Monica Ramirez Almadani – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California

Monica Ramirez Almadani is the second Biden nominee to the Central District of California to have served as President of Public Counsel, after Judge Hernan Vera.


A native Californian, Ramirez Almadani received a B.A. from Harvard University in 2001 and a J.D. from Stanford Law School in 2004.

After law school, Ramirez Almadani clerked for Judge Warren Ferguson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. She then joined the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project as a staff attorney. In 2009, Ramirez Almadani moved to the Department of Justice as counsel to Assistant Secretary Tom Perez and then as senior counsel and chief of staff for Deputy Attorney General James Cole.

In 2012, Ramirez Almadani moved to Los Angeles to be a federal prosecutor. Three years later, she shifted to the Attorney General’s Office, serving as a senior advisor to then Attorney General Kamala Harris.

In 2017, Ramirez Almadani joined Covington & Burling as a special counsel. She held that position until she became President of the public interest law firm Public Counsel.

History of the Seat

Ramirez Almadani has been nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, to a seat vacated on April 1, 2022, by Judge John Kronsdadt.

Legal Experience

While Ramirez Almadani has held a variety of positions throughout her legal career, she has particularly made a name for herself in the field of immigration law. For example, she represented Juan Manuel Montes, a beneficiary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, who sued the Trump Administration after he was deported. See Deported DACA Recipient Sues Trump Administration for Unlawfully Withholding Information, Targeted News Service, Apr. 18, 2017. Ramirez Almadani was the primary attorney in the suit under the Freedom of Information Act. See Ray Sanchez, Laura Jarrett and Rosalina Nieves, Judge Attacked by Trump Could Order Return of Deported Man,, Aug. 23, 2017.

Ramirez Almadani also represented the California state legislature as amicus curiae in a Chicago suit challenging Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ conditioning of grants to the end of sanctuary city policies. See City of Chi. v. Sessions, 888 F.3d 272 (7th Cir. 2018). She was part of the legal team for the City of Los Angeles in another suit challenging the same policies under Attorney General Bill Barr. See City of Los Angeles v. Barr, 941 F.3d 931 (9th Cir. 2019).

Similarly, in her role as co-Director of the Immigration Clinic of the University of California, Irvine, Ramirez Almadani represented Kelvin Hernandez Roman, who sued the Orange County Sheriff’s Department for failing to comply with California sanctuary laws. See

Writings & Commentary

In her roles, Ramirez Almadani has frequently commented on the law in the media. For example, she criticized Republican John Cox’s statements on forcing homeless individuals to get mental health treatment. See Meghan Roos, Mental Health Experts Assail John Cox’s Plan to ‘Force’ Homeless Into Treatment,, June 29, 2021.

In 2022, Ramirez Almadani was Berkeley Law’s graduation ceremony speaker. See Staci Zaretsky, Law Schools Are Bringing Out the Best Legal Names as Speakers for In-Person Graduation Ceremonies, Above the Law, May 11, 2022.

Overall Assessment

Of all the pending California nominees, Ramirez Almadani is likely to draw the most opposition. Republicans will likely object to her work at the ACLU and in suing the Trump Administration. Nonetheless, the expanded Democratic senate majority should be sufficient to confirm her.

Judge Marian Gaston – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California

State Judge Marian Gaston, who has spent all of her pre-bench career as a public defender, has now been nominated to the federal bench in San Diego.


Marian Gaston received a Bachelor of Arts from Emory University in 1993 and then a Juris Doctor from UC Berkeley School of Law in 1996.

Gaston then joined the San Diego County Public Defender’s Office. She held that position until Governor Edmund Brown appointed Gaston to the San Diego County Superior Court in 2015, where she currently serves.

History of the Seat

Gaston has been nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, to a seat vacated on August 1, 2021, by Judge William Hayes’ move to senior status.

Legal Experience

Before she was appointed to the state bench, Gaston spent nineteen years, her entire legal career, as a public San Diego. Among the cases she handled there, Gaston represented Jason Williams, who pleaded guilty to a hate crime for attacking a black neighbor with a flamethrower. See Escondido Man Sentenced to Prison for Hate Attack, A.P. State & Local Wire, June 28, 2000.

In other matters, Gaston represented Matthew Hedge, who was alleged with violating his release as a sexually violent prisoner. See Kelly Wheeler, Polygraph Expert: Sexually Violent Predator Lied During Routine Test, City News Service, Dec. 9, 2009. She also represented Philong Huynh, charging with sexually assaulting multiple heterosexual men in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, and with killing one. See Kelly Wheeler, Prosectuor: Accused Killer Targeted Heterosexual Men, City News Service, June 1, 2011.


Since 2015, Gaston has served as a judge on the San Diego Superior Court. In this role, she presides over trial court matters in criminal, civil, family, and other state law matters. Among the cases she handled, Gaston terminated the parental relationships for juvenile M.P., finding that the father’s drug addiction and the mother’s inability to care for the minor justified termination, a decision that was upheld on appeal. See In re M.P., 2021 WL 1960088 (Cal. App. 4th May 17, 2021).


In 2000, Gaston was interviewed about her work as a public defender by Renee Harrison. Renee Harrison, Part Two: Domestic Violence: Representing Defendants in Domestic Violence Prosecutions: Interview with a Public Defender, 11 J. Contemp. Legal Issues 63 (2000). The interview focused specifically on domestic violence cases, and, during the interview, Gaston elaborated on her strategies for fighting and winning domestic violence cases. In the interview, Gaston criticizes mandatory arrest for domestic violence, stating that such laws place the burden of arrest on men. See id. (“The police always arrest men, so men are usually the ones on trial.”). Gaston also defended individuals charged with domestic violence, noting:

“Most of the men cry over what has happened. About half of our clients are in mutually abusive, pathetic relationships. Both people in the relationship are alcoholics or drug addicts, and/or emotionally undeveloped, and/or uncommunicative.” Id. i

Political Activity

Gaston has made a handful of political contributions during her time as a public defender, including one to President Obama in 2008.

Overall Assessment

With over 25 years of legal experience, Gaston certainly has the base level of qualifications to be a federal judge. She will likely draw opposition for her time in public defense and some may draw questions as well about her statements on domestic violence, although Gaston can reasonably argue that she was speaking as part of her role as an advocate.

Matthew Brookman – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana

Longtime magistrate judge Matthew Brookman is Biden’s first nominee to the federal district court bench in Indiana.


The 54-year-old Brookman received his B.A. from DePauw University in Indiana in 1990 and a J.D. from the Washington University School of Law in 1993. He then spent a year with Brown & James in St. Louis before becoming a prosecutor with Jefferson County, Missouri.

In 1997, Brookman returned to private practice to the firm of Herzog, Crebs & McGhee. In 1999, Brookman became a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri. In 2002, he shifted to become a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Indiana.

Since 2016, Brookman has served as a U.S. Magistrate Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.

History of the Seat

Brookman has been nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, to a seat to be vacated by Judge Richard Young, who will take senior status upon confirmation of a successor.

Legal Experience

Brookman started his legal career in St. Louis at Brown & James but then shifted to Jefferson County, Missouri to be a prosecutor. Among the cases he handled there, Brookman prosecuted Nancy Montplaisir for stealing money from the Ambulance District. See Monte Reel, Woman Guilty of Theft; Ex-Secretary Claimed Boss Made Her Take $16800 from Ambulance District, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Apr. 14, 1997. He also prosecuted Donald Roberts for the murder of Christopher McLafferty as part of a road rage incident. See Monte Reel, Jury Finds Man Guilty in Murder at Highway 141 Stoplight Last Year, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Aug. 29, 1997. Roberts was sentenced to four consecutive life terms. See Robert Kelly, Affton Man Gets 4 Life Terms in Fatal Fight Alongside Road, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sept. 23, 1997.

Between 1997 and 1999, Brookman worked on civil cases at Herzog, Crebs & McGhee P.C. See, e.g., Dorsey v. SEKISUI America Corp., 79 F. Supp. 2d 1089 (E.D. Mo. 1999).

In 1999, Brookman became a federal prosecutor in Missouri and, in 2002, shifted to Evansville, Indiana. While in Missouri, Brookman prosecuted Rodney Hollis for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. See United States v. Hollis, 245 F.3d 671 (8th Cir. 2001). In Indiana, Brookman prosecuted individuals connected with a crime spree conducted by Jarvis Brown that led to multiple deaths and injuries. See Hogsett Praises Assistant United States Attorney from Evansville, Targeted News Service, Feb. 1, 2011. His work on the case led to Brookman receiving a Department of Justice award. See id.

Judicial Experience

Since 2016, Brookman has served as a U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Southern District of Indiana. In this role, he presides by consent over civil matters and misdemeanors, assists district judges with discovery and settlement, and writes reports and recommendations on legal issues.

In his capacity, Brookman has ruled on a number of appeals from denial of social security benefits. On appeal, some of his rulings affirming the denial of benefits were overturned by the Seventh Circuit. In one case, a Seventh Circuit panel overruled Brookman’s affirmance in a per curiam opinion, finding that the administrative judge erred in not consulting a medical expert regarding MRI evidence. See McHenry v. Berryhill, 911 F.3d 866 (7th Cir. 2018). In another case, the Seventh Circuit agreed with the plaintiff that the administrative judge improperly made adverse credibility determinations against him. See Ray v. Berryhill, 915 F.3d 486 (7th Cir. 2019).

In another opinion, Biden appointee Candance Jackson-Akiwumi reversed Brookman’s grant of summary judgment to a Homeowner’s Association (HOA). See Watters v. Homeowners’ Ass’n, 48 F.4th 779 (7th Cir. 2022). Jackson-Akiwaumi wrote for the panel majority in reversing the dismissal of a Fair Housing and 1982 claim on behalf of an African American couple alleging racial discrimination. See id. Judge Amy St. Eve dissented, arguing that she would affirm Brookman’s ruling because there was no nexus between discrimination faced by the plaintiffs and a legally cognizable adverse employment action. See id. at 790 (St. Eve, J., dissenting).

Overall Assessment

As a well-credential juror, Brookman has a relatively uncontroversial background. Additionally, he has received favorable reviews from Sen. Todd Young. However, as long as the blue slip policy remains in effect, Brookman’s nomination turns on whether Sen. Mike Braun returns a blue slip. Given the fact that the nomination was submitted to the Senate, I expect that Brookman should be confirmed easily.

Judge Robert Kirsch – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey

A Republican nominated to the state bench by a Democratic Governor, Judge Robert Kirsch is now poised to be elevated to the federal bench by a Democratic President.


Born in 1966, Robert Andrew Kirsch grew up in South Orange in New Jersey. Kirsch received a Bachelor’s Degree from Emory University in 1988 and a J.D. from Fordham University School of Law in 1991.

After graduating, Kirsch clerked on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida for Judge William Zloch and then spent four years with the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Division. In 1997, Kirsch became a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey. In 2010, Kirsch was appointed to be a state judge in New Jersey by Democratic Governor Jon Corzine at the recommendation of Republican State Senator Tom Kean. Kirsch still serves as a state judge.

History of the Seat

Kirsch, a Republican, was recommended for the federal bench in New Jersey by Senator Robert Menendez. He has been nominated to replace Judge Freda Wolfson, who will take senior status on February 1, 2023.

Legal Experience

Kirsch started his legal career as a law clerk to Judge William Zloch. He then spent four years with the Civil Division at DOJ. While there, Kirsch participated in a legal malpractice suit against a federally chartered Savings & Loan. See Resolution Trust Corp. v. Rosenthal, 160 F.R.D. 112 (N.D. Ill. 1995).

Between 1997 and 2010, Kirsch worked as a federal prosecutor in New Jersey. At the office, Kirsch primarily handled white collar cases. Notably, he prosecuted Chip Hoffecker, who was sentenced to 17 years in prison for defrauding investors. See Ted Sherman, Ex-Federal Prosecutor is Sworn in as Union County Superior Court Judge, Apr. 18, 2010,

Outside of the white collar context, Kirsch participated in suits over the detention of individuals at Guantanamo Bay. See Gina Holland, Judge Refuses to Stop Hearings at Guantanamo Bay, Rejects Unfair Claim, A.P., Aug. 3, 2004. He also worked to prosecute the distribution of illegal steriods in New Jersey. See Michael O’Keefe, Huge Roid Raid in N.J. Basement, New York Daily News, Sept. 21, 2007.

Judicial Experience

Kirsch has served on the Superior Court in Union County since 2010. Among the cases he handled there, Kirsch presided over the juvenile adjudication of Carlton Franklin for the murder committed in 1976, when he was 15. See Kate Zernike, Man, 52, is Convicted as a Juvenile in a 1976 Murder, Creating a Legal Tangle, N.Y. Times, Dec. 22, 2012. Kirsch sentenced Franklin to ten years in prison, which was upheld on appeal. State in Interest of C.F., 132 A.3d 426 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2016).

Overall Assessment

Kirsch has received bipartisan support throughout his legal career, and this is unlikely to change at this stage. While many progressives may be disappointed with Menendez (and Biden) choosing to appoint a Republican to this seat, it is unlikely to derail Kirsch’s confirmation.

Michael Farbiarz – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey

Port Authority General Counsel Michael Farbiarz has spent virtually his entire legal career in New York City, but has now been nominated to a seat on the federal bench in New Jersey.


The 48-year-old Farbiarz received a Bachelor of Arts from Harvard University in 1995 and a J.D. from Yale Law School in 1999. He then clerked for Judge Michael Mukasey on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and for Judge Jose Cabranes on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

After his clerkships, Farbiarz spent three years with the New York office of Davis Polk & Hardwell before becoming a federal prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. In 2014, Farbiarz became a Senior Fellow with the New York University School of Law.

Since 2016, Farbiarz has served as general counsel for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

History of the Seat

At the recommendation of Senator Cory Booker, Farbiarz has been nominated to replace Judge Noel Hillman, who took senior status on April 4, 2022.

Legal Experience

Farbiarz started his career as an associate at Davis Polk & Hardwell in New York City. While at the firm, Farbiarz was part of the legal team for Duane Reade, who was suing to recover damages from an insurer after the September 11 attacks. See Duane Reade Inc. v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 279 F. Supp. 2d 235 (S.D.N.Y. 2003).

From 2004 to 2014, Farbiarz worked at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. At the office, Farbiarz notably handled terrorism prosecutions. See, e.g., Haouari v. United States, 429 F. Supp. 2d 671 (S.D.N.Y. 2006) (concerning prosecution of participant in LAX millennium bombing plot). Farbiarz notably prosecuted Al Qaeda member Ahmed Ghailani. See, e.g., United States v. Ghailani, 751 F. Supp. 2d 508 (S.D.N.Y. 2010). Ghailani was ultimately convicted of one count of conspiracy to destroy government property but acquitted of 279 other counts. See Benjamin Weiser, U.S. Jury Acquits Former Detainee of Most Charges, N.Y. Times, Nov. 18, 2010. Farbiarz also prosecuted Tongsun Park, who was alleged to siphon money from the United Nations Oil for Food program. See Paul H.B. Shin, Saddam Gave Bizman 2.5M: Feds, New York Daily News, June 28, 2006.

Notably, Farbiarz prosecuted Somali nationals charged with piracy for their attack on the Marsk Alabama, an American vessel. See Benjamin Weiser, A Suspect in Somali Piracy Denies United States Charges, N.Y. Times, May 22, 2009. He also led the prosecutions related to a “nest” of 11 Russian spies who allegedly lived in Manhattan. See Scott Shifrel and Helen Kennedy, Russian Spy Ring Lived Among Us! Shocker Reminiscent of the Cold War as FBI Takes Down Nest of ‘Deep Cover’ Agents,New York Daily News, June 29, 2010.

Since 2016, Farbiarz has served as general counsel for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which oversees the regional transportation instructure for the tristate area. In this role, Farbiarz’s name appeared in briefs in litigation involving the Port Authority, including in suits over arbitration awards involving the Port Authority Police. See Port Authority of New York and New Jersey v. Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Benev. Association, Inc., 209 A.3d 897 (N.J. Super. 2019).


In his time as a Fellow at NYU Law School, Farbiarz has written on terrorism and extraterritorial prosecutions. In one paper, Farbiarz advocates for more robust due process protections to apply in extraterritorial and international prosecutions. See Michael Farbiarz, Accuracy and Adjudication: The Promise of Extraterritorial Due Process, 116 Colum. L. Rev. 625 (April 2016). In another paper, Farbiarz criticizes the tendency of federal courts to apply Constitutional due process protections in international prosecutions, arguing that a better due process scheme would be to focus on “conflicts” between American legal standards and local law and to shore up those gaps. See Michael Farbiarz, Extraterritorial Criminal Jurisdiction, 114 Mich. L. Rev. 507 (Feb. 2016).

Overall Assessment

With impeccable academic credentials and a relatively uncontroversial background, Farbiarz looks likely to have a relatively comfortable confirmation. On the bench, he’s likely to be a relatively mainstream judge.