Kenneth Bell – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina

Jonas Federal Building (site of the W.D.N.C. Courthouse in Charlotte).

A former Republican candidate for Congress, Ken Bell is Trump’s first nominee for the Western District of North Carolina.  Setting aside Bell’s political history, he is likely to face questions about his support for prosecuting Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Background

Kenneth Davis “Ken” Bell was born in Bedford, OH in 1958.[1]  Bell attended Wake Forest University and Wake Forest University School of Law.  He then joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina as an Assistant U.S. Attorney.  He stayed in the office for the next 20 years, except for a 2-year hiatus at Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice in Winston-Salem.[2]

In 2003, Bell joined the Charlotte office of Mayer Brown as a Partner.  Three years later, Bell shifted to the Charlotte office of Hunton & Williams.[3]  In 2009, Bell moved again to McGuireWoods LLP in Charlotte, where he continues to work as a Partner.[4]

History of the Seat

Bell has been nominated for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina.  This seat opened on August 31, 2017, when Judge Richard Voorhees moved to senior status.  Around the time the vacancy opened, Bell reached out to Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis (R-NC) to interview for the seat.[5]

In November 2017, Bell was recommended to the White House for the vacancy.[6]  On April 12, 2018, Bell was officially nominated for the seat.

Legal Experience

Bell has practiced law for approximately thirty-five years, with that time evenly split between working as a federal prosecutor and in private practice.

Federal Prosecutor

Bell has two stints as a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina, from 1983 to 1988 and from 1990 to 2003.  While Bell has handled many cases as a federal prosecutor, he is perhaps most famous for his prosecution of a Hezbollah cell operating in Charlotte.  His prosecution produced the first trial conviction ever secured under the Material Support statute.  The cell consisted of individuals who would buy cigarettes in North Carolina and resell them illegally in Michigan, passing on to the profits to Hezbollah.[7]  In addition to securing the first trial convictions under the Material Support statute, Bell also secured the first trial convictions for a terrorist cell under the RICO statute.[8]  Bell’s work on the prosecution resulted in him being awarded the Attorney General’s John Marshall Award for Trial of Litigation.[9]

Among other matters, Bell prosecuted drug crimes,[10] voting fraud,[11] counterfeiting,[12] and civil rights violations.[13]

Private Practice

Bell has been in private practice since 2003, shifting between the firms of Mayer Brown, Hunton & Williams, and McGuire Woods in Charlotte.  In each of these positions, Bell worked primarily on defending individuals and corporations charged with white collar crimes.[14]

Notably, Bell was the chief defense counsel to James Black, the Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, who faced federal charges of corruption.[15]  Black was charged, among other counts, with bribing Republican Rep. Michael Decker to switch parties in 2003, allowing Black to remain Speaker despite a narrow Republican majority.  As Black’s defense counsel, Bell negotiated a plea to one charge of receiving illegal gratuities.[16]  More recently, Bell also represented Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC) against corruption charges.[17]

Since 2012, Bell has served as a Receiver over the assets of the Rex Venture Group (also known as ZeekRewards), a Ponzi scheme whose closing created over $800 million in losses.[18]  As Receiver, Bell has filed suits against insiders and net winners from the scheme, seeking to recover the contributions put in by those who were defrauded.[19]

Political Activity

In the 1990 election cycle, Bell ran as a Republican for North Carolina’s 5th Congressional District against Democratic Incumbent Stephen Neal.  Bell won the primary against fellow Republican Steve Royal with 51% of the vote.[20]  During the campaign, Bell attacked Neal for his efforts in Congress on behalf of the Savings & Loan Industries.[21]  However, Bell in turn was attacked by Democrats for using $2500 in campaign funds to make mortgage and car payments.[22]  Rep. Beryl Anthony (D-Ark.), the then-Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) called the use of campaign funds “just plain wrong.”[23]  Bell and other Republicans engaged in the practice defended their actions, arguing that the use of campaign funds for personal expenses was legal and helped level the playing field against powerful incumbents.[24][25]  Ultimately, Bell took 41% of the vote in the ultimate election.[26]

Bell has been a frequent donor to Republicans, having given over $10000 over the last twelve years.[27]  Bell has given particularly generously to Burr, who has received over $4000.[28]  Others Bell has donated to include former Rep. Sue Myrick, Sen. Marco Rubio, and presidential candidate Mitt Romney.[29]

Writings

Throughout his legal career, Bell has written and spoken frequently on legal and public policy issues.   Of the many topics that Bell has written on, two are particularly notable.

First, Bell has repeatedly argued for the prosecution of Hillary Clinton for her use of unsecured email servers during her service as Secretary of State.  In a 2015 letter to the editor, Bell argued that Clinton’s use of the email servers violated the law, noting:

“If I had done what Ms. Clinton has done, I would have been prosecuted, and I would have been guilty.”[30]

After then-FBI Director James Comey announced his determination that Clinton had not broken any laws and that no “reasonable prosecutor” would indict her, Bell authored a second article, stating that he could find “an army of reasonable prosecutors” who would have indicted.[31]  In the second article, Bell argues that Clinton’s actions might suggest “disloyalty to the United States,” that Comey “got out of his lane” by recommending no prosecution, and that Attorney General Loretta Lynch was being unreasonable in not bringing charges.[32]

Bell’s article prompted a response from fellow Charlotte attorney David Tinkler, who noted that Clinton had used a secure server to transmit all information that was marked “classified” and that her behavior was no different than that of previous Republican Secretaries of State.[33]

Second, Bell was a strong advocate for the confirmation of Judge Robert Conrad to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.[34]  Conrad was nominated by President George W. Bush in 2007 and blocked by the Democratic Senate due to concerns about his conservative ideology and previous comments opposing Planned Parenthood.[35]  In an interview, Bell described the blockade on Conrad as “embarrassing and outrageous” and urged Democrats to allow a hearing on Conrad.[36]

Overall Assessment

Like his fellow North Carolina nominee Thomas Farr, Bell is likely to face a rocky confirmation process.  In Bell’s case, the trouble is likely to come from his writings, rather than his legal activities.

Bell is likely to face significant pushback over his view that Hillary Clinton should have been charged criminally for her use of personal email servers, a view rejected by legal observers in both parties (albeit embraced by some mainstream voices).  Democrats are unlikely to support a candidate who urged criminal charges against their last presidential nominee.  Additionally, some critics may charge Bell with hypocrisy, noting his use of campaign funds for personal expenses in his 1990 election (conduct that may have been legal at the time, but has more recently been firmly prohibited by the Federal Election Commission).[37]

Additionally, Bell’s strong endorsement of Conrad, a judge himself criticized for his strong statements against Planned Parenthood and the pro-choice movement,[38] is unlikely to endear Bell to Senate Democrats.

In his favor, Bell’s credentials for the bench are unquestionable given his extensive legal experience.  Furthermore, Bell can point to his representation of prominent Democrats such as Black to reinforce his bipartisan credentials.

As a bottom line, Bell is likely to face strong opposition from Senate Democrats.  However, if he can secure the support of all Senate Republicans, he will still be confirmed.  As such, barring another shoe dropping, Bell remains the favorite for confirmation.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 115th Cong., Kenneth D. Bell: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] Id. at 2.

[3] See id.

[4] See id.

[5] See Bell, supra n. 1 at 56.

[6] See id.

[7] See Jeffrey Goldberg, In the Party of God, New Yorker, Oct. 28, 2002, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2002/10/28/in-the-party-of-god-2.  

[8] See United States v. Hammoud, et al., CR-00-147-MU (W.D.N.C.).

[9] See Bell, supra n. 1 at 45.

[10] See, e.g., United States v. McChan, 101 F.3d 1027 (4th Cir. 1996); United States v. McManus, 23 F.3d 878 (4th Cir. 1994).

[11] See, e.g., United States v. Odom, 736 F.2d 104 (4th Cir. 1984).

[12] See, e.g., United States v. Ross, 844 F.2d 187 (4th Cir. 1988).

[13] See, e.g., United States v. Rathburn, 1:99-cr-00091-LHT (W.D.N.C.).

[14] See Bell, supra n. 1 at 28.

[15] United States v. Black, 5:07-cr-00042-BO (E.D.N.C.).

[16] See id.

[17] Tim Funk, Rep. Robert Pittenger, Challenger Mark Harris Target Character in New Ads, Charlotte Observer, May 23, 2016, https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/politics-government/article79385082.html.  

[18] Securities and Exchange Comm’n v. Rex Venture LLC d/b/a ZeekRewards.com, and Paul Burks, 3:12-CV-519 (W.D.N.C.).

[19] McGuire Woods: Court-Appointed Receiver in ZeekRewards Case Sues Insiders, Net Winners of the Scheme, India Investment News, Mar. 3, 2014.

[20] See Our Campaigns, https://www.ourcampaigns.com/RaceDetail.html?RaceID=187113 (last visited July 29, 2018).

[21] Nathaniel C. Cash, How Old Votes Become New Political Liabilities, Wash. Post, Aug. 24, 1990.

[22] See Miles Benson, Run for Congress Can Pay Mortgage, Seattle Times, Aug. 26, 1990, http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19900826&slug=1089789.  

[23] Charles R. Babcock, Personal Use of Campaign Funds Sparks Dispute; Challengers Say System Allows the Practice, Improving their Chances Against Incumbents, Wash. Post, Aug. 3, 1990.

[24] See id.

[25] Coincidentally, another challenger attacked for the personal use of campaign funds was an Indiana candidate named Mike Pence.  See Benson, supra n. 29.

[26] See Our Campaigns, https://www.ourcampaigns.com/RaceDetail.html?RaceID=34410 (last visited July 29, 2018).

[28] See id.

[29] See id.

[30] Kenneth D. Bell, Letter to the Editor, Clinton Offers Up A Meaningless Dodge, Charlotte Observer, Sept. 2, 2015, https://www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion/letters-to-the-editor/article33225267.html.  

[31] Kenneth D. Bell, A ‘Reasonable’ Case for Charging Hillary Clinton, Charlotte Observer, July 9, 2016, https://www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article88564422.html.  

[32] See id.

[33] David Tinkler, Why the FBI Made the Right Choice on Hillary Clinton Probe, Charlotte Observer, July 14, 2016, https://www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article89697407.html.

[34] Lisa Zagaroli, Conrad at Center of Partisan Fight, Charlotte Observer, July 22, 2008, https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/article8994503.html.  

[35] See id.

[36] Guy Loranger, Court’s Open Seats Raise Concern in NC, North Carolina Lawyers Weekly, Aug. 4, 2008.

[37] Federal Election Commission, Personal Use, https://www.fec.gov/help-candidates-and-committees/making-disbursements/personal-use/ (last visited July 29, 2018) (“The campaign may not pay for mortgage, rent or utilities for the personal residence of the candidate or the candidate’s family even if part of the residence is being used by the campaign”).

[38] See Zagaroli, supra n. 34.

Judge Amy St. Eve – Nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

In 2002, the 35-year-old Amy St. Eve became one of the youngest judges ever appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.  Last month, St. Eve was nominated by President Trump to the prestigious U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, an elevation that is supported by her home state senators.  It is a promotion she is likely to get.

Background

Amy Joan St. Eve was born in Belleville, Illinois on November 20, 1965.  St. Eve attended Cornell University, getting a B.A. in 1987.  She continued on to Cornell Law School, getting her J.D. in 1990.

After graduating law school, St. Eve joined the New York office of Davis, Polk & Wardwell as an Associate.[1]  In October 1994, St. Eve was hired by Whitewater Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr to be a prosecutor for his office.[2]  In 1996, St. Eve moved to be a federal prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois.[3]  In May 2001, she joined Abbott Laboratories in Abbott Park, Illinois as Senior Counsel of Litigation.[4]

On March 21, 2002, St. Eve was nominated by President George W. Bush for a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois vacated by Judge George Lindberg.  Engelhardt’s nomination was championed by then-Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.).  St. Eve was confirmed unanimously by the Senate on August 1, 2002.  She serves as a federal district judge today.

History of the Seat

St. Eve has been nominated for a Illinois seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.  This seat opened with Judge Ann Claire Williams’ move to senior status on June 5, 2017.

On June 22, 2017, the White House Counsel’s Office reached out to St. Eve to gauge her interest in the Seventh Circuit appointment.[5]  St. Eve interviewed with the office on June 27.[6]  In December 2017, St. Eve was subsequently informed by Illinois Senators Richard Durbin and Tammy Duckworth that she would be nominated for the vacancy.  Her nomination was officially sent to the Senate on February 15, 2018.

Legal Career

St. Eve began her legal career as an associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell in New York City, where she represented businesses in defending civil and white collar criminal cases.[7]  In 1994, she joined the legal team assembled by Independent Counsel Ken Starr in investigating and prosecuting the Whitewater cases.  As an attorney there, St. Eve helped prosecute then-Arkansas-Governor Jim Guy Tucker for bank fraud and government fraud.[8]

In 1996, St. Eve became a federal prosecutor at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois.  During her tenure, St. Eve prosecuted white collar crime, narcotics, and fraud.  However, many of her most notable cases focused on government corruption.  For example, St. Eve participated in “Operation Safe Road,” a government investigation of corruption under the Illinois Secretary of State’s office during the tenure of Republican George Ryan (later the Governor).[9]  As a result of the investigation, St. Eve successfully prosecuted numerous employees who had fraudulently given out vehicle operator licenses in exchange for cash bribes.[10]  Ryan himself would eventually be indicted and convicted after St. Eve’s confirmation to the bench.

Jurisprudence & Reversals

St. Eve has served as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois for the last sixteen years.  In this role, St. Eve has presided over 123 trials, 49 in criminal cases and the remaining 74 in civil cases.[11]  We have summarized two areas where St. Eve has made a mark:

Religious Discrimination

In two cases where she reached opposite results, St. Eve has elucidated her views on the level of protection offered to employees when they allege religious discrimination.[12]  In one case, St. Eve found that Wal Mart did not discriminate against a Christian employee when she was dismissed for telling other employees that “gay people are sinners and are going to hell.”[13]  Rather, St. Eve found that, to allege discrimination, the employee needed to show that non-Christian employees who held the same anti-gay views she did were treated differently by Wal Mart.[14]  As no such allegation was made, St. Eve ruled that dismissing the employee was not anti-Christian discrimination.[15]

In contrast, St. Eve declined to dismiss the discrimination case brought by an employee at Sidetrack, a Chicago gay bar, who alleged harassment and discrimination based on his Christian beliefs.[16]  In the suit, the plaintiff alleged “anti-Christian video clips Sidetrack played during comedy nights, offensive performances ridiculing Christians at special events, and degrading comments Sidetrack employees…made to Plaintiff because of his religion.”[17]  In denying summary judgment for Sidetrack, St. Eve found that a reasonable jury could find that the evidence constituted discrimination against the plaintiff based on his religious, rather than his political beliefs.[18]

Civil Rights Cases

During her fifteen years as a judge, St. Eve has presided over many civil rights cases.  In her rulings, St. Eve has been evenhanded, ruling for plaintiffs in some cases,[19] and for the defendants in others.[20]

In one notable case, St. Eve presided over a challenge by a special education teacher who was injured by an autistic student.[21]  The teacher alleged substantive due process violations and Monell liability due to failure to train after a struggle with an autistic student led to head injuries and a serious concussion.[22]  Specifically, the teacher criticized the school’s administration for failing to put the student in a therapeutic day school.[23]

St. Eve rejected the teacher’s claim, arguing that the administration’s decision to allow the student to continue attending school “was not an arbitrary decision, but instead was based on a deliberative process.”[24]  As such, St. Eve granted summary judgment for the defendants.[25]  The Seventh Circuit ultimately affirmed St. Eve’s decision.[26]

Reversals

In the sixteen years that St. Eve has served as a federal judge, she has been reversed by higher courts 43 times: 39 times by the Seventh Circuit; and four times by the Federal Circuit.[27]  In fourteen cases, the Seventh Circuit reversed St. Eve’s dismissal of a plaintiff’s civil complaint or a grant of summary judgment against the plaintiff.[28]  In contrast, St. Eve’s rulings in favor of plaintiffs have been reversed in three cases.[29]  In the criminal context, St. Eve’s sentences have been reversed by the Seventh Circuit in twelve cases.[30]

Overall Assessment

St. Eve comes to the confirmation process with a long judicial paper trail.  This record establishes her as a middle-of-the-road judge with no bias towards either conservative or liberal judicial philosophies.  Additionally, with her long tenure as a federal judge, St. Eve’s qualifications for the appellate bench are unquestionable.

Furthermore, St. Eve’s record as a federal prosecutor also speaks to her evenhandedness.  While she participated in the politically charged investigation over Whitewater, and successfully prosecuted Democratic Governor Jim Guy Tucker, she also worked to bring down a system of patronage and corruption established by a Republican secretary of state in Illinois.  Her success on both fronts makes it difficult to paint her as a partisan prosecutor.

As such, St. Eve is likely to be seen as a “consensus” nominee, one expected to get a swift and uncontroversial confirmation.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 115th Cong., Amy St. Eve: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] See id. at 53.

[3] See id.

[4] See id. at 2.

[5] See id. at 68.

[6] See id.

[7] See id. at 53.

[8] See United States v. McDougal, 95-cr-175 (E.D. Ark.)

[9] See Andrew Zajac and Flynn McRoberts, Operation Safe Road: License Scheme Led to Wider Investigation, Chicago Tribune, Dec. 18, 2003, http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2003-12-18/news/0312180299_1_driver-s-licenses-plates-applicants.

[10] See United States v. Mastrodomenico, 98-cr-623 (N.D. Ill.); United States v. Seibel, 99-cr-78 (N.D. Ill.); United States v. Golumb, 99-cr-871 (N.D. Ill.).

[11] See St. Eve, supra n. 1 at 21.

[12] Patrik Jonnson, Danziger Bridge Retrial Takes New Orleans Back to Katrina Chaos, Christian Science Monitor, Sept. 19, 2013.

[13] Matthews v. Walmart, Inc., No. 08 C 5312, 2010 WL 11545667, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 26, 2010), aff’d sub nom. Matthews v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 417 F. App’x 552 (7th Cir. 2011).

[14] See id. at *3-4.

[15] See id.

[16] Parker v. Side by Side, Inc., 50 F. Supp. 3d 988, 995 (N.D. Ill. 2014).

[17] Id. at 1002.

[18] Id. at 1013-14.

[19] See, e.g., Ayoubi v. Basilone, No. 14 C 0602, 2016 WL 6962189, at *5 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 28, 2016) (denying Defendants’ motion to dismiss); Sokol v. City of Chicago, Illinois, No. 13 CV 5653, 2014 WL 5473050, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 29, 2014) (denying proposed order to protect confidential information by Defendants); Pierce v. Cook Cty., No. 12 C 5725, 2014 WL 4376231, at *5 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 4, 2014) (denying Defendants’ motion to dismiss action as unexhausted).  

[20] See, e.g., Smith v. Ramirez, No. 12 C 509, 2014 WL 4070202, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 14, 2014) (denying Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment); Hicks v. Young, No. 10 C 3874, 2011 WL 5507379, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 9, 2011) (granting Defendant’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim); Caudle El v. Lake Cty. Sheriffs, No. 08 C 6534, 2010 WL 11546028, at *4 (N.D. Ill. June 1, 2010) (granting summary judgment to Defendants on deliberate indifference claim); Jackson v. Indian Prairie Sch. Dist. 204, No. 08 C 4312, 2010 WL 11545957, at *5 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 30, 2010), aff’d, 653 F.3d 647 (7th Cir. 2011) (granting summary judgment for Defendants).

[21] See Jackson v. Indian Prairie Sch. Dist. 204, No. 08 C 4312, 2010 WL 11545957, at *5 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 30, 2010), aff’d, 653 F.3d 647 (7th Cir. 2011).

[22] Id. at *3.

[23] See id. at *4.

[24] Id.

[25] Id. at *5.

[26] 653 F.3d 647 (7th Cir. 2011).

[27] See St. Eve, supra n. 1 at 40-46.

[28] See Yanhke v. Kane Cnty., 823 F.3d 1066 (7th Cir. 2016); Reid v. Illinois, 808 F.3d 1103 (7th Cir. 2015); Smith v. Dart, 803 F.3d 304 (7th Cir. 2015); Petrovic v. Enter. Leasing Co. of Chicago, LLC, 513 F. App’x 609 (7th Cir. 2013); Todd v. Kohl’s Dep’t Store, 490 F. App’x 824 (7th Cir. 2013); Schwartz v. Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., 450 F.3d 697 (7th Cir. 2006); Shaffer v. Am. Med. Ass’n, 662 F.3d 439 (7th Cir. 2011); Fairley v. Andrews, 578 F.3d 518 (7th Cir. 2009); Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd. v. Tellabs, 437 F.3d 588 (7th Cir. 2006); Shapo v. Engle, 463 F.3d 641 (7th Cir. 2006); Davis v. Carter, 452 F.3d 686 (7th Cir. 2006); Bremgettcy v. Horton, 423 F.3d 674 (7th Cir. 2005); Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Ill. v. Cruz, 396 F.3d 793 (7th Cir. 2005); Xechem, Inc. v. Bristol Myers Squibb Co., 372 F.3d 899 (7th Cir. 2004).

[29] See Riley v. Blagojevich, 425 F.3d 357 (7th Cir. 2005); Transpersonnel, Inc. v. Roadway Express, Inc., 422 F.3d 456 (7th Cir. 2005); Schimmer v. Jaguar Cars, Inc., 384 F.3d 402 (7th Cir. 2004).

[30] See United States v. Harrington, 834 F.3d 733 (7th Cir. 2016); United States v. Rogers, 528 F. App’x 641 (7th Cir. 2013); United States v. Vidal, 705 F.3d 742 (7th Cir. 2013); United States v. Knox, 496 F. App’x 649 (7th Cir. 2012); United States v. Hernandez, 479 F. App’x 735 (7th Cir. 2012); United States v. Knox, 412 F. App’x 867 (7th Cir. 2011); United States v. Black, 625 F.3d 386 (7th Cir. 2010); United States v. Knox, 573 F.3d 441 (7th Cir. 2009); United States v. Adefumi, 279 F. App’x 401 (7th Cir. 2008); United States v. Smith, 276 F. App’x 497 (7th Cir. 2008); United States v. McMahan, 495 F.3d 410 (7th Cir. 2007); United States v. Garcia, 439 F.3d 363 (7th Cir. 2006).

Trevor McFadden – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

A longtime member of the Federalist Society, Trevor McFadden, in many ways, represents their ideal for a judicial candidate.  He is strongly conservative, young, and has excellent academic credentials.  Each of these points, conversely, is likely to draw Democratic opposition.

Background

Trevor Neil McFadden was born in Alexandria, VA in 1978.  After getting his B.A. from Wheaton College in Illinois, McFadden spent two years as an officer with the Fairfax County Police Department.  In 2006, McFadden graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law with the Order of the Coif, indicating superior academic performance.  McFadden then clerked for Judge Steven Colloton on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.[1] 

After his clerkship, McFadden joined the Department of Justice, serving as Counsel for the Deputy Attorney General.  After the inauguration of the Obama Administration, McFadden joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, serving as a prosecutor for four years.  During this time, he also served as a Part-time Deputy Sheriff for the Madison County Sheriff’s Office.

In 2013, McFadden left the U.S. Attorney’s Office to join the D.C. Office of Baker & McKenzie, LLP.  After the election of President Trump, McFadden rejoined the Department of Justice, this time as second in command at the Criminal Division.

McFadden has been a member of the Federalist Society since 2003.

History of the Seat

The seat McFadden has been nominated for opened on December 31, 2016, with Judge Richard Leon’s move to senior status.  On On March 2, 2017, McFadden was informed of the White House’s interest in naming him to the vacancy.  McFadden was formally nominated by President Trump on June 7.

Legal Experience

McFadden may be a couple of years shy of forty, but he has managed to accumulate an impressive breadth of legal work in that time.  While McFadden has taken on prominent policy roles in the Department of Justice, and has advised numerous corporations on compliance with federal law at Baker McKenzie, the bulk of his courtroom experience is from his stint as a federal prosecutor.

As an AUSA, McFadden worked primarily on prosecuting violent crimes.  For example, McFadden successfully prosecuted a man who assaulted and robbed a 78 year old dialysis patient, .[2]  McFadden also successfully defended the conviction of a defendant convicted of conspiring to distribute over a kilogram of PCP.[3]

Nevertheless, McFadden’s stint at the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice may draw more scrutiny.  In this role, McFadden serves as second in command to Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco.  McFadden may draw questions related to the recent charging memo released by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, calling on federal prosecutors to charge defendants with the strongest possible charges regardless of other factors.[4]  McFadden may also face questions as to his involvement with the Department’s efforts to crack down on sanctuary cities.

Political Activity

McFadden has been fairly active in the Republican party, having canvassed for GOP candidates since his high school days.  In his SJQ, McFadden notes that he has canvassed for President George W. Bush’s 2000 and 2004 campaigns, Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, and Rep. Tom Davis’ 1996 election campaign among others.

McFadden is also a supporter of President Trump, having donated $1000 to his election efforts, and being a vetter for his transition team.

Overall Assessment

As noted above, the young, conservative, and ambitious McFadden is likely to be a template for Trump nominees to the federal bench.  As such, Democrats are likely to look for reasons not to support his nomination.

Most of the objections that can be drawn to McFadden are based on process.  Unlike previous administrations, the Trump Administration declined to consult with D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton in making federal court nominations.  McFadden has already drawn criticism from Norton for not being a D.C. resident.[5]  Furthermore, McFadden’s hearing, scheduled for the 28th of June, is moving forward without an ABA rating on his nomination.  Furthermore, McFadden’s 14-year long history with the Federalist Society is unlikely to be missed as well.  As such, expect a more difficult confirmation process for McFadden than his fellow D.C. nominees Friedrich and Kelly.


[1] Colloton himself is a former prosecutor and a shortlist candidate for a Supreme Court vacancy.

[2] See United States v. Brown, 2011-CF3-0160000 (D.C. Super. Ct.) (Judge Pan).

[3] United States v. Bell, 708 F.3d 223 (D.C. Cir. 2013).  

[4] See Matt Ford, Jeff Sessions Reinvogarates the Drug War, The Atlantic, May 12, 2017, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/05/sessions-sentencing-memo/526029/.

[5] Press Release, Office of the MP Eleanor Holmes Norton, Norton Urges Senate Democrats to Question D.C. Federal Nominees on Residency, Familiarity with D.C., After White House Nominates Non-D.C. Residents for the U.S. District Court and U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia (June 13, 2017).