Ryan McAllister – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York

With the 116th Congress ticking down, the Trump Administration is running out of time to fill vacancies before the 2020 presidential election.  After previous nominee Thomas Marcelle was blocked for a New York vacancy, Trump has put forward Stephen McAllister, an Albany based attorney.

Background

43 year old Ryan Thomas McAllister got his Bachelor of Arts from the Catholic University of America in 1999 and went on to earn his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2002.[1]  After law school, McAllister clerked for Judge Richard Wesley on the New York Court of Appeals and then on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit after Wesley was confirmed to the federal bench.  McAllister then joined the Office of Gov. George Pataki as Assistant Counsel.[2]

After Pataki left office in 2006, McAllister joined the Albany office of Boies Schiller Flexner LLP as an Associate.[3]  In 2011, McAllister became Senior Counsel for the Senate majority of the New York State Senate while working as a solo practitioner in Albany.

In 2016, McAllister moved to Washington D.C. to work for U.S. Rep. John Faso.[4]  After Faso lost re-election in 2018, McAllister returned to Albany to become a Partner at Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, where he currently works.

History of the Seat

McAllister has been nominated to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York.  This seat opened on January 1, 2016, when Judge Gary Sharpe moved to senior status.  While the seat opened with a year left in the Obama Administration, the Administration never extended a nominee for the vacancy and it was carried over into the Trump Administration.

In October 2018, upon the recommendation of two Republican Congressmen in New York, Lee Zeldin and John Faso, the White House nominated New York Judge Thomas Marcelle for the vacancy.  Marcelle had also been nominated for a federal judgeship by President George W. Bush but was blocked by Senator Charles Schumer.[5]  This time around, Marcelle was blocked by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand over his record on abortion, and Marcelle withdrew his nomination in August 2019.[6]  On August 12, 2020, McAllister was nominated in a second attempt to fill this seat.

Legal Experience

McAllister’s legal career can be divided into his time in politics and his time in litigation.  In the former category, we can find McAllister’s role working for Gov. George Pataki, the New York State Senate, and Rep. John Faso.  In the latter, you have McAllister’s time at Boies Schiller and as a solo practitioner.  In these positions, McAllister largely focused on commercial litigation, as well as some criminal defense.

One of McAllister’s most notable cases was his role representing B.J.’s Wholesalers as a plaintiff in an action challenging anticompetitive activities conducted by industrial producers of chicken meat.[7]  

Political Activity

McAllister, a Republican, has worked closely in politics for much of his career, including working for Gov. George Pataki and Rep. John Faso.  McAllister also worked as a staffer for the Republican majority in the New York State Senate between 2011 and 2016.  Furthermore, in 2016, McAllister considered running for Congress but instead chose to support Faso.[8]

Additionally, McAllister has frequently donated to Republicans.[9]  In addition to Faso, McAllister has supported the Presidential campaigns of NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Marco Rubio.[10] 

Overall Assessment

In theory, McAllister would not have been nominated to a district court seat without at least a preliminary sign-off from his home state senators.  That suggests at least some acquiescence by Senators Schumer and Gillibrand.  However, as the nomination of his predecessor showed, there’s many a slip between nomination and confirmation.  Given the close distance to the election, it is unlikely that New York’s senators will return blue slips on the nomination.  If they do, however, McAllister will likely be confirmed by the end of the year.


[1] Ryan McAllister, Linkedin.com, available at https://www.linkedin.com/in/ryan-mcallister-324871108/ (last visited Aug. 17, 2020).

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Robert Gavin, Marcelle Seen in Line for Federal Judgeship, Houston Chronicle, May 4, 2018, https://www.chron.com/local/article/Marcelle-seen-in-line-for-federal-judgeship-12889507.php.

[6] Robert Gavin and Mike Goodwin, Gillibrand Blocks Area Judge’s Nomination, Albany Times Union, Aug. 30, 2019, https://www.pressreader.com/usa/albany-times-union/20190830/281535112661040.

[7] In re Broiler Chicken Antitrust Litig., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36202, No. 16 C 8637 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 3, 2020) (Durkin, J.).

[8] See Joe Mahoney, Magee to Run Again; Delaware GOP Boss Eyes Tenney’s Seat, The Daily Star, Jan. 23, 2016.

[9] Federal Election Commission, Individual Contribution Lookup, https://www.fec.gov/data/receipts/individual-contributions/?contributor_name=Ryan+McAllister&contributor_state=NY (last visited Aug. 18, 2020).

[10] See id.

Edmund LaCour – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama

In 2019, when Alabama Solicitor General Andrew Brasher was confirmed to be a federal district court judge, a 34-year-old attorney named Edmund LaCour was tapped to replace him as Solicitor General.  Now, as Brasher has been confirmed to an appellate court, LaCour has been tapped again, this time to fill Brasher’s seat on the U.S. District Court.

Background

Edmund Gerald LaCour Jr. was born in 1985.  LaCour graduated summa cum laude from Birmingham-Southern College, received a Master of Arts from Trinity College Dublin and then a J.D. from Yale Law School.

Upon graduation, LaCour clerked for Judge William Pryor on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.  He then joined the Houston office of Baker Botts as an Associate.  In 2015, LaCour shifted to Bancroft PLLC, a boutique litigation firm dominated by conservatives, in Washington D.C. before moving, along with the bulk of the firm, to Kirkland & Ellis in 2016.

In 2019, LaCour was appointed by Steve Marshall, the Attorney General of Alabama, to be Solicitor General, replacing Andrew Brasher, who was confirmed to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.  LaCour currently serves in that capacity.

History of the Seat

LaCour has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.  This seat opened when Judge Andrew Brasher, who has already been confirmed by the Senate, took his seat on the Eleventh Circuit on June 30, 2020.  

Legal Experience

While LaCour started his career at Baker Botts working on relatively straightforward criminal and civil matters,[1] he has spent the latter part of his career working on litigation on conservative causes.  For example, at the boutique firm Bancroft PLLC, LaCour represented a Christian organization at NC State in seeking to enjoin a University requirement that they obtain a permit before soliciting students.[2][3]  Judge James Dever ended up enjoining the policy,[4] which prompted NC State to rewrite it.[5]  LaCour also represented Republican organizations seeking to set aside anti pay-to-play rules made by the Securities and Exchange Commission,[6] and sued to strike down registration fees on firearms in California.[7]  On a less controversial front, while at Kirkland, LaCour represented business owner in a landmark litigation seeking to narrowly interpret bankruptcy rulings made by the Supreme Court.[8] 

Since 2019, LaCour has served as Solicitor General of Alabama, in which capacity he has defended Alabama laws and convictions before state and federal courts.  While, at the time of his appointment, LaCour attracted some criticism for alleged ties to Russia,[9] such criticism has not resurfaced.

Among his defenses of Alabama laws, LaCour defended the state ethics laws against challenges that it was too vague,[10] and defended the state’s minimum wage law from a racial discrimination challenge.[11] 

On the flip side, LaCour has also used the Solicitor General’s office offensively, challenging laws and federal regulations.  For example, LaCour led a 21-state brief before the U.S. Supreme Court challenging Maryland gun regulations.[12]  He also led an amicus effort to support Texas’ efforts to limit reproductive health procedures during the Covid-19 pandemic.[13]

Political Activity

LaCour has frequently given to Republican committees and candidates.[14]  Among the recipients of his largesse are Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, both of whom serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrissey, who unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate in 2018.[15]

Overall Assessment

While LaCour is only 35 years old, he has racked up many accomplishments in his short career, including a significant amount of litigation experience.  However, much of his litigation has been in service of conservative causes, which will likely make him very controversial as a nominee.  As such, the key barrier for LaCour will be obtaining a blue slip from Democratic Senator Doug Jones.  If LaCour can do so, his nomination will likely be processed this year.  If not, LaCour will have to hope for a Trump re-election.


[1] See, e.g., Rogers v. United States, 561 F. App’x 440 (6th Cir. Mar. 31, 2014).

[2] See Press Release, Alliance Defending Freedom, Student Group Sues NC State for Requiring Permits for Any, All Speech, Apr. 26, 2016.

[3] See also Emery Dalesio, Christian Groups Challenge NC University’s Speech Permits, A.P. State & Local, June 2, 2016.

[4] Grace Christian Life v. Woodson, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 73376, 5:16-CV-202-D (E.D.N.C. June 4, 2016) (Dever, J.).

[5] See Press Release, Alliance Defending Freedom, NC State Revises Speech Policy After Losing Court Battle With Student Group, July 19, 2016.

[6] See Jack Casey, Why Republican State Committees Say Revised Rule G-37 Is Unconstitutional, Bondbuyer.com, May 18, 2016.  See also Tenn. Republican Party v. SEC, 863 F.3d 507 (6th Cir. 2017).

[7] Bauer v. Becerra, 858 F.3d 1216 (9th Cir. 2017).

[8] See Stephanie Gleason, District Court Affirms Narrowness of Stern v. Marshall, The Deal Pipeline, Sept. 26, 2018.

[9] See, e.g., Legal Schnauzer, Edmund LaCour Jr., Alabama’s New Solicitor General, Has Worked For Two Law Firms With Ties to Russia And Has Represented Gazprom, a Major Russian Energy Firm, Legal Schnauzer, May 22, 2019.

[10] See Kim Chandler, Former Alabama Speaker Asks Court to Overturn Conviction, A.P. State & Local, June 5, 2019.

[11] Press Release, Office of Attorney General Steve Marshall, Alabama A.G. Marshall Announced 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Victory for State of Alabama in Minimum-Wage Lawsuit, Dec. 13, 2019.

[12] See Steve Lash, ‘Shall Issue’ States Back Supreme Court Challenge to Md. Handgun Law, The Daily Record, Dec. 4, 2019.

[13] Kevin Stawicki, Justices Urged to Wade into Texas’ COVID Abortion Ban Fight, Law360, Apr. 13, 2020, https://www.law360.com/articles/1262858/justices-urged-to-wade-into-texas-covid-abortion-ban-fight.

[15] See id.

Taylor McNeel – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi

After Judge Cory Wilson’s district court nomination was upgraded to the Court of Appeals, Biloxi attorney Taylor McNeel has been nominated to fill a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi.

Background

Taylor Brantley McNeel was born in or around 1983.  After getting a B.B.A. cum laude from the University of Mississippi, McNeel received his J.D. from the University of Mississippi Law School in 2008.  McNeel has spent his entire legal career at the firm of Brunini, Grantham, Grower & Hewes, PLLC in Biloxi Mississippi, where he currently serves as a Member.

History of the Seat

McNeel has been nominated for a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi.  This seat opened on March 23, 2018, when Judge Louis Guirola took senior status.  The White House had previously nominated Mississippi Court of Appeals Judge Cory Wilson to this seat, but withdrew Wilson and nominated him for the Fifth Circuit, to which he was confirmed.  McNeel was then nominated on July 2, 2020.

Legal Experience

McNeel has spent his entire legal career at the firm of Brunini, Grantham, Grower & Hewes, PLLC in Biloxi Mississippi, where he currently serves as a Member.  At the firm, McNeel has handled both bench and jury trials in federal and state court, as well as appeals in the Mississippi Supreme Court and the Mississippi Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.  For example, McNeel represented golf courses seeking to successfully dismiss an antitrust suit brought against them.  See Gulf Coast Hotel-Motel Ass’n v. Miss. Gulf Coast Golf Course Ass’n, 658 F. Supp. 3d 500 (S.D. Miss. 2011).  

On the state court side, McNeel convinced the Mississippi Court of Appeals to successfully dismiss charges against a casino he represented for allegedly giving food poisoning to patrons.  See McGinty v. Grand Casinos of Miss., Inc. – Biloxi, 245 So. 3d 555 (Miss. App. 2014). An appeal on the issue was later denied by the Supreme Court of Mississippi.  McGinty v. Grand Casinos of Miss., Inc. – Biloxi, 245 So. 3d 444 (Miss. 2018).

Overall Assessment

Despite McNeel’s youth, he has extensive litigation experience practicing before Mississippi’s state and federal courts.  While McNeel’s path to confirmation is complicated by the closing window of judicial confirmations, given the Republican majority, McNeel is favored for confirmation.  

 

Judge James Arguelles – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California

The Eastern District of California is one of the most heavily overworked courts in the country.  The Court has not been expanded in decades, even as caseloads explode, and has relied heavily on senior judges to carry the burden.  As such, judges on the court are expected to take senior status immediately upon eligibility to bring in reinforcements.  The court currently has two such vacancies, with commercial lawyer Dirk Paloutzian nominated to one seat, and Sacramento Superior Court Judge James Arguelles nominated for the other.

Background

The 54-year-old Arguelles has a long history with the military, having received his B.Sc. from the United States Naval Academy and a Master of Strategic Studies from the United States Army War College before he received a J.D. in 1996 from Harvard Law School.  He then clerked for Judge Marilyn Huff on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California for a year, before joining Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher as an Associate.[1]

In 2000, Arguelles became a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California.[2]  In 2005, Arguelles joined Stevens, O’Connell & Jacobs as a Partner.  He held that post until he was appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to be a Superior Court judge in 2010.[3]

History of the Seat

Arguelles has been nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, to a seat vacated on February 2, 2020 by Judge Lawrence O’Neill.  Arguelles’s nomination was announced on June 8, 2020, although he was not officially nominated until June 18, 2020.

Legal Experience

Arguelles started his legal career at the firm of Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher, before spending five years as a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California.  As a prosecutor, Arguelles worked on a variety of criminal matters, with a focus on white collar and fraud cases.  For example, Arguelles prosecuted Wayne Anderson and Richard Marks for money laundering as part of their firm Anderson Ark & Associates.[4]  Arguelles also prosecuted Sacramento Water District Manager Dewight Kramer on charges of defrauding the U.S. government through, among other activities, destroying county water records.[5]

From 2005 to 2010, Arguelles was a Partner at Stevens, O’Connell & Jacobs.  Among the more notable cases he has handled with the firm, Arguelles represented Whirlpool Corporation in defending against a class action suit alleging excessive heat and damage from the self-cleaning system in Whirlpool Appliances.[6]  Arguelles was able to successfully have the suit dismissed for failure to state a claim.[7]

Jurisprudence

Since 2010, Arguelles has served as a judge on the Sacramento Superior Court.  In this role, he presides over trial court matters in criminal, civil, family, and other state law matters.  In his time on the bench, Arguelles has handled a number of high profile cases.  For example, Arguelles ordered the life sentence of Zavion Johnson set aside after new evidence cast doubt on the testimony from Johnson’s initial trial showing that his baby daughter died from “shaken baby” syndrome.[9] 

More recently, Arguelles oversaw the pretrial release hearing of Raymond John Garcia, who was arrested for “looting” in the aftermath of Black Lives Matter protests in the Sacramento area.[10]  The D.A. opposed Garcia’s release, arguing that Garcia represented a threat as he was on parole from an attempted murder conviction.[11]  However, Arguelles granted the pretrial release, noting the many letters of community support offered for Garcia.[12]

Overall Assessment

As a Republican judge in an increasingly Democratic state, Arguelles’ career advancement largely depends upon federal appointment.  Arguelles’ nomination probably means that California’s Democratic senators have, at least preliminarily, signed off on the nomination.  His path to confirmation depends on his ability to keep their support.


[1] Press Release, Office of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gov. Schwarzenegger Appoints James Arguelles to Sacramento County Superior Court, Oct. 18, 2010 (available at Targeted News Service).

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] See Denny Walsh, Two Californians Guilty of Money Laundering, Sacramento Bee, June 1, 2002.

[5] David Richie, Two Former Sacramento, Calif., Water Officials Face Fraud, Tax Charges, Sacramento Bee, Oct. 10, 2003.

[6] See Saaremets v. Whirlpool Corp., 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 261 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 18, 2010).

[7] See id. at *26.

[8] See id.

[9] See Don Thompson, California Shaken Baby Conviction Set Aside After 15 Years, A.P., Dec. 8, 2017.

[10] See Anna Okada, Alleged Looter During Sacramento Police Brutality Protests Wins Pretrial Release After Outpouring of Community Support, Davis Vanguard, June 15, 2020, https://www.davisvanguard.org/2020/06/alleged-looter-during-sacramento-police-brutality-protests-wins-pretrial-release-after-outpouring-of-community-support/.  

[11] See id.

[12] See id.

Brenda Saiz – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico

Transportation attorney Brenda Saiz, who has spent virtually her entire life as a noncontroversial, apolitical litigator, has been nominated to join the federal bench in New Mexico.

Background

Brenda Saiz spent her educational years in New Mexico, getting a B.A. in English from the University of New Mexico in 1993 and a J.D. from the University of New Mexico Law School in 2003.[1]

Saiz has spent virtually her entire legal career at the firm of Rodey, Dickason, Sloan, Akin, & Robb, P.A., where she currently works as a Director.

History of the Seat

Saiz has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico.  This seat opened on July 1, 2019, when Judge Judith Herrera moved to senior status.  

Legal Career

Saiz has primarily spent her career as a transportation law attorney.[2]  Among her most notable cases, Saiz represented FedEx transport in a wrongful death suit brought as a result of a catastrophic accident in which a FedEx tractor-trailer struck the plaintiff’s vehicle.[3]  A jury awarded $165 million to the plaintiffs after a trial, and the verdict was upheld by the New Mexico Court of Appeals.[4] 

Saiz has also handled some non-transportation related matters.  For example, Saiz represented attorney Dennis Montoya, who was suspended from legal practice for one year by the New Mexico Supreme Court for repeated violations of the Rules of Professional Responsibility.[5]

Public Statements

Saiz has relatively few public statements that she has made on the law.  As a law student, Saiz authored an article discussing the New Mexico Court of Appeals case in Wallis v. Smith, which held that unintentionally fathering a child due to a misrepresentation regarding use of birth control is not actionable under the law.[6]  In the article, Saiz noted that many courts refused to create tort actions from the use or lack thereof of birth control because such actions would infringe upon the right to privacy recognized in the U.S. Constitution.[7]  Saiz endorsed the decision noting that it was supported by the “overriding interests of the child and the right to privacy.”[8]

Overall Assessment

As a relatively apolitical candidate for the bench, Saiz can be considered a fairly mainstream nominee.  Saiz has been relatively reticent in their legal career, and her few public statements, indicating support for the right of privacy in the Constitution, are unlikely to be sources of liberal opposition.  As such, assuming Republicans don’t oppose her, Saiz’s biggest obstacle to confirmation is the calendar rather than anything in her background


[1] Brenda M. Saiz, Rodey Law, https://www.rodey.com/attorney-profile.aspx?rlaid=9dfd465b-cd89-49f3-8767-33c0044443c6 (last visited Aug. 5, 2020).

[2] John Kingston, New Mexico Trucking Attorney Nominated for Seat on Federal Bench, Freight Waves, May 29, 2020, https://www.freightwaves.com/news/new-mexico-trucking-attorney-nominated-for-seat-on-federal-bench.

[3] Morga v. FedEx Ground Package Sys., 420 P.3d 586, 590 (N.M. App. 2018).

[4] Id. at 596.

[5] See In re Montoya, 150 N.M. 731 (2011).

[6] Brenda Saiz, Tort Liability When Fraudulent Misrepresentation Regarding Birth Control Results in the Birth of a Healthy Child – Wallis v. Smith, 32 N.M. L. Rev. 549 (Summer 2002).

[7] See id. at 557.

[8] Id. at 565.

Fred Federici – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico

The federal courts along the U.S.-Mexico border are among the most overworked in the country.  This Las Cruces-based judgeship in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico has been vacant since 2018, after an attempt to fill it in 2019 failed.  Now, the White House is trying again with apolitical attorney Fred Federici.

Background

Fred Joseph Federici III was born in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1965.  Federici attended the College of William and Mary,, graduating in 1988.[1]  He moved immediately to the University of Virginia School of Law, getting his J.D. in 1991.

After graduation, Federici spent four year with the Washington D.C. office of Venable, Baetjer, Howard & Civiletti.  In 1995, Federici became a federal prosecutor in New Mexico, where he has served since.[2]  He has served as First Assistant (the second in command role) in the office since 2018.  

In 2010, Federici was one of 11 candidates interviewed by New Mexico’s Democratic Senators for consideration to be U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico in the Obama Administration.[3]  However, Federici’s colleague Kenneth Gonzalez was nominated for the position instead.  Gonzalez later went on to become a federal district judge for the District of New Mexico.

In 2017, Federici was recommended by Udall and Heinrich to be U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico, but John C. Anderson was nominated instead.

History of the Seat

Federici has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico.  This seat opened on July 25, 2018, when Judge Robert Brack moved to senior status.  In May 2018, New Mexico’s Democratic Senators sent four candidates for the vacancy to the White House.[4]  In June 2019, the White House nominated Judge Kevin Sweazea, a U.S. Magistrate Judge in the District of New Mexico, to fill the vacancy.  However, by November, the Senators had withdrawn their support for Judge Sweazea’s candidacy, and he withdrew his name from consideration.[5]

In June 2019, Federici reached out to New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich to express his interest in a federal judgeship.[6]  In April 2020, Udall and Heinrich jointly recommended Federici’s name to the White House for the judgeship.[7]  Federici interviewed with the White House on April 8 2020 and was selected as a nominee on April 23, 2020.[8]  Federici was nominated on June 18, 2020.

Legal Career

Federici started his legal career as an Associate at Venable, Baetjer, Howard & Civiletti, where he practiced civil litigation.  However, the vast majority of his career has been as a federal prosecutor.  At the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico, Federici worked on a variety of criminal cases, including drug, white collar, and national security cases.[9]  Over his career, Federici has tried twelve cases before a jury.

In his most notable prosecution, Federici led the case against Los Alamos scientist Pedro Mascheroni, who had offered to build nuclear bombs for Venezuela.[10]  Mascheroni ended up pleading guilty to passing classified information to a federal agent posing as a Venezuelan official.[11] 

In another notable cases, Federici prosecuted Jamie Estrada, the former campaign manager of New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, for hacking into and stealing the Governor’s emails.[12]  Estrada received a nine-month sentence for the offense.[13] 

Overall Assessment

Strongly considered for nomination under both the Obama and Trump Administrations, Federici appears to be a fairly mainstream choice for the bench. However, as we are already in August of an election year, it remains unclear whether the Senate will process Federici’s nomination in the time it has left.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 116th Cong., Fred J. Federici: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] See SANTA FE, Governor Appoints Federici to Seventh District, Associated Press State & Local Wire, Feb. 23, 2001.

[3] See Joe Monahan, NM Senators Refuse to Release Names of US Attorney Candidates, New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan, Jan. 21, 2010, http://joemonahansnewmexico.blogspot.com/2010/01/nm-senators-refuse-to-release-names-of.html.  

[4] See Press Release, Office of Sen. Tom Udall, Udall, Heinrich, Pearce Recommend Candidates to Fill Two Vacancies on U.S. District Court (May 2, 2018).

[5] See Mike Gallagher, Judge Kevin Sweazea Withdraws Name From Consideration for Federal Job in Las Cruces, Las Cruces Sun News, Nov. 1, 2019, https://www.lcsun-news.com/story/news/local/new-mexico/2019/11/01/judge-kevin-sweazea-withdraws-name-consideration-federal-job/2496662001/.  

[6] See Federici, supra n. 1 at 20.

[7] See id.

[8] Id. at 20-21.

[9] See id. at 10.

[10] See Russell Contreras, Tape: Scientist Offers to Build Nuke Bomb Targeting New York, A.P. State & Local, Jan. 29, 2015.

[11] United States v. Mascheroni, et al., 612 F. App’x 504 (10th Cir. June 1, 2015).

[12] Rob Nikolewski, Miffed Aide Who Hacked into NM Governor’s Emails Gets 9-Month Sentence, New Mexico Watchdog, Oct. 9, 2014.

[13] See id.

Judge Roderick Young – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia

A former federal prosecutor and U.S. Magistrate Judge, Judge Roderick Young is Trump’s latest nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Background

A native Virginian, Roderick Charles Young was born in the majority-black city of Petersburg in 1966.  He received a B.A. from George Mason University in 1989 and then got a J.D. from West Virginia University College of Law in 1994.[1] 

After graduation, Young worked for two years in temporary legal work before becoming an Assistant Public Defender in Portsmouth.[2]  In 1998, Young became an Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney for the City of Richmond.[3]  In 2002, Young became a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, where he became Deputy Criminal Supervisor in 2012.

In 2014, Young was appointed as a U.S. Magistrate Judge in the Richmond Division of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.  He continues to serve there today.

History of the Seat

Young has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.  This seat opened on August 1, 2019, when Judge Rebecca Beach Smith moved to senior status.  While recommending Young and fellow U.S. Magistrate Judge Douglas Miller for the vacancy, Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both Democrats, suggested that Smith’s replacement come from the Newport News Division of the court.[4]  Nonetheless, the White House chose the Richmond-based Young over the Peninsula-based Miller on May 6, 2020.

Legal Experience

While Young started his career doing temporary legal work, his first substantive role was in the Portsmouth Public Defenders’ Office.  Young then switched to the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office in Richmond, prosecuting felonies and misdemeanors in the City of Richmond.  Notably, while a prosecutor there, Young prosecuted and secured a conviction against John Matthew Grant Jr. for the shooting death of Shawn Battle.[5] 

From 2002 to 2014, Young was a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, where he focused on federal capital cases, organized crime, violent crime, and narcotics prosecutions.  Notably, Young prosecuted MS-13 leader Jose Bran, securing a term of life in prison against him.[6]

Jurisprudence

Young has served as a U.S. Magistrate Judge since 2014.  In this capacity, Young oversees discovery, adjudicates cases where jurisdiction is consented to, and presides over settlement.  In his time as a magistrate, Young has presided over 4 bench trials, and one full jury trial.  Notably, Young has presided over a number of civil rights cases, including obtaining successful settlements in a number of suits involving prisoners and police officers.[7]

Over his six years on the bench, Young’s rulings have been partially reversed by higher courts eight times.  Notably, one of those reversals was in Deutsch Bank Nat’l Tr. Co. v. Fegely, in which Young ruled that the defendant’s answer to the plaintiff’s pleadings was insufficient and that the plaintiff was entitled to judgment on the pleadings.[8]  The Fourth Circuit reversed, finding that the answer had denied factual allegations in the complaint, and that this was enough to defeat judgment on the pleadings.[9]

Overall Assessment

Given that Young has already been recommended by Virginia’s Democratic Senators and the White House, the biggest obstacle of his confirmation is the upcoming election and the rapidly shrinking Senate calendar.  At this point, while it’s an even money shot whether the Senate will process Young’s nomination, there are few substantive barriers to his confirmation.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 116th Cong., Roderick C. Young Jr.: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] Id. at 2.

[3] Id. 

[4] Press Release, Office of Sen. Tim Kaine, Warner & Kaine Announce Eastern District of Virginia Judicial Recommendations (March 20, 2020) (available at https://www.kaine.senate.gov/press-releases/03/20/2020/warner-and-kaine-announce-eastern-district-of-virginia-judicial-recommendations).

[5] See Alan Cooper, 85 Years Given in Shooting; Man Has Addiction to Guns, Judge Says, Richmond Times Dispatch, Apr. 28, 1999.

[6] See United States v. Jose Bran et al., 776 F.3d 276 (4th Cir. 2015).

[7] See Canady v. Clarke et al., Civil Action No. 3:14CV420 (E.D. Va.); Howard v. Hunter, Civil Action No. 3:15CV461 (E.D. Va.); Quarles v. City of Colonial Heights et al., Civil Action No. 3:18CV593 (E.D. Va.).

[8] See 2018 WL 4524104 (E.D. va. July 11, 2018).

[9] See 767 F. App’x 582 (4th Cir. 2019).

Toby Crouse – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas

Toby Crouse currently serves as Kansas Solicitor General, in charge of defending Kansas’ laws and regulations in state and federal court.  His experience in this role prepares him well for a career as a federal judge.

Background

Toby Crouse received his Bachelor of Arts from Kansas State University and then his J.D. from the University of Kansas School of Law.  Crouse then clerked on the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas for Judge Monti Belot and then on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit for Judge Mary Beck Briscoe.

After his clerkships, Crouse joined the firm of Foulston Siefkin in their Overland Park office.[1]  In 2018, Crouse was tapped to replace Kansas Solicitor General Stephen McAllister (who became U.S. Attorney).[2]  Crouse currently serves in that capacity.

History of the Seat

Crouse has been nominated for a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas.  This vacancy opened when Judge Carlos Murguia resigned on April 1, 2020.  Murguia’s resignation was prompted by his reprimand from the Judicial Council of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which found that he had sexually harassed court employees, among committing other acts of misconduct.[3]

Legal Experience

Crouse has extensive experience in litigation, both in his time at Foulston Siefkin and his time litigating as Kansas Solicitor General.

Foulston Siefkin

As an attorney at Foulston Siefkin, Crouse worked primarily in civil litigation, frequently defending municipalities and employers against civil rights and discrimination allegations.  In one case, Crouse represented the Geary County Sheriff’s Department against allegations of harassment of discrimination made by former employees.[4]  The suit ended in a settlement of the plaintiffs’ claiims.[5]  In another case, Crouse successfully pushed for the dismissal of a suit filed by a Sheriff fired for refusing to end the investigation into a man facing sex crime charges.[6]

Notably, Crouse was hired by the Republican legislature to gather evidence and present evidence before the Kansas Supreme Court in a lawsuit alleging disproportionate allocation of school funding.[7]  The suit had threatened to upend Kansas’ system for school funding after a 2010 ruling of the Kansas Supreme Court.[8]

Kansas Solicitor General

Since 2018, Crouse has served as Solicitor General for Kansas, where he has represented the State before state and federal courts.  Notably, Crouse argued two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2019-20 calendar, winning both.  In Kansas v. Glover, Crouse won a 8-1 victory in persuading the Court that it was reasonable for officers to assume that the owner of a vehicle was also the driver for Fourth Amendment purposes.[9]  In Kahler v. Kansas, Crouse similarly got a 6-3 majority to agree with his position that Kansas can abolish the insanity test in criminal prosecutions without violating the Constitution.[10]

In other cases, Crouse has defended Kansas’ school funding system before the Kansas Supreme Court,[11] and unsuccessfully argued that Kansas’ voting law, which requires proof of citizenship, is not preempted by federal regulations.[12] 

Overall Assessment

As an established attorney with extensive experience litigating in both state and federal court, Crouse certainly has the base level of experience to be a federal judge.  While he may face some opposition for his embrace of conservative legal positions as Solicitor General, such objections are unlikely to derail Crouse’s nomination.


[1] Press Release, Office of the Kansas Attorney General, AG Derek Schmidt Names Toby Crouse to Serve as Kansas Solicitor General (Jan. 26, 2018) (on file at https://ag.ks.gov/media-center/news-releases/2018/01/26/ag-derek-schmidt-names-toby-crouse-to-serve-as-kansas-solicitor-general).

[2] See id.

[3] Arianne De Vogue and Caroline Kelly, Kansas Federal Judge Resigns After Sexual Misconduct Allegations, CNN.com, Feb. 18, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/18/politics/kansas-federal-judge-murguia-resigns-sexual-misconduct/index.html.

[4] See Judge Grants Extension in Discrimination Case Against GESO, Junction City Daily Union, Sept. 29, 2015.

[5] See Resolution Reached in Discrimination Lawsuit, Junction City Daily Union, Feb. 16, 2016.

[6] See Lawsuit Alleging Sheriff Wrongfully Fired Detective Tossed, A.P. State & Local, Apr. 6, 2017.

[7] Top Kansas Lawmakers Hire Lawyer For School Funding Lawsuit, A.P. State & Local, Mar. 10, 2016.

[8] John Hanna, Kansas School Aid Debate Raises Tough Issues for Lawmakers, A.P. State & Local, Mar. 21, 2016.

[9] Kansas v. Glover, 589 U.S. __ (2020).

[10] Kahler v. Kansas, 589 U.S. __ (2020).

[11] John Hanna, Kansas Justices Express Doubt About School Funding Hike, A.P., May 22, 2018

[12] See also Lindsay Whitehurst, Kansas Hopes to Resurrect Proof-of-Citizenship Voting Law, A.P., Mar. 18, 2019.

Iris Lan – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York

Iris Lan, nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, brings a strong academic background and extensive governmental experience to the position.

Background

The daughter of two professors, Iris Lan grew up in Manhattan, graduating from Stuyvesant High School in 1995.[1]  Lan received her undergraduate degree from Harvard University and then entered a joint J.D.-PhD program at Harvard Law School, graduating in 2003.[2]

After graduating, Lan clerked for Judge William Bryson on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.  Lan then joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.  Lan also worked at the Department of Justice, becoming an Attorney Advisor in the Office of Legal Counsel.  During the Obama Administration, Lan served as Associate Deputy Attorney General and as Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General in the National Security Division.[3]  Lan is currently on detail from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, serving with the Office of the Deputy Attorney General.

History of the Seat

Lan 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 Katherine Forrest, who resigned from the Southern District on September 11, 2018.  Lan was originally nominated for the seat on December 2, 2019 and renominated on May 4, 2020.

Legal Career

During her time with the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Lan has worked on a number of prominent criminal cases.  For example, early in her career, Lan worked on child pornography prosecutions under Operation Predator, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) program to target pornographers and child traffickers.[4]  Lan also prosecuted Manuel Felipe Salazar-Espinosa, a drug kingpin charged with smuggling $100 million in cocaine.[5]

Among other matters, Lan prosecuted spy Ben Ami-Kadish for leaking military secrets to Israel,[6] and prosecuted terrorists for bombing U.S. embassies in East Africa.[7]

Writings

Lan hasn’t been particularly prolific as a legal writer, but did write a number of commentary pieces as a law student in the field of health law.  For example, Lan authored a number of pieces discussing developments in the field of health law.[8]  These articles were generally descriptive, although with some commentary.  For example, in one piece, Lan tentatively supports a Mississippi Supreme Court decision allowing liability for potentially exposing a patient to HIV, even where transmission is not proven.[9]

Overall Assessment

Given her credentials and extensive experience in litigation, Lan is qualified for a seat on the federal bench.  That being said, she is up against a ticking clock to the Presidential election.  Even if she maintains the support of her home-state senators, Republicans may choose to prioritize more conservative picks.


[1] Abby Y. Fung, Renaissance Woman Keeps On Runnin’, Harvard Crimson, June 10, 1999, https://www.thecrimson.com/article/1999/6/10/renaissance-woman-keeps-on-runnin-piris/.

[2] See id.

[4] See, e.g., Press Release, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Ex-CEO Pleads Guilty to Possession of Child Pornography, Obstruction of Justice, Aug. 4, 2006.

[5] Larry Neumeister, Lawyer Tells New York Jury Her Client Dealt Drugs But Not to US, A.P. State & Local Wire, June 11, 2007.

[6] Bruce Golding, Wrist Slap for Old Spy, N.Y. Post, May 30, 2009.

[7] See In re Terrorist Bombings of U.S. Embassies in E. Afr. v. Odeh, 552 F.3d 93 (Dec. 10, 2007).

[8] See, e.g., Iris Lan, COURT DECISION: Recent Developments in Health Law: American Journal of Law & Medicine and Harvard Law & Health Care Society: Pharmaceuticals: Conspiracy to Increase Ritalin Profits Alleged, 29 J.L. Med. & Ethics 100 (Spring 2001); Iris Lan, REGULAR FEATURE: Recent Developments in Health Law: American Journal of Law & Medicine and Harvard Law & Health Care Society: ADA: U.S. Supreme Court to Address Whether Carpal Tunnel Constitutes a Disability, 29 J.L. Med. & Ethics 407 (Fall/Winter 2001); Iris Lan, Recent Developments in Health Law: American Journal of Law & Medicine and Harvard Law & Health Care Society: AIDS: Mississippi Supreme Court Adopts New Standard for Fear of Exposure to AIDS, 28 J.L. Med. & Ethics 94 (Spring 2000).

[9] See Iris Lan, Recent Developments in Health Law: American Journal of Law & Medicine and Harvard Law & Health Care Society: AIDS: Mississippi Supreme Court Adopts New Standard for Fear of Exposure to AIDS, 28 J.L. Med. & Ethics 94, 95 (Spring 2000).

Dirk Paloutzian – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California

The Eastern District of California is known for being one of the most heavily overworked courts in the country.  The Court has not been expanded in decades, even as caseloads explode, and has relied heavily on senior judges to carry the burden.  As such, the nomination of Dirk Paloutzian, a business attorney from Fresno, is likely to be welcome news for the judges on the court.

Background

Dirk Paloutzian was born in Fresno County, California on April 6, 1969.  Paloutzian attended the University of California at Berkeley, getting a B.A. in 1991.[1]  He then received a J.D. from the University of California Davis King Hall School of Law in 1994.[2]

Paloutzian served as an extern for Justice Marvin Baxter on the California Supreme Court and then became a Deputy District Attorney for the County of Fresno.[3]  In2 002, Paloutzian joined Baker Manock & Jensen in Fresno, where he currently serves as a Partner.

History of the Seat

Paloutzian has been nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, to a seat vacated on December 17, 2019 by Judge Morrison England.  Paloutzian’s nomination was announced on April 29, 2020, although he was not officially nominated until May 21, 2020.

Legal Experience

Paloutzian started his legal career at the firm of McCormick Barstow LLP, before spending five years as a prosecutor with the County of Fresno.  As a prosecutor, Paloutzian worked on a variety of criminal matters, including sexual assault, homicide and gang prosecutions.[4]  In 2000, Paloutzian became the county’s first elder abuse prosecutor, where he focused solely on prosecuting elder abuse cases.[5] 

Since 2002, Paloutzian has been handling business and commercial litigation at Baker Manock & Jensen in Fresno.  Among the more notable cases he has handled with the firm, Paloutzian represented dairy farms in Hawaii being sued for violations of federal water pollution laws.[6]  Paloutzian also represented psychiatrist Dwight Sievert, who was sued for damages after releasing Edward Coburn from psychiatric detention (Coburn went on to have a violent outburst directed at his father on an airplane).[7]  After a trial court judge found that Sievert was immune from damages in the suit, a panel of the court of appeals affirmed.[8]

Overall Assessment

With a Republican controlled Senate, Paloutzian’s biggest obstacle to confirmation (other than the election clock) is the return of blue slips by California’s Democratic senators.  As Paloutzian is a relatively uncontroversial nominee, it is likely that he will not be opposed by the senators.  Whether the Senate chooses to take up the nomination in the short calendar left is another story.


[1] See Baker, Manock & Jensen P.C., Dirk B. Paloutzian, https://www.bakermanock.com/attorney/dirk-b-paloutzian (last visited Jun. 3, 2020).

[2] See id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] See id.

[6] Friends of Maha’Ulepu, Inc. v. Hawai’i Dairy Farms, LLC., 224 F. Supp. 3d 1094 (D. Haw. 2016).

[7] See Coburn v. Sievert, 133 Cal. App. 4th 1483 (2005).

[8] See id.