar Perez Gomez for Medicare fraud. United States v. Gomez, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16068 (D. Conn. Aug. 29, 2003). She also prosecuted cases of mail and wire fraud. See, e.g., United States v. Clarke, 390 F. Supp. 2d 131 (D. Conn. 2005).


Kahn has served on all levels of the Connecticut judiciary: trial, appellate, and supreme. She has been appointed to these positions by Governors of both political parties.

Superior Court

Kahn joined the New Haven County Superior Court after her appointment by Rell in 2006. In that role, Kahn served as a trial judge hearing both civil and criminal cases. Early in her time on the bench, Kahn declined to overturn a Council decision to approve a Spring cell tower to be built in Litchfield. See Rosa v. Sitting State Council, 2007 Conn. Super. LEXIS 590 (2007).

On the criminal side, Kahn declined to suppress evidence arising from a traffic stop, finding that the officer had reasonable suspicion for the stop and that he did not unreasonably prolong the traffic stop. State v. Cronin, 2008 Conn. Super. LEXIS 2899 (2008). She also declined to dismiss a DUI charge where the police officer had videotaped the defendant while he was consulting with his attorney on whether to take a breathalyzer. State v. Abbate, 2011 Conn. Super. LEXIS 2494 (2011).

Court of Appeals

In 2017, Gov. Malloy elevated Kahn to the Connecticut Appellate Court. Kahn’s tenure on the Appellate Court was fairly short before her elevation.

Supreme Court

A few months after she was appointed to the Connecticut Appellate Court, Kahn was elevated to the Connecticut Supreme Court by Malloy. Kahn has served on the seven-member court since.

Among her key opinions on the Connecticut Supreme Court, Kahn wrote for the majority declining to fashion a Miranda-like prophylactic rule that would require the police to warn juveniles that their crimes may have adult consequences before questioning them. See Pat Eaton-Robb, Court Won’t Create Special Miranda Warning for Juveniles, A.P. State & Local, June 28, 2018.

In another ruling, Kahn wrote for a unanimous court in overturning Sen. Ernest Newton’s convictions for campaign fraud, ruling that the trial court had improperly instructed the jury on the level of intent needed for conviction. See Court Overturns Former Senator’s Campaign Fraud Convictions, A.P. State & Local, Oct. 12, 2018. In contrast, Kahn upheld a murder conviction resting solely on “cross-racial” eyewitness testimony, finding that defense attorneys had failed to meet their burden to show that no reasonable factfinder would have convicted. See Pat Eaton-Robb, Court Upholds Conviction Based on ID by Single Eyewitness, A.P. State & Local, Oct. 11, 2019.

In one notable case, Kahn concurred in the Connecticut Supreme Court’s ruling upholding a conviction for breach of the peace, finding that using the n-word in referring to an african american public servant constituted “fighting words” which were unprotected by the First Amendment. See State v. Liebenguth, 250 A.3d 1 (Conn. 2020). In her concurring opinion, Kahn described the fighting words doctrine, which allows the state to prohibit words likely to incite violence, as “dubious,” noting that it “leads to consideration of stereotypical propensities for violence when assessing an addressee’s likely response to the speaker’s words.” Id. (Kahn, J., concurring).

Writings and Statements

In 2019, Kahn joined fellow Supreme Court Justice Richard Robinson on a panel at Eastern Connecticut State University discussing implicit biases in the legal system. Connecticut Supreme Court Justices Discuss Implicit Biases, Targeted News Service, Apr. 9, 2019. In her remarks at the event, Kahn discusses “hidden biases” that people often don’t recognize. Kahn states:

“Example: When people see a Black person and say ‘I don’t see color,’ Oh yes you do! You take information about Black people already in your head, which rejects notions of you opening your mind more to being a more transparent human being.” See id. (quoting Hon. Maria Araujo Kahn).

Overall Assessment

Over her sixteen years on the Connecticut state bench, Kahn has built a relatively mainstream record, with few rulings that have drawn criticism or controversy. That, combined with her comparative lack of youth, should make Kahn a less controversial nominee. However, Kahn may, nonetheless, draw opposition based on her remarks on implicit bias. Additionally, Kahn also faces a limited senate calendar, making the prospects of an end-of-year confirmation more difficult than otherwise anticipated.


  1. While Khan herself is fairly progressive & certainly well qualified, her being close to 60 just makes this a bad pick. Particularly when it was rumored that both Cristina Rodriguez & Justin Driver were being vetted. Both are much younger & just as, if not more progressive. Not to mention out of 37 circuit court nominees, I can only think of one Biden pick that was a current law professor when selected so either one of them could have been the second. I would have rather this seat gone back to New York if this was going to be the pick.


    • I would have expected Raheem Mullens over Khan as well. I just hate when they try to thread the needle when yesterday Florence Pan only got 3 GOP votes. I would have rather spent 4 extra discharge vote hours & gotten a Deepak Gupta or Dale Ho over a centrist. Khan will probably get 3 or 4 GOP votes as well & she’s nearly 60.

      Cristina Rodriguez or Justin Driver may have gotten one but even a discharge cote would have been much more worth it. This was another wasted opportunity. The only saving grace is she’s replacing the most conservative Democrat appointment on the circuit courts.


      • If the only two choices were Khan & Raheem Mullins then I can see picking Khan. But reports stated both Cristina Rodriguez & Justin Driver were being vetted. That’s my issue with Khan as the nominee.

        If you wanted a Hispanic nominee (Which I’m all for) then you have a younger Rodriguez. If you want a Black man since we have only had one confirmed to any circuit court in the past 3,000 plus days then you have Driver. If you wanted a law professor since only one has been nominated by Biden to any circuit court then you have both.

        Khan will have an easier path to confirmation but I believe Rodriguez would have gotten Grahams vote. Driver may have needed to be discharged but Collins or Murkowski would have probably voted for him.


      • @Dequan

        I fully agree with you on Driver or Rodriguez, both are superstars. I would have far preferred either over Kahn. Driver would have been my top selection here.

        But age and demographics only matter when the nominee is progressive. You don’t get points for nominating a 40 year old moderate like Stephen Locher. And the idea that Mullins is even a somewhat acceptable nominee is ridiculous. I would give a Mullins nomination a D- or F. He is only slightly better than Jesse Furman (whose brother is a real lowlife piece of shit).


      • Yes, I completely agree with you about Raheem Mullins. I don’t believe I’ve seen anybody suggest he should have been the 2nd circuit court nominee on this site. We just said he was being vetted.

        Now I disagree with you on Stephen Locher because unfortunately we still have blue slips for district court seats. Now if your argument is leaving the seat vacant & if the Dems increase their senate majority, then get rid of blue slips all together, I completely agree with you there. But if your argument is under the current system, Locher is not a good nominee then I disagree with you. We have blue slips & he is from a red state so under those circumstances, I think he is acceptable. If he was the nominee over Khan then of course I would agree with you in that case.


      • @Dequan

        My point is that regardless of whether you think he is ok due to blue slips or not, Locher is not a better nominee because he is 40 rather than 60.
        My entire point is that age only becomes an asset if the nominee has progressive credentials. If my only choice is between a 40 year old centrist and a 60 year old centrist, I will base my preference on things other than age. J. Michelle Childs or Florence Pan would not have been any better nominees if they had been 45 instead of 55.
        Heck I could make the argument that the 60 year old centrist is better since they would leave the bench sooner.


      • Yes, I agree with that as well. As I’ve said many times before Beth Robinson is older then both J. Childs & Florence Pan & I think she was a fine nominee who I would have happily voted for. Age alone isn’t a reason to vote against somebody. But in most cases there’s a younger nominee that is just as, if not more progressive. That’s my point.


      • Locher is well-known to be liberal in Iowa legal circles. Some on here can’t comprehend that most private-practice lawyers are very liberal. He was a phenomenal nominee from a red state, as he was quite possibly who would have been picked even if Iowa had two Democratic senators, and being young was definitely a plus, as he’s better than you’d expect from a red state and he’ll be there for 20+ years or potentially elevated to the Eighth Circuit.


      • @James

        I have looked into Stephen Locher ‘s record slightly & couldn’t find his liberal background. I will admit you are not the first person from Iowa that I have heard say this so I will give deference & take you at your word that you know more about him then me. It’s so hard for me to believe the two Republican senators from Iowa would recommend a 43-year-old liberal for one of three district court seats but if so, you are correct & he will definitely get a look at if any future 8th circuit seat becomes vacant in the next decade or so.


  2. Durbin is starting the SJC hearing going through a speech about what the nominees should expect. He said he hopes the senators show some temperament. They must be really expecting the worst when Julie Rikelman is up.


    • I have no idea why McConnell put those clowns on Judiciary in the first place. From his point of view the Republican Party would be better served from having more people like Tillis, Kennedy, Graham, Grassley etc asking actual questions than having idiots like Cruz making viral moments.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Cruz and Hawley are each attorneys with high experience previously (Cruz as the Texas Solicitor General and Hawley as the Attorney General of Missouri), so it wouldn’t make much sense to leave them off the committee (even as they seek to use the committee in part for higher ambitions).


    • His questions were very much geared towards pandering to Republican primary voters, and not trying to understand the nominee in Rikelman. As I predicted, he didn’t even congratulate her on her nomination. Hawley engaged in questions geared towards similar motives, but didn’t do as good of a job as Cruz on that. On the other hand, the questions from Republicans regarding the DNA testing article were in my opinion very fair and Rikelman did a extemely poor job defending them, especially at the end to Tom Cotton. Based on that, I would have to vote against her confirmation if I were in the Senate.


      • @Frank

        I think the senators repeatedly cutting her off when she tried to explain she couldn’t answer certain questions as a nominee for a federal judgeship was more of a reason she couldn’t give a more complete answer. But I thought she did very well & kept her composure.

        The legitimate question I thought the Republicans had something on Rikelman about was her just living to Massachusetts at the beginning of this year & not even being registered to argue cases in front of the circuit court she was nominated for. I thought her answer was reasonable. I can see her parents getting sick & her needing to move close to them so she can take care of them being legit. Of course the Republicans could be right & she simply moved back to the state when she realized she was going to be recommended for the vacant seat, but even if that’s true the GOP has no leg to stand on. Trump nominated a man that lived in Montana for a 9th circuit seat in Nevada & they all voted for him just fine.

        One other take away from todays hearing is senator Kennedy missed it. I think that tremendous help for Rikelman.


      • @Dequan

        Rikelman’s state of residence is NOT a legitimate question in this case.
        That unofficial rule is meant to prevent a president from nominating an out of stater to a seat in which the HOME senators don’t think the nominee has sufficient ties. Basically, it’s a post-Reconstruction norm that racist Southern Democrats implemented to ensure that Radical Republican carpetbaggers can’t get nominated for posts in their states, as was the necessary case during Reconstruction.
        Now this residency thing has spiraled into outcomes like Judge Hurd’s inappropriate behavior in NY.

        Cruz is not a senator from MA.

        The two senators from MA support her nomination. That’s where that line of inquiry should end.
        Sick and tired of these rubbish claims given legitimacy.

        Your take is equally untenable. Boil down her entire career to one single position in a case. Not a very thorough review, is it?

        I am very pleased with her. I just wish she would have pushback on some of these. But I understand that a nominee’s only just is to wait out the clock and don’t make waves. What’s 3 hours of baseless abuse to a lifetime on the court?

        I welcome her nomination and hopeful confirmation even if a discharge and/or a tie vote is needed!

        Schumer/Durbin should keep their ears to the ground for any whisper of multiple-day absences of GOP sens. then put her on the calendar for votes.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I agree Gavi, Rikelman would be a top priority of mine just for the optics of it. I assume the committee will vote for her (and deadlock) in October; If I was Schumer I would line up a discharge vote immediately like they did for KBJ and go ahead and file cloture. Would look great to do so shortly before the midterms.


      • @Gavi

        Oh trust me I completely agree with you. I will go even further then you actually. Even if TODAY she didn’t live in the state & wasn’t registered to argue in front of the court she was nominated for I wouldn’t care. As long as she plans to live by the time she’s confirmed, that’s all I would care about. I was only pointing out that was the Republican view point then pointed out their hypocrisy as I said since they didn’t care when Trump nominated a Montana resident for a Nevada seat.


        Absolutely she should be on the same timeline as KBJ. Bloomenkatz should have been as well. I think it would show if they plan on forcing a discharge vote it will backfire & the nominee will be confirmed even faster. Perhaps it will give Graham some pause on voting no on a nominee or two in the future. As I’ve said repeatedly on this site there is currently no consequences for a tie vote in the SJC.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I understand the questions about residency. It’s believed that if someone lives in a state he or she will be representing, even if it’s not a political post, that person has a stake in the rights and well-being of the area and its people. Their lived experience will color their votes or rulings even if they’re not consciously aware of it. An outsider appointed to represent it will have no regard for it because they’re alien to it. I understand the logic in that. Local predisposition was very important to the Founding Fathers.

        As far as I can tell, Julie Rikelman has no roots or attachment to Massachusetts. Has she ever lived there at any time? Even if you support Rikelman’s view of the Constitution, those are legitimate questions. I’m sure everyone here would agree with that to one degree or another.


      • In Rikelman‘a case, when her family immigrated to the USA from Ukraine, they located in Massachusetts. Her legal career took her to Alaska & other states. While it is true she just moved back to the state during the pandemic, she has roots in the state.

        In my opinion I don’t think that matters unless one of the two senators from the state were complaining about it. Both home state senators signed off so I think a senator from Arkansas, Texas or Tennessee questioning her residency is less relevant.


      • Not only does Rikelman have roots to MA, that’s her first home state for the first 20 years of her life in America after her family moved her here when she was 10. How much deep a root do you want?
        I suspect that the Republicans probably think that her abortion advocacy wouldn’t be enough to sink her so they just invented this residency issue out of whole cloth in hopes that it’ll add to her disapprovingly.
        This also has a tinge of anti-immigrant sentiment to it. Like, should she apologize for not being born in an actual state?


      • The residency thing isn’t really my issue with Rikelman (besides that she hasn’t practiced in the 1st Circuit), it is rather, at least to me, a lack of understanding from her that she cannot be an advocate on the bench, which is an issue I have not had with any of Biden’s other nominees so far (with the possible exception of Dale Ho).


      • Great point, but didn’t VanDyke practice in the 9th Circuit prior to being confirmed there? The only residency related issue brought up by the Republicans I agreed with is that Rikelman has not been licensed to practice in the 1st Circuit.


      • Yes they did bring up she’s not licensed to practice in the circuit. But they mentioned she just moved back to Massachusetts more. My guess is @Gavi is right when he said “Republicans probably think that her abortion advocacy wouldn’t be enough to sink her”. Especially after Dobbs.

        She is likely to get a vote from either Murkowski or Manchin to get to 50 plus the VP. If for some reason she only gets to 49, Dems can hope to gain a seat in the midterms & they confirm her in January if so.


      • I agree @Shawn.

        On another note, I didn’t know until senator Murray said today taht Jamal Whitehead was physically disable. He would be the perfect replacement for judge Gould whenever he retires as I believe he is the only current physically disabled circuit court judge in the country since judge Tatel retired from the DC circuit.


      • @Shawn

        Thanks for the article. WOW, it was written when he was 16. And from the looks of it, he has higher aspirations. I’m all for it. But if President isn’t in his future, I think with this new information I didn’t know before today, I will have to re-evaluate my order for a judge Gould replacement from the order I put earlier this Summer. My new order would be as followed;

        1. Jamal Whitehead
        2. Marsha Chien
        3. Lauren J. King (She would be a great first ever Indian circuit court judge, as long as her rulings are as progressive as I expect them to be).
        4. Tiffany M. Cartwright (Really #3 & #4 are interchangeable)
        5. Kymberly Evanson


    • Rats. I expected as much. I think at this point we’re getting stuck with Oct 12, Nov 9, Nov 30, and maybe another on Dec 14 and that’s it. I think Oct 12 is the last hearing whose nominees we can reasonably assume will get floor votes, but maybe some of the Nov 9 nominees can.


  3. Definitely Frank. If Dems retain the senate I think Johnstone and a bunch of district nominees will get pushed to 2023 while the try and pass a few more bills. Otherwise you’re right, there will be a big rush to get everyone over the line.


  4. House Democrat wants to add 50 circuit court seats..

    Let’s make sure Democrats have the senate before doing something like this..


    • @Rick

      My God if the Dems were able to get that bill passed early in 2023 they could definitely use the entire 2 years just on new seats. That’s why it’s so important for them to fill as many seats as they can before the new year. I remember even though President Carter only had 4 years in office, a similar expansion of the lower courts was passed during his presidency & he was able to have a major impact on the courts below the SCOTUS,


      • Not even a dozen.
        This isn’t going to be up to one congressman. The Judicial Conference of the United States is often tasked with evaluating potential expansions of the courts and congress usually defer to their recommendations. Last I remember, the Judicial Conference recommended a paltry 2 additional circuit judgeships.
        So yeah, 50 is absolutely out of reach. I’d take 12 and run with it as fast as I can.

        This reminds me of a project I did in school, to recreate the federal circuits to make them more contiguous and more equally distributed. Doing so usually meant transferring some judgeships, abolishing others, and creating some new ones. I created a damn good map, if I may say so myself.


      • @Dequan

        Good point. Progressives once opposed creating a new 12th Circuit Court of Appeals, consisting of the western Rocky Mountains and Alaska. Now that the 9th is almost evenly balanced, they are more open to the idea. Another idea would be move some states from the 9th Circuit to the 10th.

        One possibility for the 1st Circuit would to put Vermont and Connecticut in it, and put Puerto Rico in the 2nd Circuit.


  5. Looking at the senate executive calendar, this is the order that the judiciary nominees are listed… Of course with the caveat that Schumer can change the order at any time.

    Adrienne Jennings Noti
    Musetta Tia Johnson
    Nusrat Jahan Choudhury
    Natasha C. Merle
    Tiffany M. Cartwright
    Arianna J. Freeman
    Hernan D. Vera
    Jessica G. L. Clarke
    Doris L. Pryor
    Maria del R. Antongiorgi-Jordan
    Gina R. Mendez-Miro
    Ana C. Reyes
    Camille L. Velez-Rive
    Bradley N. Garcia
    Dana M. Douglas
    Anne M. Nardacci
    Jerry W. Blackwell
    Frances Kay Behm

    And of course those nominees that need to be discharged are not on the list.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I think Democrats should present a proposal to Republicans agreeing to break up the 9th circuit in return to some additional circuit court seats. Obviously the amount in Hank Johnson’s bill would never be accepted, but at least a reasonable number. I would propose an additional 12 seats with 6 that can’t be filled until after 2025. That way Republicans have an opportunity to appoint half of the new seats if they win in 2024. Here would be the states I would add the 12 seats…

      California – 4
      Texas – 3
      Florida – 2
      New York


      • I definitely agree that the Democrats should agree to add a 12th circuit as a bargaining chip.

        This is how I would reorganize the courts of appeals:
        -form a 12th circuit consisting of Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Idaho, and Montana.
        -move Arizona and Nevada to the 10th circuit, and then move Oklahoma to the 5th and Kansas to the 8th, in turn.
        -the new 9th circuit would consist of California, Hawaii, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

        We also should merge (and maybe split) a few district courts/ US Attorney’s offices. Wouldn’t affect the total number of district judges, but it would affect the number of US Attorneys and Chief Judges. The courts I would definitely consider merging are:
        -Middle and Southern Districts of Alabama.
        -Eastern and Western Districts of Arkansas.
        -Middle and Southern Districts of Georgia.
        -Central and Southern Districts of Illinois.
        -Northern and Southern Districts of Indiana.
        -Northern and Southern Districts of Iowa.
        -Eastern and Western Districts of Kentucky.
        -Middle and Western Districts of Louisiana.
        -Northern and Southern Districts of Mississippi.
        -Middle and Western Districts of North Carolina.
        -Northern and Eastern Districts of Oklahoma.
        -Middle and Eastern Districts of Tennessee.
        -Northern and Southern Districts of West Virginia.

        There are others as well, but those are the most lopsided in my opinion when there are bigger states such as New Jersey, Minnesota, Colorado, and Arizona that have 1 court/ USAO office for the whole state.


      • I was just about to say the same. I think splitting the 9th circuit would be a good idea if done correctly. I’ve heard all sorts of different ways to split the 9th, but most of the methods involve having California and a one-judge state being its own circuit (California has half the judges and 70-80% of the cases but some arcane rule says a state can’t be its own circuit court).

        That seems like a lot of movement, and most of the proposals I’ve heard just involve splitting the 9th circuit into two and no further movements.


      • @Ethan

        I had never really thought about reorganizing the district courts but that’s probably a good idea as well. You are right some states have only one district but there’s probably justification to add a district for a couple like New Jersey & Arizona. But for cost savings I wouldn’t bring that up.

        I definitely like the idea of merging some of the states. You could use the cost savings as a way to justify adding judgeships. Out of the mergers you mentioned, I would probably agree to most of them. I would leave Indians & Tennessee off the list but I definitely like your thinking overall.


  6. @Dequan. Maybe I’m underestimating the # of cases filed in eastern TN and northern IN. Another thing I wanted to bring up (and honestly, this applies to all people who earn a salary from the federal government) is that I find it ridiculous that a judge in the Northern District in California should earn the same salary as a judge in West Virginia, when the cost of living in northern California is eons higer.


    • @Ethan

      That definitely is a disparity within our government. It’s a touchy subject because of course the choices are you either pay the government employee in California more, which will require justification for hundred of millions of more dollars to be spent, or pay the future West Virginia (And similar states) employees less. The latter almost certainly would fail passage in congress because unfortunately the senators from the states you want to pay less to would never vote for it. It sucks because your point is spot on, just trying to think how it would ever pass & I’m drawing a blank.

      Fun fact… There are actually some California state court judges that make more then federal judges in California makes. That’s ridiculous.

      Liked by 1 person

      • This is a pointless proposal.
        Not only would it not pass into law but it would be swiftly, prima facie, stuck down in all the courts in all the land, even with the affection courts recused.
        It might seem unfair to you, but there is no workable way to correct this. No one needs to take a federal judgeship post. So when you do, you can’t complain about being paid the same as other judges on the same level. The cost of living increases and falls. And what about workload? Some courts, despite their location, have a lighter docket than others. If you open this door, won’t you just invite those more overworked judges to complain about their pay?
        No one should go into government for the salary. These people can make 10x more in private/corporate practice than they do on the bench. They should accept that.
        Somethings are just too impossible to even propose, like changing the senate. Somethings require a new revolution to change.

        Also, how come no one listed Oklahoma’s THREE district courts as prime merger candidates?

        In my proposal, ALL five Pacific coast states would be in one circuit.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I am STRONGLY against increasing the salary for federal judges period.
    The reason is that I want judicial positions to be far LESS attractive for BigLaw partners, as I want far fewer of those types of people on the bench. If your primary concern is fattening your bank account, then perhaps public service is not for you.

    The other concern I have is moving Oklahoma to the 5th Circuit. Oklahoma has a large Native population, and that population should be kept together with the Native population in Southwest. Hence I would leave in in the 10th.

    Liked by 1 person

      • So yes I would move Wyoming to your 12th if Hawaii is kept with California. But the 10th is currently perhaps the most underworked Circuit in the country. Adding Nevada and Arizona will increase its workload considerably. Wyoming adds a judge without adding much to the workload.

        I could probably support a COLA adjustment for federal employees to some degree, but in general I strongly disagree with CJ Roberts’ attempts to increase judicial salaries to make judgeships more attractive to BigLaw partners.


      • I have a different viewpoint regarding raising the salaries for federal judges being a bad thing. While I don’t want nor expect them to be millionaires based on their salaries, I do think the top of each branch of government should be paid better. I don’t have a number, but I think the amount should be raised, particularly with some state court judges in California making more then federal judges in the same state.

        As for the argument that big law firm partners will be more likely to jump ship for the judiciary, I don’t see that with a modest increase. If your a big law firm partner today & won’t leave your high paying salary for a judgeship, I don’t think an increase of 10 or 20k a year will change their minds.

        As I see it, the current pay disparity seems to be hurting progressives more then conservatives. I can’t think of any conservative federal judge in the past decade or so that has left the bench to go back to private practice. We had two Democrat appointees leave the 5th circuit & district court in Alabama respectively just in the past month.


  8. I guess I don’t understand this bout of sympathy for the pocketbooks of powerful federal judges. These people are not broke. And if money was such a concern, they shouldn’t have taken the job. I would not support any automatic changes, not even COLA.

    “If your a big law firm partner today & won’t leave your high paying salary for a judgeship, I don’t think an increase of 10 or 20k a year will change their minds.”

    By this same exact logic, 10 or 20k a year won’t be much of a factor to a judge toying with leaving the bench for BigLaw, where they can make millions.

    Trust me, people: the lawyers are OK.

    Potential new nomination

    It’s shocking how we’ve became OK or resigned to the fact that Biden and the Dems will leave at least 4 circuit vacancies on the table at the end of this Congress. Are we that confident in the Dems retaining the senate?


    • @Gavi

      So for me it’s not about sympathy. it’s about fairness. I (Perhaps unlike some others) actually want the best & brightest in the highest levels of our government. I don’t resign myself to believing that rules out many of the types of people Biden has nominated. But at the same token, while you are correct saying most of them are not broke, I do believe in basic fairness so I would say a raise, even slight raise is in order.

      As for being ok with leaving 4 circuit court seats vacant, my answer is split. On the Indiana seat I’m ok with it because the senators worked in good faith to get us a Doris Pryor so now that we have a last minute death & vacancy, I’m ok with them working with the senators again to find another conscience nominee. Remember even Trump & McConnell left two vacant circuit court seats open for Biden.

      As for the other 3 vacancies, NOPE, absolutely not ok with leaving them vacant. But the reality is the KBJ pick brought the nominating & vetting process to a screeching halt for the better part of 2 months. For some reason, the administration just couldn’t walk & chew gum at the same time. And now we get large & frequent batches in the Summer before the midterms. It simply doesn’t look like Durbin will hold any additional hearings. Without that changing, there’s no way all of the pending nominees will get a hearing this year, let alone confirmed. Although the 3 vacant non Indiana circuit court nominees certainly could get a hearing & confirmed before the end of the year so I definitely want those seats filled.


    • Senate Dems seem to be confident they will retain the Senate, which is incredibly stupid because there is nothing to support that. Many things say the opposite actually including it looking like CCM is sure to lose her seat and see Republicans flip that Senate seat.

      It also just comes down to the fact that Dems don’t treat the federal judiciary as life or death as Republicans do. They don’t have a farm factory like Republicans do with the Federalist Society whose sole purpose is to court and groom conservative judges from a young age to carry out their mission. Dems don’t care about the federal judiciary with the same intensity that Republicans do. You can say that with a lot of things in politics. Republicans do whatever they want. Dems don’t approach anything in that way.


  9. My hope is a bipartisan bill for judges next session. I think Republicans would agree to additional judges (both circuit and district) if Democrats agree to splitting the 9th Circuit, which isn’t unreasonable.

    I would add circuit judges as follows:
    1st Circ. (1), 5th Circ. (2), 9th Circ. (5), 11th Circ. (3)

    I would split the following states from the 9th Circ., to form the new 12th Circ.: Alaska, Montana, Idaho, Arizona and Nevada.


  10. Pingback: The Unexpected Opportunity – Assessing the Landscape of Judicial Vacancies | The Vetting Room

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