Judge Stephen McGlynn – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois

Judge Stephen McGlynn has had a varied career, including losing his seat on the state bench twice.  Now, he has been nominated by the Trump Administration for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois with the support of U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth.

Background

Stephen Patrick McGlynn was born in 1962.  McGlynn received a B.A. from the University of Dayton in 1984 and his J.D. from St. Louis University School of Law in 1987.

After graduation, McGlynn worked in private practice at McGlynn & McGlynn in Belleville, Illinois.  Additionally, from 1996 to 2005, McGlynn was also designated as a Special Assistant Attorney General in Illinois.  In 2006, upon the recommendation of Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier (on whose campaign McGlynn worked), McGlynn was appointed to the Illinois Fifth District Appellate Court.[1]  However, McGlynn was ousted from his seat in 2006 by Democrat Bruce Stewart.[2] 

After his election loss, McGlynn returned to McGlynn & McGlynn.  However, in 2010, Karmeier again appointed McGlynn to the state bench, this time to the Illinois 20th Judicial Circuit Court.[3]  However, McGlynn was, again, ousted by voters in 2012, this time in favor of Democrat Judy Cates.[4] 

Not to be deterred, Karmeier again appointed McGlynn to the 20th Judicial Circuit Court in 2013.[5]  This time, Karmeier won election in 2014 and has served on the court ever since.

History of the Seat

McGlynn has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.  This seat opened on March 31, 2019, when Judge Michael Reagan moved to senior status.

Legal Career

While McGlynn has a broad level of legal experience, he is particularly notable for his work in election and municipal law, and for representing local officials and Republican Party officials.  For example, McGlynn represented Centreville Mayor Riley Owens, who was charged with assault for telling an Alderman that the mayor would “blow your head off.”[6]

Interestingly, McGlynn’s close relationship to Republican officials came up in a federal corruption investigation against Gov. George Ryan.[7]  Documents uncovered by prosecutors showed that McGlynn was among several Republican officials who requested “favors” from Ryan while he served as Illinois’ Secretary of State.[8]  Specifically, McGlynn had requested a summer job for a local high school student.[9]  However, no wrongdoing was alleged or charged on McGlynn’s part.

In other matters, McGlynn represented the family members of a man who was run over by a police cruiser.[10]  After a grand jury failed to return an indictment against the police officer who operated the cruiser, McGlynn complained about the lack of justice for individuals who were “brutalized here without cause by police.”[11]

Jurisprudence

McGlynn has had three stints as a state court judge.  From 2005 to 2006, McGlynn was an appellate judge for the Fifth District Appellate Court.  From 2011 to 2012 and since 2013, McGlynn was a judge on the Illinois 20th Judicial Circuit Court.  McGlynn’s first two stints as judge ended with election losses, whereas the third continues to the present.  During that first loss, McGlynn was not recommended for the judgeship by the Illinois State Bar Association.[12]  Given his varied appointments, McGlynn has experience on both trial and appellate courts.

Among the more notable cases that McGlynn has handled, he issued a temporary restraining order preventing Caseyville Mayor Leonard Black from firing Police Chief Jose Alvarez.[13]  McGlynn’s ruling found that Black had violated Alvarez’s contract as well as his right to due process.[14]  In another case, McGlynn granted a demolition permit to the City of East St. Louis, which was seeking to raze the Murphy Building in its historic downtown.[15]

Political Activity

McGlynn has an extensive political history, including having served as the GOP Chairman of St. Clair County and as the Vice Chairman of the Illinois Republican Party.[16]  Notably, McGlynn was instrumental in recruiting Alan Keyes to challenge then-state senator Barack Obama in running for the U.S. Senate in 2004.[17]  Keyes, however, lost badly, getting only 30% of the vote after a series of controversial statements, including describing same-sex relationships as “selfish hedonism.”[18]  McGlynn was also active in the campaign of Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier, who would later promote McGlynn to judgeships three times.[19]

Overall Assessment

Ordinarily, the fact that a nominee has the support of their Democratic home-state senators is enough for me to designate them a consensus nominee.  However, in McGlynn’s case, it’s a little more complicated.

McGlynn’s long partisan history and his close connection with Karmeier, whose ethics have been called into question,[20] may also raise concerns.  Critics may focus on the fact that McGlynn has twice been voted out of office as a judge only to be reappointed to judgeships by Karmeier.  Republicans may also object to McGlynn’s comments on police brutality.

That being said, McGlynn’s jurisprudence does not reflect a partisan bias. As such, as long as Durbin and Duckworth remain on board, critics may choose to focus their fire on more appealing targets.


[1] Paul Hampel, Karmeier Taps 2 From GOP for Appeals Court: He Had Pledged to Be Nonpartisan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 9, 2005.

[2] Id.

[3] Belleville News-Democrat, McGlynn Tapped as New Judge in Southwestern Ill., A.P. State & Local Wire, Sept. 2, 2010.

[4] See Bill Grimes, Republicans Dominate Local Election, Effingham Daily News, Nov. 8, 2012.

[5] Press Release, Illinois Supreme Court, Illinois Supreme Court Appoints Stephen McGlynn as Circuit Judge in 20th Judicial Circuit, June 19, 2013.

[6] See Robert Goodrich, Centreville Mayor is Acquitted of Assault; He Was Accused in Dispute with Alderman at City Hall; 2nd Alderman Backs Mayor’s Story, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Feb. 4, 1999.

[7] See Kevin McDermott, Metro East Officials Defend Seeking Favors From Ryan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Feb. 1, 2003.

[8] See id.

[9] See id.

[10] Paul Hampel, Protesters Express Outrage that Policeman Who Ran Over Fleeing Suspect Wasn’t Indicted; Madison County Grand Jury Ruled Death An Accident, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 8, 2003.

[11] Id.

[12] Paul Hampel and William Lamb, 3 GOP Judges are Panned in Poll, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Feb. 23, 2006.

[13] Judge Intervenes in Mayor’s Firing of Police Chief, A.P. State & Local Wire, Mar. 6, 2014.

[14] See id. 

[15] See Paul Hampel, Judge Won’t Stop Demolition of Historic East St. Louis Building; Owner Vows to Fight On, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 15, 2015.

[16] See Patrick E. Gauen, St. Clair County Politics Goes From Hardball to Worse, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sept. 29, 1996.  See also Norm Parish, Illinois Republicans Aim to Draw Black Voters; Co-Leader of State Party Plans Major Recruitment Drive; Says Message is Attractive, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Dec. 9, 2002.

[17] See Alex Pasternack, Keyes Enters Illinois Senate Race Against Democrat Obama, N.Y. Sun, Aug. 9, 2004.

[18] A.P., Keyes: Cheney’s Gay Daughter Practicing ‘Selfish Hedonism’, NBCNews.com, Sept. 2, 2004, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/5897569#.XoaZudNKiCQ.

[19] See Hampel, supra n. 1.

[20] Billy Corriher and Brent DeBeaumont, Dodging a Billion Dollar Verdict, Center for American Progress, Aug. 14, 2013, https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/courts/reports/2013/08/14/72199/dodging-a-billion-dollar-verdict/. 

Judge Franklin Valderrama – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois

The Dirksen Courthouse - where the Northern District of Illinois sits.

Judge Franklin Valderrama’s thirteen year tenure on the Cook County Circuit Court has put him in the center of a number of politically charged cases.  As such, if confirmed, Valderrama would certainly be prepared for the pressure that comes with being a federal judge.

Background

Franklin Ulyses Valderrama’s family is originally from Panama.[1]  Valderrama received a B.A. from the University of Illinois in 1985 and a J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1988.  

After graduation, Valderrama worked at Sanchez, Daniels, & Hoffman LLP in Chicago, where he became a Partner.[2]  Valderrama was appointed to the Circuit Court of Cook County in 2007 and has served on the court ever since.

History of the Seat

Valderrama has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.  This seat opened on September 27, 2019, when Judge Ruben Castillo moved to senior status.  Valderrama was nominated for the seat on February 12, 2020.

Legal Career

Valderrama’s legal career before he became a judge was at the firm of Sanchez, Daniels & Hoffman LLP.  At the firm, Valderrama largely focused on trial level litigation.[3]  Among his more notable cases, Valderrama represented Simon Management, who managed a strip mall, in a suit seeking liability for the death of a loss prevention specialist who was shot by a shoplifter.[4]  In the case, a jury found Simon Management partially responsible for the death of the loss prevention specialist.[5]  However, an appellate court reversed the verdict, finding that Simon Management could not be held responsible for the death of the plaintiff because there was no allegation that any negligence by security was involved in the specialist’s death.[6]

Jurisprudence

Valderrama has served as a judge on the Circuit Court of Cook County since 2007, the Circuit Court being the primary state trial court in Chicago.  In this role, Valderrama has presided over a number of high-profile cases.  

Most notably, Valderrama presided over the lawsuit arising from the police shooting of African American teenager Laquan McDonald.[7]  After a quick settlement in the case, a freelance journalist filed a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request seeking the release of dash and body cam footage of the shooting.[8]  Valderrama ruled against the City and ordered the release of the footage, which the City reluctantly agreed to.[9]  Despite predictions of violence, protests following the release of the footage were largely peaceful.[10]

Among other notable decisions, Valderrama dismissed a lawsuit brought by gun control groups seeking to shut down gun shops in Chicago neighborhoods,[11] and dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Chicago Public School System challenging the state’s school funding formula as discriminatory.[12] 

Valderrama has also had to deal with aggressive lawyers in his courtroom.  In one case, Valderrama strongly admonished attorney Charles Andrew Cohn for using offensive language in reference to his opposing counsel during a deposition.[13]  Cohn attempted to justify his language and conduct by claiming that “a man who insults on a daily basis everybody he does business with has now been elected President of the United States” and that, thus, “I can say what I want.”[14]  Expectedly, Valderrama did not find this defense very persuasive and admonished Cohn in his language, only for Cohn to accuse the judge of “robe rage.”[15]  Cohn ultimately faced an ethics complaint due to his conduct.[16]

Overall Assessment

Judge Valderrama’s thirteen year tenure on the state bench paints the picture of a no-nonsense jurist who can handle tough issues and confrontational attorneys.  As he has recieeved the stamp of approval from the Trump Administration and Illinois’ Democratic senators, Valderrama is poised for a comfortable confirmation.


[1] See Betsy Wangesteen, Man, Oh Manny: Meet Chicago’s Uberschmoozer: ‘Stalking’ Dick Notebaert and Other Adventures with Solicitor Sanchez, Crain’s Chicago Business, June 9, 1997.

[2] Id. 

[3] See Press Release, Office of President Donald J. Trump, President Donald J. Trump Announces Judicial Nominee, Feb. 5, 2020 (available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/president-donald-j-trump-announces-judicial-nominee-3/).

[4] See Kolodziejzak v. Melvin Simon & Assocs., 685 N.E.2d 985 (Ill. App. 1997).

[5] See id. at 987.

[6] Id. at 991.

[7] See John Kass, The Video That Will Rip Chicago Apart, Right Wing News, Nov. 12, 2015.

[8] See id.

[9] Don Babwin, Chicago Says It’ll Release Shooting Video Per Judge’s Order, A.P. Online, Nov. 10, 2015.

[10] Monica Davey and Mitch Smith, Chicago Protests Mostly Peaceful After Video of Police Shooting is Released, N.Y. Times, Nov. 24, 2015.

[11] See Dean Weingarten, Lawsuit Against Cities Near Chicago, for Black Crime in Chicago is Struck Down, Ammoland.com, Mar. 15, 2016.

[12] Mike Kennedy, Judge Rejects Chicago School System’s Funding Lawsuit; District May Have to End School Year 3 Weeks Early, Am. Sch. & Univ., Apr. 28, 2017.

[13] See Debra Cassens Weiss, Lawyer Accuses Judge of ‘Robe Rage,’ Tells Opposing Counsel to ‘Certify Your Own Stupidity,’ Ethics Complaint Says, ABA Journal, Dec. 20, 2018, https://www.abajournal.com/news/article/lawyer-accused-judge-of-robe-rage-told-opposing-counsel-to-certify-her-stupidity-ethics-charges-say.

[14] See id.

[15] See id.

[16] Id.

Judge David Dugan – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois

Judge David Dugan is the epitome of a consensus nominee: a judge with extensive litigation experience and the support of the Republican Administration and his Democratic home-state senators.

Background

David W. Dugan was born in 1960.  Dugan received a B.A. in Political Science from Eastern Illinois University in 1982 and his J.D. from Valparaiso University School of Law in 1985.[1]  After law school, Dugan entered private practice, focusing on personal injury and commercial litigation, as well as working as a part-time assistant state’s attorney.[2]

In 2017, Dugan was appointed by Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier to the Third Judicial Circuit.[3]  Dugan has served on the court ever since.

History of the Seat

Dugan has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.  This seat opened on January 7, 2019, when Judge David Herndon moved to senior status.  Dugan was nominated on February 12, 2020.

Legal Career

Dugan has practiced in civil and commercial litigation between 1986 and 2016.  In his thirty years of legal practice, Dugan has practiced in both state and federal courts, in particular in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

Among the various cases that Dugan had handled, he represented plaintiffs seeking recovery for injuries from automobile accidents,[4]  prisoners seeking release under habeas review,[5]  and a plaintiff seeking to return an action that was “removed” to federal court back into state court.[6] 

Jurisprudence 

Dugan has served as an Illinois Circuit Court judge since his appointment in 2017.  In this role, Dugan serves on a court of general jurisdiction, reviewing civil and criminal cases, as well as habeas corpus and mandamus writs.  Among the cases he handled, Dugan reviewed a number of decisions of the Illinois Worker’s Compensation Commission,[7] as well as claims against the state government.[8]  Dugan’s decisions have generally been affirmed by higher courts.

Political Activity

Dugan has frequently donated to political candidates, mostly giving to Republicans, but with a handful of contributions to Democrats as well, most notably to then-Senate candidate Barack Obama in 2004.[9]

Overall Assessment

As noted earlier, Dugan has an uncontroversial record, decades of legal experience, and bipartisan support.  He will likely be confirmed near unanimously later this year.


[1] Staff Report, David W. Dugan Appointed as Circuit Judge for Third Judicial Circuit, The Telegraph, Feb. 12, 2017, https://www.thetelegraph.com/news/article/David-W-Dugan-appointed-as-circuit-judge-for-12589912.php.

[2] See id.

[3] Id.

[4] See, e.g., Lynch v. Switalski, 2003 WL 262519 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 5, 2003).

[5] See e.g., Gines v. Mote, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 33082 (S.D. Ill. Mar. 25, 2004).

[6] See Loellke v. Moore, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9313 (S.D. Ill. Jan. 26, 2012).

[7] See, e.g., Rednour v. Ill. Workers’ Comp. Comm’n, 2018 Ill. App. Unpub. LEXIS 1758 (Ill. App. Oct. 2, 2018).

[8] See, e.g., Grater v. Court of Claims, 2019 Ill. App. Unpub. LEXIS 1425 (Ill. App. Jul. 25, 2019).

Christy Wiegand – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania

Nineteen years ago, Christy Wiegand, then a young attorney at Arnold & Porter, was attacked while jogging in Rock Creek Park.  Wiegand fought back against her attacker, escaped, and later identified him to the police.  She went on to a distinguished career as a federal prosecutor, and now is primed for a seat on the federal bench.

Background

Christy Wiegand attended Princeton University, where she was a varsity rower, and went onto Cornell Law School, receiving her J.D. in 2000.[1]  After law school, Wiegand moved to Washington D.C. to join Arnold & Porter in their antitrust practice.  

However, in her first year in D.C., while jogging with her then-fiance in Rock Creek Park, Wiegand was attacked by a knife-wielding man.[2]  She managed to fight back and escaped to contact the police, who arrested her attacker, 19-year-old Ingmar Guandique.[3]  Guandique was later implicated in the murder of Chandra Levy, a Congressional intern whose disappearance had drawn suspicions on her boss, Congressman Gary Condit.[4]  Wiegand would also testify against Guandique who was ultimately convicted.[5]

In 2003, Wiegand left Arnold & Porter to clerk for Judge D. Brooks Smith on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.  Since her clerkship, Wiegand has served as a federal prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

History of the Seat

The seat Wiegand has been nominated for opened on July 22, 2019, when Judge Peter Phipps, himself a Trump appointee, was elevated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.  Wiegand was nominated on February 12, 2020.

Legal Experience

Wiegand has practiced law as an Associate at Arnold & Porter and as a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania.  In the former position, Wiegand focused on antitrust law.[6] In the latter position, Wiegand has handled both civil and criminal matters, including serving as the Deputy Civil Chief.[7] 

Among the most notable cases Wiegand handled, she was part of a legal team suing Education Management Corp. (EDMC), a for-profit education conglomerate that was charged with violating federal laws.[8]  Wiegand also led prosecutions against the Darccide/Smash 44 Gang for narcotics, firearms, and organized crime violations.[9]

Political Activity

Wiegand has only one political contribution of record, a 2016 contribution of $1000 to Sen. Patrick Toomey (R-PA).[10] 

Overall Assessment

Having powered through far more significant obstacles and barriers, Wiegand should be able to navigate the Senate confirmation process relatively comfortably.  Given her relatively uncontroversial record and her support from both Toomey and Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), Wiegand can expect a bipartisan confirmation.


[1] See Sari Horwitz, Scott Higham, and Sylvia Moreno, Chapter Six: The Predator in the Park, Wash. Post, July 17, 2008.

[2] See id.

[3] Id.

[4] Matthew Barakat, Chandra Levy’s Father Testifies About Efforts to Find Daughter, Other Testimony, San Jose Mercury News, Oct. 26, 2010.

[5] See Matthew Barakat, Woman Testifies About Attack at Chandra Levy Trial, San Jose Mercury News, Oct. 26, 2010.  See also Michael Doyle, Jury Finds Guandique Guilty of Killing Chandra Levy, Canwest News Service, Nov. 22, 2010.

[6] See Press Release, Office of Sen. Patrick Toomey, Toomey, Casey Applaud Nomination of Christy Wiegand to U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania, Feb. 5, 2020 (available at https://www.toomey.senate.gov/?p=op_ed&id=2567).  

[7] See id.

[8] See Press Release, Office of the Attorney General, For-Profit College Company to Pay $95.5 Million to Settle Claims of Illegal Recruiting, Consumer Fraud, and Other Violations, Nov. 16, 2015.

[9] See Press Release, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Western District of Pennsylvania, First of 37 Defendants Charged in Darccide/Smash 44 Gang Investigation Pleads Guilty to Drug Charge, Dec. 6, 2019.

Judge Jennifer Togliatti – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada

Jennifer Togliatti, who retired as a state court judge last year, is President Trump’s first nominee to the U.S. District Court in Nevada.

Background

Jennifer Paige Togliatti was born in 1967 in Waterbury, CT.  Togliatti graduated from the University of Nevada in 1989 and from California Western School of Law in 1993.[1]

After graduation, Togliatti joined the Clark County District Attorney’s Office as a criminal prosecutor.[2]  In 1999, she became a Justice of the Peace in Las Vegas Township.  In 2002, Gov. Kenny Guinn chose Togliatti to be a District Court with Nevada’s Eighth Judicial District.[3]  Togliatti stayed at that position until 2019 when she retired to become a private mediator.

History of the Seat

Togliatti has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada.  This seat opened on June 29, 2018, when Judge James Mahan moved to senior status.  

In April 2019, Togliatti was approached about the judgeship by U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto.[4]  Togliatti was then recommended, alongside other candidates by Cortez-Masto and Sen. Jacky Rosen.[5]  Togliatti interviewed with the White House Counsel’s Office in July 2019.[6]  President Trump announced Togliatti’s nomination on October 16, 2019.

Legal Career

While Togliatti has spent most of her legal career as a judge, she did have five years of experience as a state prosecutor before she joined the bench.  Her experience in this role was purely criminal and included prosecuting both misdemeanor and felony cases in Nevada state courts.

In addition, since 2019, Togliatti has been working as a mediator in private practice.  In this role, Togliatti notably was tasked with determining the damage disbursements to plaintiffs injured from the 2017 mass shooting in the Las Vegas strip.[7]

Jurisprudence

Togliatti served as a trial court judge in Nevada between 2002 and 2019, in which role, she presided over approximately 8500 cases.[8]  Two of her most notable cases are outlined below.

Death Penalty

Most notably, Togliatti reviewed the execution protocol for Scott Dozier, the first inmate scheduled to be executed in 11 years in Nevada.[9]  In an unusual posture, federal defenders challenged the execution protocol as cruel and painful, while Dozier pushed for the execution to be carried out.[10]  After multiple hearings, Togliatti blocked the use of Nevada’s three drug protocol, citing concerns about the use of cisatracurium, a paralytic drug included in the cocktail.[11]  However, Togliatti’s decision was overruled by the Nevada Supreme Court.[12]  In a sad epilogue, Dozier died by his own hand before his execution.[13]

Discrimination in Prosecutions

In 2000, as a Justice of the Peace, Togliatti reviewed a challenge to Clark County policies criminalizing prostitution and solicitation, which were alleged to discriminate against women by allowing male offenders to complete classes for dismissal but not allowing the same option for women.[14]  Togliatti rejected the challenge, finding that the policy did not discriminate based on gender, but rather differentiated between “buyers” and “sellers” in the prostitution industry.[15]  Togliatti’s ruling was ultimately upheld by the Nevada Supreme Court.[16]  However, the Court also criticized Togliatti for involving other judges in a “collective” decision to authorize continued prosecution, finding the process “flawed.”[17]

Overall Assessment

With twenty years of judicial experience, Togliatti would  not have a learning curve to develop a judicial persona.  Additionally, nominated with the support of the Administration and Nevada’s Democratic senators, Togliatti would likely secure a bipartisan majority for confirmation.  However, Togliatti may draw attention from her decisions in the Dozier case and the prostitution challenge, both of which were criticized by the Nevada Supreme Court.  As such, Togliatti may see some negative votes from those cases.


[1] See Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 116th Cong., Jennifer Togliatti: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] Id. at 2.

[3] Id.

[4] Id. at 40.

[5] Nigel Jaquiss, Oregon Senators on a Collision Course with White House Over Openings on Federal Courts, Willamette Week, Feb. 12, 2018, https://www.wweek.com/news/2018/02/12/oregons-senators-on-a-collision-course-with-white-house-over-openings-on-federal-courts/.

[6] See Togliatti, supra n. 1 at 26.

[7] Marco Della Cava, Victims to Split $800M: What’s Their Pain Worth?, USA Today, Feb. 11, 2020.

[8] See Togliatti, supra n. 1 at 11.

[9] Ken Ritter, Death Row Inmate Says No Concerns About Painful Execution, A.P. State & Local, Aug. 17, 2017.

[10] See id.

[11] Danielle Haynes, Nevada Delays Execution of Murderer Who Opposes Method, UPI, Nov. 9, 2017.

[12] See Ken Ritter, Nevada Court OKs Execution, Rejects Challenges on Procedure.  See also Nevada Dep’t of Corr. v. Eighth Judicial Dist. Ct. of the State of Nevada, 417 P.3d 1117 (Nev. 2018).

[13] Daniel Uria, Nevada Death Row Inmate Scott Dozier Found Dead From Apparent Suicide, UPI, Jan. 6, 2019.

[14] A.P., County Prosecutorial Bias Alleged in Solicitation Cases, A.P. State & Local Wire, Oct. 5, 2000.

[15] See A.P., Las Vegas Judges OK Trials for Prostitutes While Johns Get Diversion, A.P. State & Local Wire, Dec. 28, 2000.

[16] See Salaiscooper v. Eighth Judicial District Court of the State of Nevada, 34 P.3d 509 (Nev. 2001).

[17] Brendan Riley, Nevada Supreme Court OKs Vegas Prostitution Prosecutions, A.P. State & Local Wire, Nov. 15, 2001.

R. Shireen Matthews – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California is currently short five judges.  The Trump Administration and California’s Democratic senators have settled on a package of five nominees to fill the vacancies.  One of the Democratic picks is Jones Day partner R. Shireen Matthews, who would be the first South Asian judge on the Southern District.

Background

Matthews was born Rebecca Shireen Matthews in Arcadia CA in 1977.  Matthews attended Georgetown University and Duke University School of Law.[1]  Matthews then clerked for Judge Irma Gonzalez on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.[2]

After her clerkship, Matthews became an Associate with Latham & Watkins in San Diego.[3]  2008, she became a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California.[4]  In 2013, she moved to the San Diego office of Jones Day, where she has been a Partner since 2016.

History of the Seat

Matthews has been nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, to a seat vacated on January 23, 2019, by Judge Barry Moskowitz’s move to senior status.  

In 2018, Matthews applied for and interviewed with selection committees set up by California’s Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris.[5]  Matthews was selected as a nominee on March 11, 2019 and was nominated on October 17, 2019.

Legal Experience

Post clerkship, Matthews has held three legal positions, at Latham & Watkins, as a federal prosecutor, and at Jones Day.  Overall, throughout her career, Matthews has tried nine cases to verdict.[6] 

In her initial position at Latham & Watkins, Matthews was largely focused on civil litigation.  For example, Matthews represented Arthur Anderson LLP in defending a non-competition agreement before the California Supreme Court.[7]

At the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Matthews was a trial prosecutor, primarily focused on firearms, narcotics, human trafficking, and immigration cases.  Notably, Matthews prosecuted three defense contractors who stole more than $3 million in medical equipment from Camp Pendleton.[8]  She also prosecuted a trafficker for smuggling three illegal immigrants into the United States by concealing them in a Jet Ski.[9]

At Jones Day, Matthews has worked in both civil litigation and investigations.  Notably, Matthews represented Qualcomm in a breach of contract and trade secret suit against Apple Inc.[10]  Matthews also represented a metal plating company charged with violations of the Clean Water Act for introducing chemical particulates into sewer water.[11]

Overall Assessment

Like three of the other nominees put forward for the Southern District of California, Matthews has a background as a prosecutor (in comparison, only one comes from a defense background).  That being said, Matthews has the support of California’s Democratic senators and has an apolitical background.  As such, she will likely be confirmed with a bipartisan majority to the federal bench.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 116th Cong., Shireen Matthews: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] See id.

[3] See id. at 2.

[4] See id. 

[5] Id.

[6] See id. At 14.

[7] Edwards v. Arthur Anderson LLP, 44 Cal. 4th 937 (Cal. 2008).

[8] United States v. Henry Bonilla, et al., 13-cr-0338-CAB (S.D. Cal.).

[9] United States v. Randall Cary Geiger, 08-cr-3681-BTM (S.D. Cal.).

[10] See Qualcomm, Inc. v. Apple, Inc., Case No. 37-2017-41389 (San Diego Super. Ct.).

[11] United States v. Southern California Plating Co., Case No. 15-cr-0946-H (S.D. Cal.).

John Cronan – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York

John Cronan, who currently serves as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice, was nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, with the support of New York’s Democratic Senators.  

Background

John Peter Cronan was born in Teaneck, New Jersey in 1976.  Cronan graduated magna cum laude from Georgetown University and then received his J.D. from Yale Law School.[1] 

After graduating, Cronan clerked for Judge Barrington Daniels Parker and for Judge Robert Katzmann on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.[2]  Cronan then became a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.  In 2017, Cronan became the Chief of the Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit.

In 2017, Cronan moved to the Department of Justice to be Acting Assistant Attorney General and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General.  He is still with the Department.

History of the Seat

Cronan has been tapped for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to a seat vacated by Judge Richard Pauley, who moved to senior status on March 1, 2018.  In mid-2018, Cronan expressed his interest in the judgeship to the White House Counsel’s Office.[3]  Shortly after, Cronan interviewed with the White House Counsel’s Office for the judgeship.

In May 2019, Cronan’s nomination process restarted with a second interview.  Cronan was officially nominated on December 2, 2019.

Legal Career

After his clerkships, Cronan spent the rest of his career as a federal prosecutor and as the Department of Justice.

Cronan worked as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York between 2007 and 2017.  In that role, Cronan handled a wide variety of cases in both the Civil and Criminal Divisions of the Office, focusing in particular on terrorism cases.[4]  For example, Cronan prosecuted Sulaiman Abu Ghayth, a close associate of Osama Bin Laden, for conspiring to murder Americans and providing material support to terrorists.[5]  Cronan also prosecuted a number of other individuals for terrorism-related charges, including Abu Hamza al-Masri, Faisal Shahzad, and Mohammad Younis.

In his current role at the Department of Justice, Cronan led the pursuance of charges for precious metal market manipulation against HSBC, UBS, and Deutsche Bank.[6]  Cronan also testified before Congress regarding the Justice Department’s civil asset forfeiture policies, where he faced criticism for the delay in returning seized assets to taxpayers.[7]

Writings

While Cronan hasn’t written much for most of his career, he was particularly prodigious in his youth, writing a number of legal articles over the first few years of his career.  We’ve outlined some of the more significant below.

First Amendment

Cronan has been particularly prolific in writing about the First Amendment concept of “incitement,” which allows the government to punish speech that incites someone to “imminent lawless action.”  In a student note authored in 2000, Cronan discussed the incitement and related “threat” standard when applied to the Nuremberg Files, a “hit-list” of abortion doctors published on the internet.[8]  In the article, Cronan argues that the list did not constitute a “true threat” as it lacked both the language of the threat and the intent to carry out a threat.[9]  In a later article, Cronan suggests that the list could have risen to the level of incitement to lawless activity as several doctors on the list were later victims of violence and three were killed.[10]

Diversity and Multiculturalism

In 2001, Cronan authored an article discussing affirmative action programs in higher education.[11]  Specifically, Cronan praised the overall goal of increasing diversity in higher education, but criticized both race-based affirmative action and race-blind affirmative action, instead proposing a hybrid scheme that considers both racial and non-racial factors.[12]

Overall Assessment

Despite his Federalist Society background and Trump Administration bona fides, Cronan is likely to attract more opposition from the right than from the left.  If so, such opposition would largely be motivated by his writings which reject conservative positions on issues of affirmative action, abortion rights, and First Amendment law.  As such, while Cronan is strongly favored for confirmation, it would not be surprising to see some “no” votes from Republican senators.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 116th Cong., John Cronan: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] See id. at 2.

[3] Id. at 76.

[4] See id. at 38.

[5] United States v. Abu Ghayth, S14 98 Cr. 1023 (LAK) (S.D.N.Y.).

[6] See Renae Merle, U.S. Regulator, DOJ Settle ‘Spoofing’ Charges Against European Banks; The Case is the Largest Crackdown, So Far, On What Wall Street Has Increasingly Complained Is Abuse Of Sophisticated Computer Algorithms to Illegally Place and Quickly Cancel Bids on Commodity Contracts, Wash. Post Blogs, Jan. 29, 2018. 

[7] Christopher Ingraham, The Justice Department Won’t Return Seized Cash to Hundreds of Taxpayers. Now House Republicans Are Stepping In.; “What Was Done Was Not Fair, Just or Right in Most Cases,” Lawmakers Say, Wash. Post Blogs, July 19, 2018.

[8] John P. Cronan, Free Speech on the Internet: Does the First Amendment Protect the “Nuremberg Files”?, 2 Yale Symp. L. & Tech. 5  (Spring 2000).

[9] Id. at 17.

[10] John P. Cronan, The Next Challenge for the First Amendment: The Framework for an Internet Incitement Standard, 51 Cath. U. L. Rev. 425, 446 (2002).

[11] The Diversity Justification in Higher Education: Evaluating Disadvantaged Status in School Admissions, 34 Suffolk U.L. Rev. 305 (2001).

[12] Such a scheme is fairly consistent with modern affirmative action schemes, which consider race but do not use it as a sole factor.