Jabari Wamble – Nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

The Kansas-based vacancy on the Tenth Circuit vacated by Judge Mary Briscoe in March 2021 is the oldest pending appellate vacancy on the federal judiciary. After eighteen months without a nominee, the White House has put forward the name of federal prosecutor Jabari Wamble.


Jabari Brooks Wamble got a B.A. from the University of Kansas in 2002 and a J.D. from the University of Kansas School of Law in 2006. After graduating, Wamble spent two years in the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office before becoming an assistant attorney general in Kansas.

In 2011, Wamble joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Kansas and has served there since.

Wamble is married to Marissa Cleaver, the daughter of U.S. Representative Emanuel Cleaver from Kansas City, Missouri.

History of the Seat

Wamble was tapped for a Kansas seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. The seat was vacated by Judge Mary Briscoe’s move to senior status on March 15, 2021.

Legal Career

Wamble has spent his entire career in criminal prosecution, albeit at three different levels. He started his career at the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office. From 2007 to 2011, Wamble served in the Kansas Attorney General’s office. While at the Attorney General’s office, Wamble defended the conviction of Oliver McWilliams for Medicaid fraud. See State v. McWilliams, 283 P.3d 187 (Kan. 2012). While the Court of Appeals reversed McWilliams’ conviction, the Kansas Supreme Court reinstated it over the dissent of Justice Johnson.

Since 2011, Wamble has served as a federal prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Kansas. Among his notable prosecutions with the office, Wamble prosecuted Richard Ballard, who pleaded guilty to wire fraud for collecting investment for environmentally friendly bottled water and pet chews, and then using the funds for personal use.

Wamble has also briefed and argued a number of appeals before the Tenth Circuit. For example, he was counsel of record in a suit that affirmed the defendant’s conviction for failing to pay child support. See United States v. Fuller, 751 F.3d 1150 (10th Cir. 2014).

Overall Assessment

Despite his youth, Wamble has built a solid reputation during his legal career, which likely speaks to Kansas Senator Jerry Moran’s relatively positive reaction to the nomination of a young Democrat for the Kansas seat. See Hannah Albarazi, Biden’s 10th Cir. Pick Seen as Humble Yet Savvy Prosecutor, Law360, Aug. 11, 2002. While some may criticize Wamble for having leapfrogged more experienced candidates due to his connection to Cleaver, there is little to criticize in Wamble’s record itself. If Democrats make his nomination a priority, Wamble will likely be confirmed before the end of the Congress.


  1. We waited over a year for a nominee for this seat but it was worth the wait. After 3,160 between Robert Wilkins confirmation in January 2014 until Andre Mathis confirmation last month, it doesn’t look like we will have to wait anywhere near as long for the next black man to be confirmed to a federal circuit court.

    I know Wamble has political connections due to his father in law but as I’ve stated many times on this site in the past, I’m ok with political patronage as long as I get what I want out of it. A 42 year old black man with a long legal career for a red state seat that is a Democrat is just what the doctor ordered.

    Hopefully Wamble has his SJC hearing by November 16th & if confirmed before the end of the year similar to how Republicans confirmed Thomas Kirsh to the 7th circuit even after Trump lost reelection. He will be a welcome addition to the circuit courts & depending on his opinions, he could be on a future SCOTUS list of consideration for years to come.


  2. If my math is correct, if Wamble/Benjamin get hearing dates on November 16 then they should get held over on December 1 and get votes on December 8. The senate is in session for two weeks after that so there should be sufficient time for confirmation votes for both.

    Of course, if Democrats keep the senate but lose the house then I suspect the focus will be mostly on legislation and these two will get pushed to next year.


    • Joe, that’s how I see it as well. I’d add that if the Dems net a senate seat or two, most of not all of the nominees that need a discharge vote will be confirmed next year. They won’t waste the 4 hours debate time, they will just send them back to the SJC & have them voted out with a majority in January so they won’t have to discharge them.


  3. Jabari Wamble
    Very pleased with this nomination. Before Wamble’s announcement, filling this 10th circuit vacancy was on my list of things that must happen by the end of the year. While I am glad that we finally have it, I don’t agree that it’s worth the wait. Yes, this nominee is worthy in and of himself, but the year+ wait is bad practice, even with the home state senators’ support. I am a go-as-fast-and-furiously-as-50-plus-one-votes-will-allow person. Which means I will be disappointed when there’s no replacement for Gregg Costa. Never being high on hopium, I don’t see Cruz/Cornyn’s sign off on a US attorney nominee as enlightened change in those senators, especially on a circuit court pick. I will take those senators allowing any of the 5 district court vacancies filled by Biden as a sign of good faith.

    Kevin de León
    Kevin de León is now embroiled in a racial scandal in Los Angeles. While he didn’t make any of the offensive comments in question, he didn’t push back against it. And, importantly, he was a full participant in trying to gerrymander black Angelinos into a position of less electoral power. I know many on here wish that Dianne Feinstein hadn’t run again. But with her victory over him, she saved us from someone who would do this. Sometimes these things are blessings in disguise.
    Notwithstanding, the issue of Feinstein’s current fitness to serve is a separate and legitimate question.
    I don’t engage in the sort of racialized/identity politics that a disheartening number of Dems do but I am very concerned about the fracturing of the relations of minority racial groups, who should be allies and not set against each other. I will keep a close eye on the voting coalition for Karen Bass to see how much, if any, damage was done.
    Another fault line in New York (and the country in general) is education. This pits Asian-Americans against black and other students. I and most Asian-Americans in NYC staunchly oppose getting rid of the admissions test for the specialized high schools here. On the college and national level, any of the two affirmative action cases currently before SCOTUS will only exacerbate that issue.

    Liked by 1 person

    • @Gavi

      Very very good insight. I completely agree Feinstein winning was a blessing in disguises as I was one who supported Kevin de León (Albeit more so because at the time California had never had a Hispanic senator & I thought they should). But neither hear nor there, I agree, you are correct there.

      I’m not familiar with the NYC admissions test issue so I won’t comment on that. I just don’t know anything about the subject to have an opinion. I do know that the governor needs to pick a much more progressive justice for the SCOTUS Chief Justice vacancy though.

      As for my worth the wait comment for the 10th Circuit, I too don’t like a year & a half wait to fill a circuit court seat. I was more referring to if we can get a nominee that can excite me while also getting a home state GOP senators support, I would be willing to wait as long as the seat gets filled. If you look at Tennessee, we waited 10 months from the time Mathis was announced to confirmed so did we really gain any time? But I doubt either Tennessee senator would have worked in good faith because they judge McMullim who would not have excited me whatsoever. Wamble is a good red state pick im my view.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wamble (and Benjamin) have pretty traditional career paths/not much of a progressive background, but I’m glad we’re hopefully going to fill these red-state vacancies on appellate courts with Democratic majorities. I can see how Wamble’s selection in particular can feel a little bit nepotism-y (as Harsh’s write-up mentions, it seems unlikely he would’ve been picked without the Cleaver connection). At this point, however, I’ll accept whatever it takes to fill an appellate seat with a Democratic appointee. Durbin/Schumer just need to be sure to actually confirm both of them (as well as every other court of appeals nominee) when they get back from recess, because the Dems’ chances of holding the Senate seem more remote by the day.

    Also, the fact that Biden essentially gave up on the Maryland and New Hampshire vacancies is completely and utterly ridiculous. Costa’s seat on the 5th was always going to be a fight with Cruz/Cornyn (and let’s be honest, the Democratic nominees are so outnumbered on the 5th that it doesn’t really make a difference), but MD and NH both have two Democratic senators. Motz and Howard announced that they would take senior status last December and this January, respectively, and especially with MD, there’s a wealth of talent in the DC area.

    Sinema is horrible for many reasons, but given how little the other Democratic senators have done about vacancies, I have to give her props for getting Desai confirmed so quickly. I mean, what do Van Hollen and Cardin (the MD senators) even do? They’re in safely blue seats and are hardly high-profile (I had no idea who they even were), so filling Motz’s seat is literally the one time they matter this Congress. And I get that Hassan has to run for reelection, but would it have been that hard for Shaheen to just recommend literally one person sometime in the last nine months? If she felt really lazy, she could’ve just re-recommended Samantha Elliott.


    • All good points Hank. As I’ve said before, the only one of the four circuit court vacancies without a nominee I could see not getting a nominee before the end of the year & it being acceptable was the Indiana seat. And that’s because it was an unexpected death that led to the vacancy combined with the senators working in good faith on the last vacancy to get Doris Pryor.

      There’s little reason the Texas seat doesn’t have a nominee with the advance notice Costa gave. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever the New Hampshire & Maryland seats don’t have a nominee. We have to hope now the Dems can hold the majority because with the extra two week recess, there’s simply not enough time this year left to get all of the pending nominees a SJC hearing, let alone floor vote.


  5. No one seems to remember this, but Andre Mathis was poorly served by the people who guided his nomination. As Dequan pointed out in an earlier post, the White House made some avoidable errors and it nearly sunk Mathis’s confirmation.

    I don’t know the inside story of the Wamble nomination. His background seem to be conventional, though he seems a more likely nominee for U.S. Attorney than Circuit Judge. I don’t know how the U.S. Senators from Kansas are going to react or when he’ll be voted out of committee.


      • The Senate Judiciary Committee didn’t even issue blue slips to Tennessee’s Senators at all, the first time in history that has happened. Even if they wanted to turn in blue slips, they couldn’t have because they never got them. Dick Durbin later apologized for this.

        Also, the White House announced the nomination of Mathis without notifying the Senators. They literally learned it from the papers. Even the Trump White House never did that.

        While Mathis is personally blameless for these missteps, they nearly sank his nomination.


      • This mistake would be more forgivable if it were repeated for the KS and TX seats. I don’t get why Biden would do this for the TN seats but then take forever to fill the KS and TX seats. Maybe he was scared of doing it after the backlash against Mathis? Not an excuse but an explanation


      • Ryan, my guess is that is precisely the reason. Someone made a mistake and so Biden is slow walking nominations where he doesn’t have home state cooperation. I don’t necessarily agree with it but that seems to be the strategy and it’s mostly been effective (though there is a long way to go).


  6. Seeing the nonsense judicial decisions coming out of the fifth circuit, in this case with the CFPB, it just infuriates me even more that biden has not nominated anyone for the open vacancy on the court, the idea of trying to work in good faith with right wing hacks like cruz and coryn is an insult to every minority voter who supported biden, cruz is a vile man, and the thought that biden would even think to seek his counsel on judgeships is shameful.
    Time and time again they show there is no urgency when it comes to judicial nominees.
    Btw the 538 senate odds for the GOP keep going up and up day by day, cortez masto is now below 50 percent chance of winning in NV. The way things are mcconnell has a great chance of being majority leader and these clowns are yet to nominate anyone for the 5th circuit vacancy and the 4th circuit other seats, its just malpractice and incompetence by biden and schumer.
    It sickens me to the core, that a disgusting degenerate like ted cruz who couldn’t even feign compassion after the massacre of innocent children in his state, has any say whatsoever or influence over a 5th circuit nominee, but biden is a political coward who doesn’t want to anger anyone. Clown
    Its one thing if they knew the senate was in the bag but that’s simply not reality. The chances they lose the majority are strong.

    Liked by 1 person

      • @Delco

        I actually am very interested in knowing the process of post confirmation to the signing of the commission process. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to it. For instance, both Gustavo Gelpí & Lucy Koh went from district court to circuit court judge in one day. However, Stephanie D. Davis was confirmed May 24th but not commissioned until June 14th.

        But the disparity seems to be much greater when the new judge is coming from private practice. While I don’t have any evidence to back it up, I’ve been told the delay is almost always the nominee wanting to finish up their legal activity in their private practice that they will not be able to work on once they become a judge. I will assume the Freeman delay is for that reason & not on Biden not signing the commission yet.

        Freeman, unlike Roopali Desai who was confirmed 35 days before Salvador Mendoza Jr. but commissioned after him, will not be passed up by either Cindy Chung or Tamika Montgomery-Reeves. The senate does not come back in session until November 14th. Even if Schumer sends a cloture motion to the desk for either of them, they wouldn’t vote for cloture on them until Wednesday, November 16th. The confirmation wouldn’t happen until the next day on the 17th. That’s 28 days from now on top of the 22 days since Freeman was confirmed. I see no way she will take that long to receive her commission so she should still be in front of both of them in seniority when it’s all said & done.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. @Hank
    “… [L]et’s be honest, the Democratic nominees are so outnumbered on the 5th that it doesn’t really make a difference…”
    In my opinion, this is the second worse take on courts, only a step behind being resigned to leaving any vacancy unfilled. You do not get to 50 or 51 let alone 100% before starting at 1. It’s that simple. So, while Costa’s replacement would spend most of their career writing dissents, at least they have a seat at the table. And one can become two, two becomes three, etc. This thinking is why Mitch McConnell is, unfortunately, the only one who gets to write a book called “The Long Game.” Dems think too much of instant gratification. Republicans know the value of patience. The 6-3 balance on SCOTUS didn’t come about overnight. After decades of Republican majorities, they finally got it right with their appointees. Only in a fast car you get to go from 0 to 60 in 3.5. For everything else, you have to start from somewhere.
    I am particularly displeased about Costa’s seat so more liable to offer strong pushbacks. But on the other vacancies, I totally agree with you. It’s mind-boggling that MD and NH don’t have nominees yet. Unlike you, though, I cannot blame the senators yet. As I’ve said repeatedly, the WH takes the lead on circuit court vacancies. So Biden’s team is by default the ones to blame, until we learn more information via STJ questionnaires.

    Agree with most of your comment. I just have to say that as vile as Cruz/Cornyn are, I concede that Biden has to TRY to work with them. The WH should make sure that those consultations aren’t done in a bad faith, dilatory manner. Biden has had since January to work with those senators on finding a replacement.
    I have long believed that GOP would win the senate, as much as I hope that I am wrong. Therefore, I’ve been a little impatient with the excuses and complacency on this site about why these vacancies aren’t being filled.
    Most of these excuses are based on the premise that Dems will keep the senate. On your head be it.


  8. @Dequan

    We’ve been talking about U.S. Attorneys, which neither of us is that knowledgeable about. One of Biden’s nominees has generated controversy. Veteran AUSA Casey Arrowhead has been nominated for U.S. Attorney for Eastern Tennessee. Arrowhead was involved in the failed prosecution of Anming Hu, a professor who was acquitted of all charges against him after a controversial case that was said to be weak on evidence, but strong on race baiting. Members of the AAPI community have denounced the nomination and an editorial from a local paper has called for a review of his nomination.



    • Hmmmm… Well US Attorney’s aren’t really an area I’m well versed in but just by the eye test, I would say his nomination probably won’t result in confirmation. If AAPI groups are coming out against him I would look for senators Hirono and/or Duckworth to rank his nomination.


      • Sometimes I do wonder if it’s worth it to try to get my list into the hands of people with influence, even if it’s a hail mary attempt. My uncle’s nephew (through the other side of his family) is the former General Counsel of the EPA (his name is Avi Garbow). And someone I went to middle school with (I’m connected with him on LinkedIn but am not close with him) works in the White House Personnel Office I believe. I should think about it once the outcome of the midterms is known.


      • Ethan you should not underestimate yourself. While I’ve never stepped foot into a law school, the judiciary has been my number one politics passion since my first vote didn’t count in the 2000 presidential election when I voted here in Miami & had a pregnant Chad. And in the past 22 years since I first asked myself who are these Supreme Court justices that decided my vote won’t count & how did they get to be on the court, your list is the most detailed list I’ve seen.

        And this is comparing it to list from advocacy groups like Demand Justice & The People’s Parity Project. If you have a way to get your list into the right hands, I definitely would advise you to go for it. There are names I never heard of before & by some of the nominees I’ve seen, apparently some of the Democrat senators have never heard of them either.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for the words of encouragement. It’s definitely something I’ll go for. I’m a heckler for details and research. And I didn’t get into the judiciary until Biden won and I wanted to know who he was picking in his effort to neutralize Trump’s footprint on the courts.


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

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