Judge Julia K. Munley – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania

The daughter of former federal judge James Munley, Julia K. Munley is poised to fill her father’s old seat on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.


The 57 year old Munley was born into a storied Pennsylvania family, with her great-grandfather, grandfather, and grandmother having served in the Pennsylvania General Assembly as Democrats. Munley attended Marywood University in Scranton, receiving a B.A. degree in 1987, and subsequently getting a law degree from Penn State Dickinson Law in 1992.

After graduating, Munley clerked for Judge Stephen McEwen with the Pennsylvania Superior Court and then joined Masterson, Braunfield, Maguire & Brown as an Associate. In 1995, Munley switched to Mazzoni & Karam, and in 2001, became a partner at Munley Law.

In 2016, Governor Tom Wolf appointed Munley to the Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County, where she currently serves.

History of the Seat

The seat Munley has been nominated for opened on September 30, 2022, with the move to senior status of Judge Robert Mariani. Mariani, in turn, replaced Munley’s father, Judge James Munley, in 2011.

Legal Experience

While she has shifted firms on occasion, Munley spent the first twenty five years of her career in private practice, practicing in state and federal court. Notably, Munley argued before the Third Circuit (with a panel including then-Judge Samuel Alito) on behalf of Wayne Stevens, who was accused of sexual harassment and won a four-day jury trial. See Johnson v. Elk Lake Sch. Dist., 283 F.3d 138 (3d Cir. 2002). The Third Circuit unanimously upheld the district court’s denial of the plaintiff’s motion for a new trial. See id. Munley also represented numerous Allstate agents in a suit against the insurance company alleging improper termination. See Romero v. Allstate Ins. Co., (E.D. Pa. July 6, 2016).

On the state court side, Munley has handled civil claims, including insurance litigation. See, e.g., Md. Casualty Co. v. McGrath, No. 355 MDA 2015 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2015).

Judicial Experience

From 2016, Munley has served as a Judge on the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas, which are the primary trial courts in Pennsylvania. As a judge, Munley presided over cases in civil and criminal matters, as well as domestic relations, juvenile, and family law matters. A number of Munley’s rulings in family law matters have been appealed to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, which has affirmed. See, e.g., In the Interest of MM-A, No. 928 MDA 2017 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2017); Jablonowski v. Jablonowski, No. 1481 MDA 2018 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2019); B.V. v. J.W., No. 746 MDA 2020 (Pa. Super. 2020); Jones v. Jones, No. 1647 MDA 2021 (Pa. Super. 2022).

In a notable opinion, Munley held that a plaintiff corporation could sue in Pennsylvania state court without registering with the state as it had sufficient activity within the state. See SMS Financial Ch., LLC v. Bolus Truck Parts & Towing, Inc., No. 542 MDA 2022 (Pa. Super. 2022). The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed Munley’s ruling, finding it to be “detailed and well-reasoned” and that it “accurately and thoroughly disposes of the standing issue.” See id.

Political Activity

Munley has donated extensively throughout her political career until her ascension to the bench. Her donations are exclusively to Democrats, including Wolf, President Biden, and former Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Overall Assessment

Munley is the first Pennsylvania nominee, since Senator Eastland made the blue slip a home-state veto, who would not need a blue slip from a Republican senator to reach the bench. That being said, her extensive home state contacts and legal experience, alongside her relative lack of controversy makes her a consensus nominee.


  1. I hope Biden respectfully hears all their complaints and then sticks to his original nominations. They are good picks.

    Unless you’re going to break the blue slip tradition, letting House members make all the nominations is just going to result in more seats left unfilled. And that doesn’t help anyone or do anything to defend Civil Rights.


    • @Joe

      I agree. Unless Durbin is going to scrap or at the very least amend blue slips, then there is no reason to give anything more than a courtesy meeting to hear their complaints. It’s bad that Louisiana is the state that triggered this because I believe Kennedy & Cassidy have worked in good faith. For that reason alone, even if I got 100% of what I wanted & blue slips were totally scrapped, I would probably keep these two nominees.


  2. Sorry, I meant to respond to Dequan and Frank as a stand-alone comment, reposted here:

    “Biden may listen to their request after looking at those names.”
    Dequan, I would eat my head if Biden backtracks by withdrawing the nominations because of this letter. And I would eat it without ketchup, too.

    It took Rand Paul for Biden to not go forward with the Chad Meredith nomination; it will take the LA senators’ non-return of blue slips for this to have a similar ending. And these nominees are light years away from being a Meredith-type.

    That is incorrect. While there’s a long tradition of home state senators playing a role in judicial nomination for their state, it is not unusual for others to have a role, especially when the senators are of a different party than the president.

    CRS noted: “Although Members of the U.S. House of Representatives do not have a formal constitutional role in the confirmation of federal judges, the demographic characteristics of judicial nominees are also of interest to Members of the House.”
    “Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, “Nomination of Miguel Estrada,” Remarks in the House, Congressional Record, daily edition, February 13, 2003, p. H685 (stating that the Congressional Hispanic Caucus “will actively work to identify and recommend qualified Hispanic candidates to fill Federal court vacancies”). Additionally, in 2014, the Congressional Black Caucus released a letter to urge President Obama to appoint a greater number of African American judges, particularly to certain judicial districts (e.g., the three judicial districts located in Alabama).”

    Starkly: Rep. John W. Flannagan, a New Deal Dem, recommended judicial nominees to FDR over the objections of Virginia’s two DEM senators.
    Jimmy Carter’s judicial nomination commission had members selected by home state senators AND congressmen.
    For my own state, during the Bush presidency, GWB got his recommendations from Republican Governor George Pataki.
    And of course, Kentucky’s Dem gov. Beshear was very vocal in his opposition of Meredith last year.
    Delegate Norton, a member of the House and decidedly not a senator, handles district court vacancy recommendations for DC.
    Florida’s Dem House members had their own commission to recommend nominees for Obama.
    Abdul Kallon was recommended by Alabama Dem Rep Artur Davis.
    The Tennessean reported that during the 111th Congress, Democrats from the Tennessee House delegation provided recommendations to the Obama White House for filling a vacancy on the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. Even if he doesn’t always go with their recommendations.
    Not to mention Clyburn for SC.
    In ND, we see that the state’s Dem Party has taken the lead on filling vacancies in that state.

    Just wanted to give a flavor of the various parties who get to “recommend” nominees, even if they don’t have a formal role in the confirmation precess.

    I am sure you’ll have many exceptions to make. While you think of them, I suggest you buy this useful book, it’ll save us time:
    Picking Federal Judges
    by Sheldon Goldman


    • @Gavi

      Oh I didn’t in any way mean Biden would withdraw the nominees because of the names on the letter. I was more so talking about perhaps he would change his stance on blue slips. Even that is a stretch but that is what I was referring to.

      I will reiterate what I said a couple months ago. I personally want blue slips gone but I doubt it will happen because the leader of the party is an institutionalist & hasn’t pushed for them to be scrapped. But if that were to ever change, it is likely to be because of pressure from some of the 9 names on the letter today.


      • Well yea, that’s why I said it’s a stretch even for Biden to endorse ditching blue slips. But if there is any chance whatsoever, I do believe it would be because of pressure from people who signed the letter today.


      • Not only is Biden opposed to the removal of blue slips for the district courts, but many of the Democratic judiciary committee members (including Durbin) have expressed a desire to return to blue slips on the circuit courts at some point in the future. While he hasn’t said it, I’d suspect Biden would like to see that as well (especially seeing how the new WHC is handling things).


      • @Frank
        Only in your hottest fever dream is that return to blue slip for COA a possibility. Even if a couple Dem senators express such a desire, that’s just lip service they are paying to a world long gone.
        I would make a claim that the first Dem senator who actually puts forth a serious proposal to return to those blue slips will be run out of office.
        History, of which you should be more familiar than all of us, suggests that these things only go in one direction and almost never in reverse.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Gavi, I’m not saying that the Democrats should go that route, but the current set that the voters have elected are mostly of the traditional variety, so it shouldn’t be shocking if it does happen. I also highly doubt voters would punish them since the vast majority of them have no idea what a blue slip is and for the most part care little about the judiciary. Even the overturning of Roe v. Wade hasn’t shifted the attitude of voters as much as I thought it might.


  3. I’m interested in finding out more about Philip Hadji. He has an interesting background. It doesn’t sound like he’ll be difficult to confirm.


    • I too thought Philip Hadji seemed to be an interesting choice. I couldn’t find much that would lead me to see why he was picked for that court. I have noticed an uptick in nominees with a military background from this new WHC office.

      Perhaps they are looking to increase veteran representation which is a good thing. I just don’t like to see it done at the expense of more progressive candidates. For this court it’s fine since it isn’t a lifetime appointment. But it does sting a little in cases like Jeremy Daniels when he’s picked over two more progressive choices.


  4. Irma Ramirez voted into the floor via voice vote with senator Hawley being recorded as a no. Hopefully she can be the first circuit court nominee to get a voice vote in almost a decade so not to waste floor time but probably not.

    de Alba got no Republican votes so she passed 11-10. Graham said he voted for her for the district court but can’t support her now for the circuit because she took an ankle bracelet off of a defendant. That case was talked about at length during her hearing. The defendant had two ankle bracelets & she left the other one on him.


  5. I am very thankful that we have an outright majority on SJC (and had full attendance today). Would’ve hated to see de Alba held up.

    Hopefully we see some movement on Ramirez as soon as next week. No point in wasting time considering she should have broad support.


  6. Looks like Hernan Vera and Casey Pitts are set for confirmation votes Monday or Tuesday. Good to see.

    Hopefully Schumer sets up a vote for Ho for next week. He probably will want to wait until Monday to make sure attendance isn’t an issue again.


    • I’m VERY happy to see Vera teed up. He’s the Biden nominee that has waited the longest for a vote. I actually think he will end up getting at least one Republican vote.

      I love Pitts but wished they would have teed Lin up first because I always want judges confirmed in order of age so you maximize the Chief Justices by Democrat appointees in the future. I guess the NDCA isn’t as important since all judges are Democrat appointees but still wish they would confirm them in order of age.

      I’m not happy at all to see the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers or the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy teed up. Next week is one of the two full weeks the senate is in session before September. If there was ANY week to just focus on judges, next week should have been it.


  7. Seeing on Twitter that Baldwin and Johnson’s committee has forwarded two new names for the ED Wisconsin vacancy.

    Byron Browning Conway
    Marc Aaron Hammer


  8. Yeah, I’m so done defending Chuck.

    Another week with 51/49 vote balance wasted and ONE term limited judge, just get out of here with this lazy bull.


      • @Frank

        Schumer could use the threat of working on the weekends to get more consent. For instance, just two weeks ago many were predicting the debt ceiling votes would go into that Friday & possibly Saturday. They finished Thursday night.

        There was I believe 11 amendment votes yet they finished Thursday night. When you threaten to have votes on Friday & Saturday then working until Thursday night doesn’t sound so bad. I’m not saying that needs to be done every week but even if you do that once a month, you can get two more district court judges confirmed each month. So Schumer most certainly can use the threat of working weekends more often to get more done.


      • Didn’t Schumer already threaten weekend votes in 2021 and after the Republicans called his bluff, never did so, at least for federal judges, save for that deal right before Christmas 2021 where cloture votes were not used for several district court nominees so everyone could go home? You make a fair point, but the debt ceiling affects the economy, while confirming federal judges doesn’t, or at least not directly. Advocating for a different candidate is a much different animal than for scheduling weekend votes.


      • Dequan, remember Frank is a holdover of a different political era, when you just sit back and let things happen to you and hope for the best.
        Today’s emphasis on advocacy, no matter the outcome, is an anathema to the vestigial Eisenhowerians.


      • The worst thing about that thinking is we have seen in RECENT history that advocacy works. Need I not remind @Frank that we would have NY Court of Appeals Justice Hector LaSalle without advocacy. I’d venture to say we would have SCOTUS Childs instead of KBJ without advocacy.


      • Ahhh, now we’ve entered the Shawnee realm of false analogies.
        Shawnee has her “would you like to have the same job and car for 10 years.”
        Now Frank has his “would you like to be away from your family to do a job you personally signed up to do, spent many days and weekends on end away from them while campaigning, leave them to go on trips to go schmooze donors, but is now expected to do this hard-won job in DC.”
        Like Shawnee’s convenient about-face this week, I expect Frank to change his tune at the earliest convenience. And I will be ready and waiting with this quote when he does.
        In the meantime, I am happy to hold my US senators to account to do the job they begged me to vote for them to allow them to do. Others can enjoy the quite life on their rocking chair, eating their Jell-O.


      • @Frank

        No, I wouldn’t want to be away from my family all weekend. That’s why I didn’t run for a job in which only 100 people get to represent over 330 million people. They work 3 days a week & increasingly only 2 days a week.

        Now if you ask me, I don’t think Russ Feingold & others would be calling to cancel some of the Sumer recess if they just stuck with the last two years schedule of working 3 days a week. But as we saw last week, when you only work 2 days a week, almost nothing gets done. So that creates the backlog we have today.

        We have 3 district court nominees that have were nominated in 2021. We have one circuit court nominee that has been pending over a year with another coming up on a year in another month & a half. Mitch McConnell would be hard pressed to make nominees from a Democrat president wait that long. It’s not fair to the nominees & more importantly it’s not fair to the citizens that their cases have to wait longer & they stand a better chance of getting a Republican appointed judge in the process. Look at the Trump indictment case. Judge Canon was picked again. Of course there are 3 vacancies on that court that if Biden had already filled them, it would have been much less likely her name would have randomly been selected.


  9. Here is a link :https://afj-org.zoom.us/w/88443225830?tk=xwPL4pfRFMxd-FLJgNSqS_M_RtwVbFnF6BocRHAtLEQ.DQMAAAAUl6CG5hZ1ZGMzQTdJWlMxdVlmTm8xN3h0RWhnAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA&uuid=WN_HxaI9wEaQIacLz46iK961w

    It’s coming up by 3pm eastern time today with recently confirmed biden LGBTQ judge jamar walker in Virginia along with obama judges staci Yandle and judge Darrin gayles.
    They are going to talk about thier pathways and offer insights.

    Webinar ID:884 4322 5830


  10. Really good Zoom call sponsored by Alliance for Justice. Here are some of the highlights I jotted down.

    Judge Yandel said Obama was committed to diversity & Biden has doubled down. She spoke about many KBJ opinions proving diversity matters as you can see a different perspective. She hilariously reminisced about a senators question at her hearing when a senator asked if she will legislate from the bench or calls balls & strikes. She said she calls balls & strikes but her strike zone may be different then another judges. She spoke glowingly about judge Carlton Reeves.

    Judge Walker said people were going to his neighbors asking them questions about him. He said everybody in his batch was the first something so he commended Biden.

    Judge Gayles spoke about ways for aspiring lawyers could help their chances of getting clerkships.


  11. aagren & Dequan
    I missed it, but thanks for sharing and recapping. I love these events but simply can never make them, so I rely on watching the recording.
    Judge Jamar Walker is still new and I have lots of hope for him, but even right now I would sell my soul to have him replace Thomas on SCOTUS.


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