Judge Gordon Gallagher – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado

Judge Gordon Gallagher, who has served as a federal magistrate judge for the past decade, is Biden’s fourth nominee to the federal district court bench in Colorado.

Background

Gordon Gallagher attended Macalester College in St. Paul, graduating in 1991. He then received a J.D. from the University of Denver Strum Law School in 1996.

After graduating, Gallagher spent two years at Underhill and Underhill P.C. and then joined the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office. In 2000, Gallagher became a solo practitioner.

In 2012, Gallagher was appointed to be a U.S. Magistrate Judge and has served as such since.

History of the Seat

Gallagher has been nominated for a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. This seat will open on February 10, 2023 when Judge William Martinez takes senior status. Gallagher was previously recommended by Colorado Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper to replace Judge Christine Arguello, but fellow magistrate judge Nina Wang was chosen instead. Gallagher was then nominated to replace Martinez.

Legal Experience

Gallagher began his legal career at the firm of Underhill and Underhill P.C. before spending two years as a state prosecutor. However, the vast majority of his pre-bench career was spent as a solo practitioner, where he worked primarily in criminal defense. Among his notable cases, Gallagher represented Cheyenne Corbett, a teen mom charged with murder for the death of her baby shortly after it was born. See Teen Mom Charged with Murder Invoked Privacy Law, A.P. State & Local Wire, July 28, 2006.

Jurisprudence

Gallagher has served as a federal magistrate judge since his appointment in 2012. 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. Among the cases that he presided over, Gallagher handled a number of cases involving damage to federal lands. For example, he found Scott Wagner guilty of damage for building an unapproved pond partially on federal property. See Man Found Guilty for Altering and Damaging Forest Service Lands Within the Gunnison National Forest, Targeted News Service, Dec. 7, 2012. In another case, Gallagher sentenced Earl Bennett to a year of probation and $30000 in restitution for illegally building a road on federal property. See Man Sentenced for Illegally Building Road on U.S. Forest Service Land, U.S. Fed News, Aug. 27, 2018.

Writings and Statements

Gallagher has made a couple of media statements in his role as an attorney. For example, in 2003, Gallagher commented on the performance of Pamela Mackey, the defense attorney for Kobe Bryant in his rape trial. See Mike Wiggins and Michael C. Bender, Questions of Ethical Propriety Arise Over Bryant’s Defense, Cox News Service, Oct. 10, 2003.

Overall Assessment

Throughout his legal career, Gallagher has held a variety of positions, including as a prosecutor, a defense lawyer, and a judge. As such, his qualifications for a federal judgeship are undeniable. If Gallagher is given a hearing this Congress, he will likely be confirmed easily. However, given that Martinez is not taking senior status until next February and that a Republican senate might find Gallagher an acceptable nominee, it wouldn’t be surprising if Democrats prioritized other judges.

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

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

Background

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

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

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

History of the Seat

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

Legal Career

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

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

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

Overall Assessment

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

Judge DeAndrea Benjamin – Nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

Having lost a bitter battle to join the South Carolina Court of Appeals last year, Judge DeAndrea Benjamin has now been nominated for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

Background

Born DeAndrea Gist in Columbia, South Carolina, in 1972, Benjamin received a B.A. from Winthrop University in 1994 and a J.D. from the University of South Carolina Law School in 1997. After graduating, Benjamin clerked for Judge L. Casey Manning on the Fifth Judicial Circuit of South Carolina. She then spent two years at the Fifth Judicial Circuit Solicitor’s Office and another two years at the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office before opening her own practice in 2001.

While practicing, Benjamin also worked part-time as a Columbia city judge and on the Juvenile Parole Board. In 2010, Benjamin narrowly lost an election in the South Carolina legislature to become a family court judge to Gwendolyn Young Smalls. See Small Bests Benjamin for Family Court Judge, S.C. Politics Today, Feb. 3, 2010. In 2011, Benjamin was appointed to be a Circuit Judge on the Fifth Judicial Circuit in a unanimous vote. See Wife of Columbia Mayor Elected Judge, A.P. State & Local Wire, Feb. 3, 2011.

Benjamin’s husband, Steve Benjamin is a prominent South Carolina Democrat who lost a race for Attorney General to (now Governor) Henry McMaster in 2002 and served as Mayor of Columbia from 2010 to 2022. In 2010, during the mayoral election, the Benjamins were criticized for listing two primary residences of their tax forms, which they explained was because they moved. See Tax Wars Dominate Capital City Mayoral Race, FITSNews For You, Apr. 17, 2010.

In 2013, Benjamin’s brother Donald Gist Jr. was tragically shot and killed in Charlotte, N.C. See SC Mayor’s Brother-in-Law Killed in Charlotte, A.P. Online, Dec. 7, 2013.

In 2021, Benjamin was up for a seat on the South Carolina Court of Appeals but lost after opposition from conservatives critical of her husband. See Judge and Columbia Mayor’s Wife Loses Partisan Judicial Race, A.P. State & Local, Feb. 3, 2021. The legislature selected Judge Jay Vinson instead.

History of the Seat

Benjamin has been nominated to replace U.S. Circuit Henry Floyd, who moved to senior status on December 31, 2021. Benjamin was recommended for the vacancy by U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, who is close to the Biden Administration.

Legal Experience

Benjamin has held a variety of positions throughout her legal career. She started her career at the Fifth Judicial Circuit Solicitor’s Office, where she handled criminal prosecutions in Richland and Kershaw counties. Subsequently, at the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office, she continued criminal prosecutions, including the sexual assault prosecution of York County Sheriff’s Deputy Tommy Benfield Sr. See Former Sheriff’s Deputy Indicted on Sex Charges, A.P. State & Local Wire, Sept. 23, 2000.

From 2001 to 2011, Benjamin worked as a solo practitioner in Columbia. Among the cases she handled during this time, Benjamin represented James McKinney, a teacher who sued an investigator with Richland County for arresting him on warrants not supported by probable cause. See McKinney v. Richland Cnty. Sheriff’s Dep’t, 431 F.3d 415 (4th Cir. 2005). After Judge Margaret Seymour denied summary judgment for the defendants, the Fourth Circuit reversed, finding that the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. See id. at 419.

Benjamin also handled a number of employment discrimination suits, including that of Ada Irene Dawson, an African-American FBI agent who sued for racial discrimination, a hostile work environment, and retaliation. See Dawson v. United States, 549 F. Supp. 2d 736 (D.S.C. 2008). Benjamin also represented Beverly Mahomes who sued the U.S. Postal Service for racial discrimination after her termination. See Mahomes v. Potter, 590 F. Supp. 2d 775 (D.S.C. 2008).

Jurisprudence

Benjamin has served as a South Carolina Circuit Court judge since her election in 2011. In this role, she serves as a trial judge handling both civil and criminal matters for the counties of Richland and Kershaw.

Among her criminal cases, Benjamin has shown a willingness to hand out harsh sentences. For example, she sentenced Brett Parker to two terms of life in prison after he was convicted of killing his wife and his business partner. See Judge Sentences Columbia Man to 2 Life Terms, A.P. State & Local Wire, May 29, 2013. She also sentenced Christopher Harmon to 20 years in prison for kidnapping and sexual assault. See North August Man Sentenced to 20 Years for 2017 Kidnapping, Sexual Assault Case, Aiken Standard, Dec. 19, 2019.

On the civil side, Benjamin dismissed a suit challenging South Carolina’s ban on online eye exams, finding the company had failed to plead an injury sufficient to give them standing to challenge the law. See Judge Dismisses Case Challenging Online Eye Exam Ban, Columbia Regional Business Report, Jan. 30, 2018. The South Carolina Court of Appeals reversed, finding that the requirements for standing had been met. See Opternative, Inc. v. S.C. Bd. of Med. Examiners, 859 S.E.2d 263 (S.C. App. 2021).

Benjamin also sat by designation on the South Carolina Supreme Court. See, e.g., Burch v. Burch, 717 S.E.2d 757 (S.C. 2011).

During her time on the circuit court bench, some of Benjamin’s decisions were appealed to the South Carolina Court of Appeals and the South Carolina Supreme Court. The majority of these decisions were affirmed. See, e.g., State v. Brown, 740 S.E.2d 493 (S.C. 2013) (affirming jury instructions given in larceny conviction). Some of the decisions that were reversed are highlighted below:

Lee v. Univ. of S.C. (757 S.E.2d 394 (S.C. 2014)) – The plaintiff contracted with the University to give him an opportunity to purchase football and basketball tickets throughout his lifetime in consideration for taking out a life insurance policy with the University as a beneficiary. The University subsequently began imposing seat license fees on all purchases, which the plaintiff challenged as a breach of contract. Benjamin ruled that the plaintiff was not being denied his contractual right of purchase by imposing the licensing fees. The South Carolina Supreme Court reversed 4-1, finding that the payment of the licensing fee constituted an additional condition the University attempted to impose on a contract that did not require it. Justice Costa Pleicones would have affirmed.

Sanders v. State (773 S.E.2d 580 (S.C. 2015)) – The Defendant in the case agreed to waive all collateral review of any conviction in exchange for the state agreeing not to seek the death penalty. When the Defendant subsequently attempted to collaterally challenge his conviction, Benjamin dismissed the challenge under the agreement. The South Carolina Supreme Court reversed, finding that Benjamin should have convened an evidentiary hearing to confirm if the Defendant’s attorney was constitutionally defective in advising him to consent to the agreement.

Lucero v. State (777 S.E.2d 409 (S.C. App. 2015)) – The Defendant challenged her conviction for drug trafficking collaterally after an immigration judge ordered her removed based on the conviction. Benjamin granted post-conviction relief based on the Supreme Court’s decision in Padilla v. Kentucky, which found that defense counsel needed to advise non-citizens of immigration consequences from their pleas. The Court of Appeals reversed, finding that the Padilla decision could not be applied retroactively to the Defendant’s case.

State v. Stukes (787 S.E.2d 480 (S.C. 2016)) – The Defendant was convicted of rape after a trial in which the complainant claimed that she was assaulted while the Defendant argued that the intercourse was consensual. Benjamin advised the jury, consistent with the statute, that the complainant’s statement need not be corroborated to be believed. The South Carolina Supreme Court reversed 3-2, finding that, while the instruction was an accurate statement of the law, it confused the jury in this instance and was impermissible. Justice Kittredge dissented, finding any error to be harmless.

State v. Herndon (845 S.E.2d 499 (S.C. 2020)) – The Defendant, after a conviction for voluntary manslaughter, challenged Benjamin’s refusal to give the jury a Logan charge, or an instruction advising them as to how they should consider circumstantial evidence, as opposed to direct evidence. The South Carolina Supreme Court reversed, finding that, as the state’s evidence was almost entirely circumstantial, the charge was required to be given.

Overall Assessment

Benjamin has had her share of judicial disappointment, including losing bids for the Family Court and the South Carolina Court of Appeals. While Benjamin may well draw opposition in her bid for the Fourth Circuit, her confirmation will largely be tied to what Sen. Lindsay Graham chooses to do. Graham, who has generally been one of the most friendly Republican senators to Biden nominees, could grease the path for his home-state nominee if he supports her. If Graham chooses to oppose Benjamin, however, it is unlikely that she would be confirmed.

Judge Jeffery Hopkins – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio

Judge Jeffery Hopkins has served as a federal bankruptcy judge in Ohio for twenty-five years and is now poised to gain a lifetime appointment to the district court bench.

Background

Born in Georgia, Jeffery Hopkins was drawn to the law because an uncle, Robert Hall, was murdered by Georgia sheriff Claude Screws while trying to execute an arrest. Screws’ conviction was later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. See Screws v. U.S., 325 U.S. 91 (1945). Hopkins subsequently received a B.A. from Bowdoin College in 1982 and his J.D. from the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law in 1985. After graduation, Hopkins was hired as a clerk by Judge Alan Norris on the Ohio Court of Appeals. When Norris was appointed by President Reagan to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit the following year, Hopkins followed him as a clerk on that court.

Subsequently, Hopkins spent three years at Squire Sanders & Dempsey LLP (now Squire Patton Boggs) before joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio.

In 1996, Hopkins was appointed to be a U.S. Bankruptcy Judge, and has served as such ever since.

In 2009, Hopkins was recommended to replace Judge Sandra Beckwith on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, alongside U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy Black and Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas Judge Mary Wiseman. See Jessica Wehrman and Steve Bennish, Wiseman Finalist for Bench; Sen. Sherrod Brown Will Meet With Her, Two Others Before Recommending His Choice For Federal Court Vacancy, Dayton Daily News, June 26, 2009. However, the Obama Administration nominated and appointed Black instead after he was the final choice of Ohio senators.

History of the Seat

Hopkins has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. This seat was vacated on May 18, 2022, when Judge Timothy Black moved to senior status. Hopkins applied with a selection commission put together by Ohio Senators Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, and Rob Portman, a Republican and was recommended to the White House by the senators. He was nominated on July 29, 2022.

Legal Experience

After clerking for Judge Norris on the state and federal benches, Hopkins joined the Cincinnati office of Squire Sanders & Dempsey LLP (now Squire Patton Boggs), where he represented the Bexley City School District in fighting a teacher’s suit seeking a continued teaching contract. See State ex rel. Fraysier v. Bexley City Sch. Bd. of Educ., 583 N.E.2d 1000 (Ohio App. 1989).

Hopkins then shifted to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, where he worked in the Civil Division. Hopkins would become Chief of the Civil Division by March 1993. Among the cases he handled there, Hopkins represented the government in bankruptcy matters. See, e.g., In re Ernst & Young, Inc., 129 B.R. 147 (S.D. Ohio Bankr. 1991).

Jurisprudence

Since 1996, Hopkins has served as a U.S. Bankruptcy Judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, which covers much of Southern Ohio. In that capacity, Hopkins reviews federal bankruptcy filings and proceedings.

Among the cases he handled, Hopkins approved the sale of Cambridge Eye Associates and Douglas Vision Worlds, two Cincinnati based vision companies to Davis Vision Inc., a New York based company. See Ben Fidler, Davis Vision Wins Sight Resource, The Deal, Apr. 12, 2005.

Among his notable rulings, Hopkins allowed Troulies Ledbetter to discharge one of his student loans through the bankruptcy process, finding that it imposed an undue hardship. See In re Ledbetter, 254 B.R. 714 (S.D. Ohio Bankr. 2000). However, he declined to discharge a second loan that Ledbetter held, finding it ineligible for discharge. See id. at 717. In another ruling, Hopkins permitted the discharge of an obligation to hold a spouse harmless on joint debts, finding that it did not constitute a non-dischargeable award of alimony. See Davis v. Davis, 261 B.R. 659 (S.D. Ohio Bankr. 2001).

Overall Assessment

Recommended for the federal bench by Ohio’s bipartisan duo of senators, Hopkins should see little trouble with a comfortable confirmation. If Hopkins is not confirmed this Congress however, the election of a new senator to replace Portman in Ohio may complicate his path to the bench.

Judge Daniel Calabretta – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California

Having filled two vacancies on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, Biden is now seeking to fill the last with state judge Daniel Calabretta, who would be, if confirmed, the first LGBTQ judge on the Eastern District’s bench.

Background

Born Daniel Joe Powell, Calabretta received a B.A. from Princeton University in 2000 and a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School in 2003. He then clerked for Judge William Fletcher on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and then for Justice John Paul Stevens on the U.S. Supreme Court. His class on the Supreme Court that session included future federal judges Julius Richardson (Rehnquist) and Martha Pacold (Thomas). After his clerkships, Calabretta joined Munger, Tolles & Olson as an associate. In 2008, Calabretta joined the California Attorney General’s Office under Jerry Brown and then joined Brown’s gubernatorial staff in 2013.

In 2018, Brown named Calabretta to the Sacramento County Superior Court, where he has served since.

History of the Seat

Calabretta has been nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, to a seat vacated on April 27, 2022 by Judge John Mendez.

Legal Experience

Calabretta started his legal career as a law clerk on the Ninth Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court but then spent three years at Munger Tolles and Olson, a firm that has produced numerous federal judges, including Ninth Circuit Judges Paul Watford, John Owens, Michelle Freidland, Dan Collins, and Gabriel Sanchez, as well as Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Calabretta subsequently spent five years at the California Attorney General’s Office. During that time, Calabretta represented the Attorney General’s office in the suit challenging California’s ban on same sex marriage. See Perry v. Schwarzenegger, 630 F.3d 909 (9th Cir. 2011). He also represented the state in a lawsuit regarding the funding and construction of a state prison hospital. See Rich Saskal, Receiver Offers California Break In Prison Health Care Lawsuit, The Bond Buyer, Oct. 7, 2008. Calabretta also argued before the Ninth Circuit in this role, defending California’s practice of collecting DNA samples from those facing felony charges. See Paul Elias, Calif. AG Defends DNA Samples from Felony Arrestees, A.P. State & Local Wire, July 13, 2010.

Finally, Calabretta spent five years working for Governor Jerry Brown as deputy legal affairs secretary before his appointment to the bench.

Jurisprudence

Since 2018, Calabretta has served as a Superior Court judge in Sacramento County. In this role, she presides over civil, criminal, and domestic cases. Calabretta currently serves as presiding judge on the Juvenile Court.

Writings and Statements

While at Munger, Calabretta co-authored a regular column with fellow Munger lawyers and Supreme Court clerks Friedland (O’Connor), Jeff Bleich (Rehnquist), and Aimee Feinberg (Breyer) discussing the Supreme Court. For example, one column from 2007 discusses the lack of cameras at the Supreme Court, suggesting changes that the Court can take to be more accessible such as releasing oral argument recordings on the same day of the argument (the Supreme Court currently releases transcripts the same day and audio at the end of the week). See Jeff Bleich, Michelle Freidland, Aimee Feinberg, and Daniel Powell, Supreme Court Watch: A Court Without Cameras, 33 San Francisco Att’y 52 (Winter 2007).

In another column, the foursome discuss the jurisprudence of Justice John Paul Stevens, describing him as “independent and hard to categorize politically.” See Jeff Bleich, Michelle Freidland, Aimee Feinberg, and Daniel Powell, Supreme Court Watch: John Paul Stevens – An Independent Voice, 33 San Francisco Att’y 44 (Spring 2007).

In a notable column, the authors discuss Chief Justice Roberts’ commitment to precedent, noting: “In a series of high-profile decisions this term, the Court expressed continued respect for precedents while effectively overruling them or limiting them to their narrow facts.” Jeff Bleich, Michelle Freidland, Aimee Feinberg, and Daniel Powell, Supreme Court Watch: Stealth Overrulings – Overturning Precedent Without Saying So, 33 San Francisco Att’y 43 (Fall 2007). The column goes on to discuss a number of rulings that go against prior precedent, without expressly overruling them, including the Gonzales v. Carhart decision that upheld a ban on “partial-birth abortion” seven years after the Court overruled such a ban in Stenberg v. Carhart.

Overall Assessment

The Eastern District of California has consistently been one of the most overworked courts in the country, and one desperately in need of new judges. As such, Calabretta’s nomination is likely welcome news to the court’s judges. Furthermore, Calabretta brings to the job both lawyerly and judicial experience and would likely be deemed to be well qualified for the bench.

However, Calabretta’s biggest enemy in his confirmation this Congress is time. As he is on the agenda for a Judiciary hearing this week, he should be able to be confirmed before the end of the year. If he is not, his fate depends on the composition of the new Senate.

Judge Rita Lin – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California

San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Rita Lin would, if confirmed, be the first Chinese American woman on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Background

Lin got her B.A. from Harvard University in 2000 and her J.D. from the Harvard Law School in 2003. After graduating, Lin clerked for Judge Sandra Lynch on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and then joined the San Francisco office of Morrison & Foerster. In 2014, she became an Assistant U.S. Attorney with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California.

In 2018, Governor Jerry Brown appointed Lin to the San Francisco County Superior Court, where she has served since.

History of the Seat

Lin has been nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, to a seat vacated on May 17, 2022, by Judge Edward Chen.

Legal Experience

Lin started her legal career at the San Francisco office of Morrison & Foerster. Among the matters she handled at the firm, Lin represented Karen Golinski in a suit to seek spousal benefits for her wife. See Pam Spaulding, Lambda Legal Sues U.S. OPM on Behalf of Fed Lesbian Employee Whose Wife Was Denied Insurance, Pam’s House Blend, Jan. 20, 2010. The suit ended in Judge Jeffrey White ruling that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional, which was echoed by the U.S. Supreme Court in U.S. v. Windsor. See Aaron Kase, Defense of Marriage Act Thrown Out By Supreme Court, Lawyers.com, June 26, 2013.

From 2014 to 2018, Lin worked as a federal prosecutor in the Northern District of California. In this position, Lin prosecuted Melinda Van Horne for environmental damage to federal lands from her cultivation of marijuana, ending with Van Horne pleading guilty and receiving a 12 month prison sentence. See Whitehorn Woman Sentenced to 12 Months Imprisonment for Environmental Damage from Marijuana Grow on National Conservation Land, States News Service, Aug. 3, 2016.

Jurisprudence

Since 2018, Lin has served as a judge on the San Francisco County Superior Court. In this role, Lin presides over trial court matters in criminal, civil, family, and other state law matters. Lin also presides over preliminary hearings that see if sufficient evidence exists to proceed on felony charges. See, e.g., Adam Ruthenbeck, Deterring Theft By Encouraging It, The People’s Vanguard of Davis, Oct. 7, 2019 (noting that Judge Lin found probable cause for bike theft charges).

Statements and Writings

Lin has sometimes made media statements regarding the law and policy. For example, as an undergraduate student, she supported a protest against clothing company Guess? due to the conditions the clothes were manufactured in. See Breezy Tollinger, Harvard Students Protest Labor Conditions at Guess?, University Wire, Sept. 25, 1998.

Overall Assessment

With experience on both the civil and criminal side, as well as time on the bench, Lin would, despite her youth, be deemed qualified for a federal judicial appointment. Lin may draw opposition based on her pro bono representations with Lambda Legal but, if she gets a hearing this Congress, Lin should be confirmed by the end of the year.

Araceli Martinez-Olguin – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California

Civil rights attorney Araceli Martinez-Olguin is the first non-judge that Biden has tapped for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Background

Born in 1977 in Mexico City, Mexico, Martinez-Olguin attended Princeton University and the University of California, Berkeley Law School. After graduating, Martinez-Olguin spent two years clerking for Judge David Briones on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas. She then joined the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation (ACLU), working in the Women’s Rights Project based in New York City.

Martinez-Olguin then moved to San Francisco to become a staff attorney at Legal Aid at Work. After three years there, Martinez-Olguin returned to New York to work at the ACLU, this time with the Immigrants’ Rights Project.

Martinez-Olguin then spent a year apiece at the Office of Civil Rights with the U.S. Department of Education and as managing director of the Immigrants’ Rights Project of Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto before joining the National Immigration Law Center, where she works as Supervising Attorney.

History of the Seat

Martinez-Olguin has been nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, to a seat vacated on February 1, 2021, by Judge Jeffrey White.

In March 2021, Martinez-Olguin applied and interviewed for a federal judgeship with selection committees set up by California’s Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla. In January 2022, Martinez-Olguin interviewed with the White House and was selected as a nominee in August 2022. Martinez-Olguin was nominated on August 1, 2022.

Legal Experience

While Martinez-Olguin has spent her career among many different organizations, her role in all of them has been fairly consistent, as a civil rights lawyer.

Martinez-Olguin started her career working on women’s rights. Notably, she represented Jessica Lenahan, who sued in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, noting that the failure of law enforcement to enforce a domestic violence protective order against her abusive husband (who ended up abducting and murdering her daughters) violated her human rights. See Joy Resmovits, Columbia U. Law School Defends Human Rights, University Wire, Mar. 26, 2008. Subsequently, at the Legal Aid Society, Martinez-Olguin worked on employment law, representing Hani Khan, who sued Abercrombie & Fitch, alleging that she was not hired because she wore a hijab. See Jason Dearen, Muslim Woman Sues Abercrombie & Fitch, Says Company Fired Her For Refusing to Remove Headscarf; Muslim Woman Sued Abercrombie & Fitch Over Hijab, Canadian Press, June 27, 2011.

As her career moved on, Martinez-Olguin primarily worked on immigrants’ rights. Notably, she represented a class of Latino workers at a meatpacking plant who alleged that federal agents targeted them during a 2018 raid of the plant. See Jennifer Doherty, Too Late to Add IRS Agents to ICE Raid Suit, Feds Say, Law360, Dec. 1, 2021. The suit is ongoing.

Writings and Statements

In her role as an attorney, Martinez-Olguin has frequently given media statements in relation to her legal activities. See, e.g., Joy Resmovits, Columbia U. Law School Defends Human Rights, University Wire, Mar. 26, 2008 (quoting Araceli Martinez-Olguin) (“Jessica Lenahan was forced to turn to an international body because the U.S. justice system failed to provide her with even a bare modicum of justice.”). On one occasion, Martinez-Olguin described school districts who required teachers with accents to undergo speech improvements as “discrimination.” See Marc Lacey, In Arizona, Complaints that an Accent Can Hinder a Teacher’s Career, N.Y. Times, sept. 25, 2011.

As a law student, Martinez-Olguin described the distinction between law and policy in judicial rulings, noting:

“…I was later also shocked by the way the judges distanced themselves from the ability to influence public policy. At the time, the line the judges drew between themselves and Congress made sense to me. After all, I’d spent the entire first semester learning about the formalistic way in which the law is created. Yet more time in law school and reflection about the trip has made me skeptical about questions of policy and politics not entering the mix when judges rule.” See Araceli Martinez-Olguin, Raising the Bar: Latino and Latina Presence on the Judiciary and the Struggle for Representation: Student Reflections on Grutter v. Bollinger: Redefining Moment, 13 La Raza L.J. 109 (Spring 2002).

Overall Assessment

Unlike the other sitting judges that California senators have recommended for the federal bench, Martinez-Olguin brings a different perspective as a nominee. That being said, her nomination is nonetheless likely to be extremely controversial. Martinez-Olguin will draw opposition not only due to her work as a civil rights attorney but because, as a law student, she herself advocated for blurring the distinction between law and policy, allowing opponents to argue that she sees herself as an advocate, even when she is on the bench.

That being said, if Democrats remain united, they should be able to discharge Martinez-Olguin and confirm her by the end of the year.

Julia Kobick – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts

Julia Kobick, who currently works with the Massachusetts Solicitor General’s Office, brings a star-studded resume to her appointment to the federal bench.

Background

Kobick received a B.A. from Harvard University in 2005, and then obtained a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2010.

After graduation, Kobick clerked for Judge Dennis Saylor on the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, for Judge Michael Chagares on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and then for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Kobick subsequently joined the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, serving as Deputy Attorney General until 2021, when she became Deputy State Solicitor for the state.

History of the Seat

Kobick has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts opened by Judge William Young’s move to senior status on July 1, 2021.

Legal Career

After her clerkships, Kobick has spent her entire legal career with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, serving both as deputy attorney general and the deputy state solicitor. Early in her time with the office, Kobick defended a statute authorizing involuntary commitment orders for those with serious alcoholism and substance abuse disorders. See, In the Matter of G.P., 40 N.E.3d 989 (Mass. 2015).

Among the notable matters she handled there, Kobick sued the Trump Administration for its rollback of the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage mandate. See AG Healey Sues the Trump Administration for Roll Back of Contraceptive Coverage Mandate, States News Service, Oct. 6, 2017. Kobick was also part of the legal team defending Massachusetts’ “Right to Repair” law, which mandates access to car diagnostic and repair systems. See Chris Vilani, ‘Irritated’ Judge Nearing Verdict on Mass. Car Data Law, Law360, Feb. 2, 2022. Kobick also defended Massachusetts’ mask mandate during the pandemic. See Brian Dowling, End of Mask Order Moots Legal Challenge, Mass. Justices Say, Law360, May 2, 2022.

Writings and Statements

Kobick has authored a number of articles discussing and analyzing the law. As a law student, Kobick discussed a finding of an “intent to discriminate” in challenging facially neutral laws under the Equal Protection Clause. See Julia Kobick, Discriminatory Intent Reconsidered: Folk Concepts of Intentionality and Equal Protection Jurisprudence, 45 Harv. C.R.-C.L. L. Rev. 517 (Summer 2010). In the paper, Kobick suggests broadening the analysis of intentionality to include considerations of the foreseeability that facially neutral laws might cause harm to particular groups. See id. at 562.

Kobick also addressed the intentionality of actions and the moral implications thereof in another article she co-authored. See Julia Kobick and Joshua Knobe, Symposium: Is Morality Universal, and Should the Law Care?: Interpreting Intent: How Research on Folk Judgments of Intentionality Can Inform Statutory Analysis, 75 Brooklyn L. Rev. 409 (Winter 2009). In this piece, Kobick discussed intentionality in the context of environmental liability when an actor does not intend the negative impacts of their actions but is aware that such impacts are likely to occur. See id. at 412. In the context of a recent Supreme Court decision, Kobick suggests incorporating folk understandings of morality in determining intentionality. Id. at 431.

Kobick also authored a paper as a law student recommending that the Food and Drug Administration use “negotiated rulemaking,” a form of rulemaking that involves early buy-in from stakeholders (as opposed to notice-and-comment rulemaking, which has stakeholders submit comments after a proposed rule has already been drafted) to formulate rules and regulations. See Julia Kobick, Negotiated Rulemaking: The Next Step in Regulatory Innovation at the Food and Drug Administration?, 65 Food Drug L.J. 425 (2010).

Political Activity

Kobick’s campaign donations include contributions to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttegieg and to Healey.

Overall Assessment

Having clerked for Justice Ginsburg and with a long record of advocacy on behalf of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office, Kobick presents a mirror image to the youthful Clarence Thomas clerks that President Trump frequently nominated to the federal bench. If Kobick is able to squeeze through the Senate calendar, she will likely be strongly considered for elevation to the First Circuit or beyond.

Judge Myong Joun – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts

Boston municipal judge Myong Joun has been tapped for elevation to the federal bench.

Background

Joun received a B.A. from the University of Massachusetts Boston in 1994, and then obtained a J.D. from Suffolk University School of Law in 1999.

After graduation, Joun joined Howard Friedman P.C. In 2007, he became a solo practitioner in Boston, Massachusetts.

In 2014, Joun was nominated by Governor Deval Patrick to be a Judge on the Boston Municipal Court, where he currently serves.

History of the Seat

Joun has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts opened by Judge George O’Toole’s move to senior status on January 1, 2018. Due to an inability to reach an agreement on candidates with Massachusetts Senators, the Trump Administration never extended a nominee to fill the vacancy.

Legal Career

After law school, Joun started his legal career at the firm of Howard Friedman. Among the matters he handled there, he was part of the legal team representing Danny Norris, who won a jury trial after being placed under arrest after yelling at an officer for illegally parking. See Norris v. Murphy, 287 F. Supp. 2d 111 (D. Mass. 2013). He also represented Neil Miller, who sued municipal officials after being wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for rape. See Miller v. City of Boston, 297 F. Supp. 2d 361 (D. Mass. 2003). Joun also handled appeals, arguing on behalf of an inmate seeking disability accommodations before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. See Shedlock v. Dep’t of Corr., 818 N.E.2d 1022 (Mass. 2004).

From 2007 to 2014, Joun worked as a solo practitioner. His work during this time consisted of civil rights litigation, including a class action suit alleging overtime and pay violations against a chinese restaurant. See Jon Chesto, Quincy Workers Sue Eatery, Cite Unpaid Hours; Chinese Restaurant in Brockton Denies Charges, The Patriot Ledger, Sept. 16, 2009. He also represented Shaun Joseph, who was protesting Donald Rumsfeld, when he was arrested and charged with assault and battery against an officer (the charges were dismissed after a video exonerated him). See Edward Mason and Tom Mashberg, The Complaint Jar Runneth Over, Boston Magazine, April 2014.

Jurisprudence

Since 2014, Joun has served on the Boston Municipal Court, a trial court that has jurisdiction over both criminal and civil cases.

Among the notable matters that he heard as a judge, Joun presided over the assault trial of Tajanetta Downing, who fatally injured a 72 year old woman by shoving her to the ground. See Charlene Adams, ‘Ghostbusters’ Cameraman Helps Cops Find Woman Who Fatally Pushed 72-Year-Old Grandmother to the Ground, Daily Mail, July 10, 2015.

Political Activity

Joun’s political history consists largely of donations to Patrick and to the Massachusetts Democratic Party.

Overall Assessment

A civil rights attorney turned state judge, Joun falls within the mainstream of Democratic appointees to the federal bench. While he is likely to have limited crossover support, Joun is favored to join the bench if he can get a hearing before the end of the year.

Julie Rikelman – Nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

One of the foremost advocates for legal protections for a woman’s right to choose, Julie Rikelman, has been tapped for an appellate seat on the First Circuit.

Background

A native of the Ukraine, Rikelman was born in Kyiv in 1972 and immigrated to the United States in 1979. Rikelman attended Harvard College, getting her B.A. in 1993 and then her J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1997. Rikelman then clerked for Justice Dana Fabe on the Alaska Supreme Court and then for Judge Morton Ira Greenberg on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

After her clerkships, Rikelman joined the Center for Reproductive Rights as a Blackmun Fellow. After her fellowship, she joined Feldman & Orlansky in Anchorage. In 2006, Rikelman returned to New York to join Simpson Thatcher & Bartlett and after two years there, she joined the litigation team at NBC Universal.

In 2011, Rikelman became senior litigation director for the Center for Reproductive Rights, where she currently serves.

History of the Seat

Rikelman has been nominated for a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. This seat opened when Judge Sandra Lea Lynch announced her desire to take senior status upon the confirmation of a successor.

Legal Experience

Outside her clerkships, Rikelman started her legal career as a fellow at the Center for Reproductive Rights. During her fellowship, Rikelman represented Victoria, who sued Terrebonne Parish for failure to obtain a timely abortion while she was incarcerated. See Victoria W. v. Larpenter, 205 F. Supp. 2d 580 (E.D. La. 2002). Rikelman also notably assisted Priscilla J. Smith in successfully overturning a state hospital’s taking of mandatory drug tests from pregnant women as a violation of the Fourth Amendment. See Ferguson v. City of Charleston, 532 U.S. 67 (2001).

After her fellowship, Rikelman shifted to Anchorage where she represented Friends of Mark Begich, who was running for Mayor of Anchorage, in a suit challenging ballot placement in the election. See DeNardo v. Municipality of Anchorage, 105 P.3d 136 (Alas. 2005). Rikelman then shifted to New York where she represented NBC employees sued by Doug Copp for allegedly defamatory statements they made about him. See Copp v. Ramirez, 62 A.D.3d 23 (N.Y. App. Div. 2009).

Since 2011, Rikelman has worked on abortion rights litigation at the Center for Reproductive Rights. Among her notable cases, she has handled the following:

  • A First Amendment challenge to informed consent provisions for abortion in Texas. See Tex. Med. Providers Performing Abortion Servs. v. Lakey, 667 F.3d 570 (5th Cir. 2012).
  • A First Amendment challenge to North Carolina laws requiring pregnant women to be informed about the state’s preference for childbirth over abortion. Stuart v. Loomis, 992 F. Supp. 2d 585 (M.D.N.C. 2014).
  • A Fourteenth Amendment challenge to restrictions on reproductive medications in Arizona. See Planned Parenthood Ariz., Inc. v. Humble, 753 F.3d 905 (9th Cir. 2014).
  • A challenge to a Mississippi requirement that abortion clinics have “admitting privileges” with local hospitals as an “undue burden” to the right to choose. Jackson Women’s Health Org. v. Currier, 760 F.3d 448 (5th Cir. 2014).
  • A First Amendment challenge to a North Carolina law requiring that physicians perform an ultrasound, display the sonogram, and describe the fetus to women seeking abortions. Stuart v. Camnitz, 774 F.3d 238 (4th Cir. 2014).
  • A challenge to North Carolina’s 20-week abortion ban. Bryant v. Woodall, 306 F. Supp. 3d 611 (M.D.N.C. 2019).
  • A challenge to South Carolina’s exclusion of Planned Parenthood from Medicaid providers. Planned Parenthood S. Atl. v. Baker, 941 F.3d 687 (4th Cir. 2019).

Most notably, Rikelman argued two notable abortion cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2019, Rikelman argued that the Constitution prohibited a Louisiana law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges in local hospitals. See June Medical Servs. LLC v. Russo, 591 U.S. __ (2020). The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote, agreed and reversed a judgment in favor of the state. See id. Two years later, Rikelman argued that the Court should not overturn Roe v. Wade. The Court, however, with Justice Amy Coney Barrett replacing Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, overturned Roe v. Wade. See Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, 597 U.S. ___ (2022).

Writings

In her role at the Center for Reproductive Rights, Rikelman has frequently spoken out on abortion rights. For example, in 2017, Rikelman was a panelist on a Woman’s Reproductive Rights panel at Rutgers University. See Panel Five: Women’s Reproductive Rights and Health: Beijing+20, 38 Women’s Rights L. Rep. 304 (Spring/Summer 2017). In her remarks, Rikelman criticized abortion restrictions being passed across the country for limiting “access to safe and legal abortion.” See id. at 305.

Rikelman has also frequently commenting in opposition to abortion restrictions in the media and in favor of decisions protecting abortion rights. For example, she praised a decision by Judge B. Lynn Winmill to strike down Idaho’s “fetal pain” bill, noting: “Today’s ruling has overturned a legislative assault by politicians who seek to interfere with [a woman’s] decision and deny women this fundamental right.” See Rebecca Boone, Idaho First State to Have Fetal Pain Law Rejected, A.P. Online, Mar. 8, 2013 (quoting Julie Rikelman). Similarly, Rikelman criticized Mississippi restrictions requiring abortion clinics to have “admission privileges,” stating: “There’s no medical justification; states should not be able to restrict a constitutional right based on pretext.” See Sophie Novack, Mississippi’s Only Abortion Clinic Will Remain Open, National Journal, July 29, 2014 (quoting Julie Rikelman).

Outside the abortion context, Rikelman authored a law review article discussing appellate decisions permitting mandatory blood collection for DNA testing under the Fourth Amendment, arguing that such mandatory collection was prohibited by the Constitution. See Julie Rikelman, Justifying Forcible DNA Testing Schemes Under the Special Needs Exception to the Fourth Amendment: A Dangerous Precedent, 59 Baylor L. Rev. 41 (Winter 2007).

Overall Assessment

Out of all of Biden’s appellate nominees, Rikelman is likely one of the most controversial. This is not necessarily based on concerns about her qualifications, intellect, or temperament. However, Rikelman has spent the last decade working in one of the most contentious legal issues in today’s environment: abortion rights. As such, Rikelman’s nomination will likely turn on whether she can retain support from all fifty Senate Democrats. While she is still (slightly) favored to get confirmed, it is possible that the senate calendar may claim Rikelman’s nomination as a casualty.