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.
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.
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).
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).
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.