Julia Kobick, who currently works with the Massachusetts Solicitor General’s Office, brings a star-studded resume to her appointment to the federal bench.
Kobick received a B.A. from Harvard University in 2005, and then obtained a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2010.
After graduation, Kobick clerked for Judge Dennis Saylor on the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, for Judge Michael Chagares on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and then for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Kobick subsequently joined the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, serving as Deputy Attorney General until 2021, when she became Deputy State Solicitor for the state.
History of the Seat
Kobick has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts opened by Judge William Young’s move to senior status on July 1, 2021.
After her clerkships, Kobick has spent her entire legal career with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, serving both as deputy attorney general and the deputy state solicitor. Early in her time with the office, Kobick defended a statute authorizing involuntary commitment orders for those with serious alcoholism and substance abuse disorders. See, In the Matter of G.P., 40 N.E.3d 989 (Mass. 2015).
Among the notable matters she handled there, Kobick sued the Trump Administration for its rollback of the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage mandate. See AG Healey Sues the Trump Administration for Roll Back of Contraceptive Coverage Mandate, States News Service, Oct. 6, 2017. Kobick was also part of the legal team defending Massachusetts’ “Right to Repair” law, which mandates access to car diagnostic and repair systems. See Chris Vilani, ‘Irritated’ Judge Nearing Verdict on Mass. Car Data Law, Law360, Feb. 2, 2022. Kobick also defended Massachusetts’ mask mandate during the pandemic. See Brian Dowling, End of Mask Order Moots Legal Challenge, Mass. Justices Say, Law360, May 2, 2022.
Writings and Statements
Kobick has authored a number of articles discussing and analyzing the law. As a law student, Kobick discussed a finding of an “intent to discriminate” in challenging facially neutral laws under the Equal Protection Clause. See Julia Kobick, Discriminatory Intent Reconsidered: Folk Concepts of Intentionality and Equal Protection Jurisprudence, 45 Harv. C.R.-C.L. L. Rev. 517 (Summer 2010). In the paper, Kobick suggests broadening the analysis of intentionality to include considerations of the foreseeability that facially neutral laws might cause harm to particular groups. See id. at 562.
Kobick also addressed the intentionality of actions and the moral implications thereof in another article she co-authored. See Julia Kobick and Joshua Knobe, Symposium: Is Morality Universal, and Should the Law Care?: Interpreting Intent: How Research on Folk Judgments of Intentionality Can Inform Statutory Analysis, 75 Brooklyn L. Rev. 409 (Winter 2009). In this piece, Kobick discussed intentionality in the context of environmental liability when an actor does not intend the negative impacts of their actions but is aware that such impacts are likely to occur. See id. at 412. In the context of a recent Supreme Court decision, Kobick suggests incorporating folk understandings of morality in determining intentionality. Id. at 431.
Kobick also authored a paper as a law student recommending that the Food and Drug Administration use “negotiated rulemaking,” a form of rulemaking that involves early buy-in from stakeholders (as opposed to notice-and-comment rulemaking, which has stakeholders submit comments after a proposed rule has already been drafted) to formulate rules and regulations. See Julia Kobick, Negotiated Rulemaking: The Next Step in Regulatory Innovation at the Food and Drug Administration?, 65 Food Drug L.J. 425 (2010).
Kobick’s campaign donations include contributions to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttegieg and to Healey.
Having clerked for Justice Ginsburg and with a long record of advocacy on behalf of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office, Kobick presents a mirror image to the youthful Clarence Thomas clerks that President Trump frequently nominated to the federal bench. If Kobick is able to squeeze through the Senate calendar, she will likely be strongly considered for elevation to the First Circuit or beyond.
Simply put, this is a stellar nominee. I think if Rinkleman was nominated to a circuit court from another state, this could have been the Massachusetts nominee for the 1st Circuit.
You’re probably right.
I noticed her donation to Pete Buttegieg occurred back in 2010, before he became Mayor. I think she was donating to his campaign for Indiana state Treasurer.
I saw that too. That’s kind of an odd donation. But she probably has some connection we don’t know about to Indiana or him specifically.
I don’t know about any Indiana connections. I think she’s originally from Providence, Rhode Island.
Regarding the Rikelman seat, I do wonder if Bessie Dewar was offered the seat but turned it down. Several of you on this site have speculated that Rikelman was nominated specifically for the purpose of creating sound bites that could be used for attack ads against Republicans. While I do think that’s possible, it also boggles my mind that someone with the resume of Bessie Dewar was passed over, unless she turned it down.
I find it hard to believe anybody most lawyers would turn down ANY, let alone a circuit court judgeship. Maybe unless they have their heart set out in a political life. Perhaps Dewar does. I know Rikelman’s questionnaire stated she was interviewed for the district court seat at first so between that & the long time it took for them to announce a nominee makes me think they had another person in mind at some point.
I feel like I do remember people on here speculating that Dewar might run for AG of Massachusetts. She didn’t, but could still happen someday.
Both attended Harvard (though not at the same time), so that’s probably the connection
Not a surprise, but Durbin confirms a nomination hearing will be held on the 12th
October 12th is good. October 12th & 19th would be spectacular.
Julia Kobick and Pete Buttigieg were elected and served together on Harvard’s IOP back in the day. Yeah, it would be so random to support a n unknown candidate for an obscure state office.
From Kobick seems like a very good nominee. I really hope she’ll be confirmed before the end of this congress.
Re: The Wisconsin Senators
I think Tammy Baldwin has reasoned that Johnson is an irrevocable ‘no’ on the marriage equality bill. She reamed him out yesterday in what some articles are calling a break from tradition of not attacking fellow home state senator up for reelection (which is BS).
If Johnson’s vote is indeed unwinnable, that means there’s an even tighter margin for the bill’s passage. I can’t count 10 Republicans without it being much of a stretch. If the bill is destined to failure, then the Dems should have taken the vote right before the midterms.
For my part, I am very comfortable with Baldwin leaning into Johnson. He’s been an unreliable home state partner. I am gun shy when it comes to Johnson losing (2016 still smarts!) but what a glorious thing that would be.
“I find it hard to believe anybody most lawyers would turn down ANY, let alone a circuit court judgeship.”
Trust me, this isn’t as unbelievable as you might think. Someone getting “passed” over for a judgeship doesn’t usually surprise me because there are sooo many perfectly normal factors that may be the cause. I know one of your top wish list candidate is Melissa Murray but I have a greater chance of eating my own head than of her *accepting* a judicial commission. I am less sure about Leah Litman, but would be very very surprised if she’s offered/accepted a nomination.
Unempirically, I think most high powered attorneys are like Gregg Costa, with a zeal for advocacy on the bar side of things.
Those “norms” are long gone for Republicans. I remember when GW Bush went to South Dakota & campaigned for John Thune against then senate leader Tom Daschle. I was shocked back then. Senator Johnson has broken so many norms that I’ve lost count. I truly hope Wisconsin dumps him this November.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Agree with you 100% on your point to Dequan here. Another key factor, which limits the amount of corporate lawyers that apply for federal judgeships, is the relatively low pay annually, which is even below what some state court judges make.
@Dequan, as you may or may not have notice (not sure if you have my list open right now), I have added a bunch of Native-American tribal judges to my list. Any thoughts on the people I’ve added?
Oh I have to take a look tonight when I get home. I’m off weekends so during the week I usually breeze through your list but take a deeper dive into it on my off days.
As you know (After Hispanics & black men) I have wanted to see Biden nominate more Native-American judges. I would love for one to be for a circuit court so I definitely will take a look.
I did put a few on circuit court lists, but most were in states that likely won’t have a vacancy for a while. I will go ahead and preview one right here. For a 10th circuit seat in Oklahoma, I put Chrissi Ross Nimmo, who is Deputy Attorney General of the Cherokee Nation. She has argued a case before the United States Supreme Court. And her Twitter makes her views clear. She will need to scrub that if she is ever nominated, but given that it is a while before either Jerome Holmes or Robert Bacharach are eligible for senior status, she has plenty of time. And she is young enough (1980) that she’ll still be reasonably young by then. I suppose there’s also an outside chance she could be nominated for one of the vacant Northern District of Oklahoma seats in Tulsa (where she lives), but it’s not likely that Oklahoma’s GOP Senators would agree to turn in their blue slips. But I still say there’s an outside chance since Markwayne Mullin (I unfortunately know that Kendra Horn has no chance of beating him) is Native American himself and may push for a Native American Judge in Oklahoma.
*error. She does not live in Tulsa, she lives an hour outside Tulsa. But her husband is a Tulsa firefighter, so she could still be nominated for a Tulsa based seat.
That’s a great example of somebody that would make a good Native American nominee. As you mentioned with only 4 circuit court vacancies left & many district court vacancies in states that have large Native American populations being in red or purple states, it’s tough to see where too many can be nominated to realistically.
If I had to guess at the beginning of the administration, I would have guessed at least one to be names at vacant seats in the 9th or 10th. If Dems can hold the majority we shall see what seats will become vacant over the next two years. I think looking at the ages of the circuit court judges, California is probably the best chance to see it happen since Biden has already nominated Sunshine Sykes has already been nominated to the district court. Lydia Kay Griggsby is too old to be elevated.
In addition to Chrissi Ross Nimmo that we discussed earlier today, here’s some other names I reviewed from your additions
Thomasina Real Bird (born c. 1980) – Colorado
Shannon Bears Cozzoni (born c. 1971) – Probably a little older than I would want but for Oklahoma I guess a good compromise.
Michalyn Steele (born c. 1970) – This is actually a name I’ve heard about before & would be good for Utah.
Anne McKeig (born 1967) – Another name I’m familiar with but too old for Minnesota.
Megan Treuer (born c. 1979) – Much better choice for Minnesota. Wonderful family story
Nicole Ducheneaux (born c. 1981) – Seems good for Nebraska.
Erin Shanley (born c. 1980) – South Dakota would be a great state for a Native America judge but I doubt it will have vacancies anytime soon sadly.
Amanda White Eagle (born c. 1979) – She would be worth nominating just to see Ron Johnson go crazy… Lol
Ethel Branch (born c. 1978) – Would be a great choice for Arizona & younger than Stacy Leeds (born c. 1971).
Danna Jackson (born c. 1971) – I think Anthony Johnstone was a better pick.
Several of those are not additions and have been there a while. But thank you for your thoughts as always. Also, I believe your comment about Thomasina Real Bird was cut off.
Oh yea, we haven’t really discussed Native American possibilities too much so thought I would give my two cents on some I’ve seen on your list before. And uuuggghhh, sometimes this wedsite can remind me why I should copy/paste… Haaaaa
I checked the Judiciary Committee vote on September 29. Tamika Reeves Montgomery got more votes than Cindy Chung. I wasn’t expecting that. Reeves Montgomery did pro bono work for a prisoner’s rights group, while Chung is a career prosecutor. But John Cornyn voted for Reeves Montgomery. I wonder what that was about?
I completely agree Russ…smh
Kobick is a decent nominee because she’s young – not a particularly progressive career since she’s been in the Attorney General’s office the whole time, and I’m glad Rikelman was nominated to the First Circuit instead. She could be nominated to fill Barron’s seat when he goes senior (though Barron is only 55 right now, so it won’t be for a while).
I saw a lot of great names on Native American judges, but considering a lot of the states named (WI, OK, MN) aren’t likely to have courts of appeals vacancies anytime soon unless a Republican appointee unexpectedly passes away. I only think three seats are likely in the near future:
1. 4th Circuit (MD): Currently open, could be filled by Lydia Kay Griggsby, who is half Native. She’s not my preference since her career is not particularly progressive and she’d be an older nominee, but this administration has elevated sitting judges in their mid-50s multiple times now. I’m not sure what the delay has been with filling this seat, but my guess is that the administration will pick a more centrist candidate to avoid needing a discharge vote because of the limited time left to confirm judges.
2. 9th Circuit (WA): If Dems hold the Senate, Ronald Gould may go senior (and I certainly hope the WH or the WA Senators start that conversation with him). Lauren King seems like a strong contender here, though the administration has a lot of great options here.
3. 9th Circuit (CA): Kim McLane Wardlaw could go senior in 2023/24 as well – she’s a pretty liberal judge so I don’t know why she hasn’t already (may need some encouragement from the administration as well). Sunshine Sykes would be a strong contender for this seat since she currently sits on C.D. Cal., where Wardlaw sat before her elevation.
Great analysis. Kobick seems pretty progressive to me. Even though she worked in the AG’s office, their work seems to be on the progressive side including suing Trump. But I too was fine with Rinkleman getting the circuit court seat despite losing a decade on age because no other openly reproduction rights nominees have come out from Biden, so I think this sends a strong message.
As for the 4th Circuit (MD), yesterday I too mentioned Lydia Kay Griggsby. I also think she’s too old. I am hoping the long delay means we will get a better nominee.
If Ronald Gould goes senior (I hope to God he does before the end of 2024), Lauren King most certainly will get a strong look (As long as her opinions are in line with what we all think they will be). I personally would go with Jamal Whitehead just to replace one disabled judge with another since David Tatel wasn’t replaced with a disabled judge on the DC circuit. I believe Gould is the only active circuit court judge with a disability.
As for the 9th Circuit (CA), I’m actually confident more than one California judge will go senior by the end of Biden’s first term. I’m hoping at least one of the three GW Bush judges does so as all three are eligible today. I also mentioned yesterday Sunshine Sykes is a strong contender as there will likely be multiple vacancies to give her a good chance at elevation.
@Dequan I’d be good with either Whitehead or King as the nominee (I’d personally prefer Tiffany Cartwright because of her age + civil rights work), but I think King is more likely simply because of the historic nature of her being the first Native COA judge, whereas there have been COA judges with disabilities before. If they nominate Griggsby to the 4th Circuit seat, then I do think King’s chances of elevation go down slightly.
Mostly disagree on the CA 9th Circuit seats – the remaining GWB judges are Callahan, M. Smith, and Ikuta. Callahan and Ikuta are among the most right-wing of the pre-Trump judges on the 9th, and there’s no chance they would go senior under a Democratic president/Senate unless they have health issues.
Smith is more of a moderate conservative, so he’s the most likely out of all of them to go senior. His brother was a Republican Senator though, and my guess is that he thinks Biden’s nominees have been too progressive for him to let Biden and a Democratic Senate choose his successor. He seems like the type who would retire under a Dem president/Republican Senate
or vice versa (Julia Smith Gibbons on the 6th is another judge who likely feels similarly), but we all know that there’s no way McConnell would confirm any of Biden’s COA nominees. He is 80 though so it’s possible, but I don’t think it’s likely (I certainly hope I’m wrong on this).
So basically Wardlaw and Gould go senior or Biden’s not filling any more 9th Circuit seats – Rawlinson has already said she would if the administration nominates the clerk she wants, but they haven’t shown any willingness to do so.
When I was referring to any of the GW Bush appointees possibly leaving the bench, I was factoring in their ages. For instance Judge Smith is in his 80’s. While of course I wish all of them good health, just being realistic that judges in their 80’s may leave the bench in the next two years for any number of reasons.
As for judge Rawlinson, she’s another disgrace trying to use her seat to pick her successor. Her & judge Hurd both should step down. If I were the administration I would make it clear I wouldn’t pick the clerk she mentioned even if she otherwise would have been considered. They need to start pushing back on demands like this in order to brush back other judges who might try to do the same thing.
Julia Smith Gibbons has been a judge for close to 40 years ever since Reagan appointees her to the district court. I hope she or a couple other 6th circuit judges retires in the next 2 years. Same thing with the 5th circuit.
Are there any other GOP appointed Judges from other circuits that may go Senior under Biden?
Ilana Rovner is 84 years old and definitely seems like she didn’t want Trump picking her successor.
Lavenski Smith and Harris Hartz are possibilities as well, but I can’t think of any others.
I would say Ilana Rovner is the most likely to voluntarily step down before 2025. Now factoring in age, I would say the following are strong possibilities in addition to her…
Karen Henderson (DC)
Paul V. Niemeyer (4th)
Jerry Edwin Smith (5th)
Leslie H. Southwick (5th)
Julia Gibbons (6th)
James B. Loken (8th)
Milan Smith (9th)
Harris Hartz (10th)
Pauline Newman (Federal)
Alan David Lourie (Federal)
do you not think Lavenski Smith is a possibility?
I actually read up on Lavenski Smith the other night. So he is listed as a Republican but he’s a black guy from Arkansas so not sure if he went that route because he knows that’s the only path to becoming a judge on a red state like that or if he’s more like Clarence Thomas. I would say probably not gonna see him retire in the next two years.
Lavenski Smith was an Arkansas state judge appointed by Mike Huckabee when W. appointed him to the Federal bench. Arkansas was still a Democratic state in local and state elections back then.
Gibbons, Loken, and M. Smith are all relatively moderate and decently likely to go senior, but Loken and M. Smith may never go senior. Rovner is very liberal but seemingly has decided to stay active until she feels she’s incapable of doing the job.
I would love to see Biden get the opportunity to replace several of those, in addition to a bunch of Clinton/Obama appointees.
And also, I’m pretty sure Pauline Newman will never take senior status at this point.
I agree with that. The Federal Circuit is less partisan than the regular circuit courts, and Newman’s views on patent law differ from a majority of the court, so she might not trust either party to replace her with someone as pro-patent as herself.
No way Karen Henderson and Paul Niemeyer would voluntarily allow Biden/Dems to replace them.
Ah ok, so Lavenski Smith may not be as bad as a Black Republican from Arkansas today might be then.
Yea I agree Pauline Newman probably will not retire. But she’s 95 years old so I was trying to be nice by saying I think she will leave the bench before 2025 without saying how I think that likely will happen.
And while Pauline Newman is the oldest federal judge on active duty, Alfred T. Goodwin (1923- 99 years old) of the 9th circuit) is supposedly still on active senior status. But I haven’t seen any evidence of that other than Wikipedia. Does anyone have evidence of recent cases he ruled on that prove he is actually still hearing cases?
According to the Federal Judicial Center, Alfred T. Goodwin is still on senior status.
But any evidence he is actually hearing cases? When a judge assumes inactive senior status, is it ever reported?
Not always. Some senior judges are unofficially inactive. The latest 9th circuit opinion I recall that Goodwin was a member of was in late 2016. A lot of the other senior judges are also not hearing many cases. From what I’ve observed, the biggest indicator of how many cases a senior judge is putting out is not age, but rather it’s how recently they’ve gone senior. Recent senior judges such as Berzon, W. Fletcher, Paez, Graber, and even Bea, Bybee, & O’Scannlain are still hearing a lot of cases, but the judges who went senior 15+ years ago are not hearing many cases anymore.
Courtlistener.org shows that he hasn’t heard any argument since 2016. https://www.courtlistener.com/person/1238/alfred-theodore-goodwin/
Maybe he’s on active senior status in name only.
Yea I would assume he isn’t actively still hearing cases, but he could if he wanted to. I think when you’re on senior status you can decide if you want to hear cases or not. But if you retire you no longer get cost of living increased in pay so most judges decide to go senior instead as long as they are not going to be doing any work that would be a conflict of interest with them being a judge.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Yes, this is true. I think the rule is you have to be hearing at least a 25% caseload in order to get the cost of living increases.
I thought Rovner would’ve gone senior in the last two years – she’s probably the most liberal active Republican appointee at this point, so I wonder what’s stopping her.
Lavenski Smith is a staunch social conservative, so I highly doubt he’d willingly vacate his seat for a Democratic president to replace him. I agree that Henderson/Niemeyer aren’t willingly going senior under a Democratic administration, and neither will Smith or Southwick.
M. Smith, Loken, Hartz, and Gibbons are more moderate, so they’re possible. Gibbons was pretty involved in Republican politics before joining the bench though (and her husband ran in the Republican primary for Governor of TN in 2010), so she’s probably less likely unless it’s for health reasons.
These days it’s pretty unlikely for a vacancy to open up unless a judge willingly goes senior (Wikipedia has an interesting page on it actually: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deaths_of_United_States_federal_judges_in_active_service). Of the 179 active federal appellate seats, it only happened once (Kanne on CA7) in the last two years, so ideology is far more predictive than age in terms of when a vacancy arises.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Some judges have willingly gone senior knowing that death is imminent (both Katzmann & Hall on CA2 did this). Had Trump won a 2nd term, I think Katzmann would have stayed on the bench until he died.
If I remember correctly, judge Hall died the same week he went senior. So his death was definitely imminent. I wish other judges had held on longer including the Kansas district court judge Carlos M. He was accused of sexually harassment but I think he could have stayed on the bench 6 more months & taken a leave of absence instead of letting Trump out a conservative in his 40’s to replace him. I mean his reputation is shot & he won’t get his retirement regardless so mine as well fight until the election passed.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Carlos M. was 2-3 years away from getting his retirement, so if he stalled the process it would be possible, though impeachment proceedings might have been levied against him. Though he had a Kansas district court seat so any Biden replacement would have to get blue slips from Moran & Marshall.
I would tether the seat remain vacant then a 40 year old conservative. Or at least have another seat to negotiate with. Instead of a 1 for 1 deal now it could have been 2 or 1.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Perhaps Rovner wants to stay on the bench until she dies. Rovner has been eligible to take status since 2003(!) and has declined to take senior status under 4 different presidents.
Yeah you’re probably right that Rovner is not going to leave the Seventh Circuit voluntarily – I’ve never understood judges who do this. She can keep the same caseload as a senior if she wants, and all she loses is presiding over panels and voting on en banc calls. I don’t know why any judge would care about presiding over a panel, and Rovner’s outnumbered 7-4 by the conservatives on CA7 so it’s not even like her vote matters for en banc purposes.