Judge Julie Rubin – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland

Judge Julie Rubin, nominated to be a federal trial judge in Maryland, has served on the Baltimore trial bench for the last eight years.

Background

A native Marylander, Julie Rebecca Rubin was born on November 25, 1972 in Baltimore. Rubin received a B.A. cum laude from Mount Holyoke College in 1995, and then obtained a J.D. from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1998.

After graduation, Rubin worked for the Baltimore office of Shapiro & Olander P.A. for two years before joining Astrachan Gunst Thomas Rubin, P.C. in Baltimore with her husband James Astrachan.

In 2013, Rubin was nominated by Governor Martin O’Malley to be a Judge on the Baltimore City Circuit Court, where she currently serves.

History of the Seat

Rubin has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland to fill the seat opened by Judge Ellen Lipton Hollander’s move to senior status upon the confirmation of her successor.

Legal Career

Rubin started his legal career at Shapiro & Olander P.A. and then spent twelve years as a name partner at Astrachan Gunst Thomas Rubin, P.C., where she worked on intellectual property and employment law matters. Among the matters she handled there, Rubin secured a $150,000 judgment for a Baltimore based design collective in a breach of contract action. See Brendan Kearney, Baltimore-base Design Collective Gets $150K Verdict, The Daily Record, Jan. 30, 2008. She also represented Caveo Network Solutions, securing a $500K verdict against a former president who started a rival company. See Danny Jacobs, Frederick Technology Company Wins $500K From Former Leader, The Daily Record, Feb. 21, 2011.

Jurisprudence

Rubin has been a judge on the Baltimore County City Court since her appointment to the bench in 2013. In her time on the bench, Rubin has presided over a number of prominent cases.

In 2015, Rubin notably dismissed the murder charge against Montrelle Braxton, finding that Judge Alfred Nance improperly declared a mistrial in a dispute with Braxton’s public defender, and that jeopardy attached to any attempt to retry Braxton. See Steve Lash, The Criticism That Ended the Murder Case, The Daily Record, Aug. 14, 2015. Prosecutors eventually dropped an appeal of her decision to dismiss charges. Lauren Kirkwood, Baltimore Prosecutors Drop Appeal of Dismissed Murder Case, The Daily Record, Feb. 19, 2016.

Rubin has also presided over a number of high value jury verdicts. For example, Rubin presided over a $1.6 million verdict in a lead paint poisoning case. Steve Lash, Baltimore Jury Awards $1.6M to Lead-Paint Victim, The Daily Record, Aug. 9, 2016. Rubin also awarded $30.7 million to Baltimore police and firefighters in a pension lawsuit. Steve Lash, Judge Awards $30.7 Million to Baltimore Police, Fire Retirees, The Daily Record, Apr. 8, 2020. In comparison, Rubin cut a $2.7 million award to a plaintiff in a prison assault case to $200,000 pursuant to Maryland law. See Heather Cobun, Verdict in Prison Guard Assault Case Cut to $200K Under Damages Cap, The Daily Record, July 24, 2019.

Overall Assessment

As a longtime civil attorney and state court judge, Rubin has a fairly conventional background for a judicial nominee. She is likely to have a smooth path to confirmation.

Judge Alison Nathan – Nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

In addition to presiding over many high profile cases in her current post on the Southern District of New York, Judge Alison Nathan has a distinguished background, tailor-made for elevation to the Second Circuit.

Background

Born Alison Julie Nathan on June 18, 1972 in Philadelphia, Nathan received her B.A. from Cornell University in 1994 and then spent a couple of years working in Japan and Thailand before getting a J.D. from Cornell Law School in 2000. After graduating, Nathan clerked for Judge Betty Binns Fletcher on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and for Justice John Paul Stevens on the U.S. Supreme Court, as part of a clerk class that year produced five other federal judges: D.C. Circuit Judge Neomi Rao; Fifth Circuit Judge Gregg Costa; Ninth Circuit Judge Michelle Friedland; Northern District of California Judge Vince Chhabria; and Former Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces Judge Margaret Ryan.

After her clerkships, Nathan spent four years at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr LLP before joining Fordham University School of Law as a professor. In 2008, she shifted to New York University School of Law.

After the election of President Obama, Nathan spent a year as Special Assistant to the President and Associate White House Counsel before joining the New York Solicitor General’s Office.

On March 31, 2011, Obama nominated Nathan to be a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, filling the seat opened by Judge Sidney Stein’s move to senior status. Despite bipartisan support out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senate Republicans were cognizant of the likelihood that Nathan would be elevated and unanimously opposed her, leading to a squeaker 48-44 confirmation on October 13, 2011. Nathan currently serves on the Southern District.

History of the Seat

Nathan has been nominated for a New York seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. This seat will be vacated by Judge Rosemary Pooler upon the confirmation of a successor.

On November 17, 2021, Nathan was recommended for the vacancy by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. However, Nathan was likely pre-vetted by the White House as her nomination was made public the same day.

Legal Career

While Nathan’s legal career from clerkship to the bench was a relatively short nine years, she managed to hold a number of positions in that time, including in government, academia, and private practice. During this time, Nathan tried one bench trial in federal court, while also filing one merits brief, four amicus briefs, and one petition for certiorari at the Supreme Court.

Among her more significant matters during her career, Nathan was part of the legal team defending the constitutionality of a New York state tax statute relating to the taxation on cigarette sales in Indian reservations. See generally Seneca Nation of Indians, et al. v. Paterson (multiple related matters). Nathan also authored an amicus brief at the Supreme Court on behalf of forty one states and the District of Columbia, arguing that the Constitution permits remote sellers of cigarettes to be subject to state and local regulations. The Second Circuit ultimately upheld an injunction against the statute allowing the regulations.

Political Activity

Before joining the bench, Nathan was active in working on Democratic campaigns, having taken time off while at Wilmer to work as a legal adviser on the John Kerry Presidential campaign and having done voter protection for ten months for the Obama campaign in 2008. Nathan also occasionally attended meetings of the New York Democratic Lawyer’s Council.

Jurisprudence

Nathan has served as a federal trial judge for approximately nine years. In her time on the bench, Nathan has handled a number of high-profile cases, some of which are detailed below:

American Broadcasting Cos, Inc. v. Aereo, Inc. – Nathan was assigned this suit by broadcasting companies seeking to prevent Aereo, a cloud-based streaming service for over-the-air television, from streaming their broadcasts. Nathan declined to enjoin Aereo, citing prior precedent confirming the legality of cloud-based streaming services. Nathan’s ruling was upheld by the Second Circuit but overturned 6-3 by the Supreme Court in 2014 (573 U.S. 431).

United States v. Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad – In 2020, Nathan dismissed a prosecution against businessman Ali Sadr for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran after prosecutors disclosed issues with disclosing evidence. Nathan also criticized the conduct, ordering the government to identify the prosecutors responsible.

Guennol Stargazer – In 2021, Nathan ruled that the sale of a figurine extracted from western Turkey could not be enjoined as the figurine had been under display for years and there was no evidence that it’s excavation had violated Ottoman law. Furthermore, Nathan ruled that Turkey’s claims to the figurine were barred by the doctrine of Laches, which requires claims to be timely brought.

Ghislaine Maxwell – Nathan is currently presiding over the trial of British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, who is accused of conspiring with Jeffrey Epstein in sex trafficking. Nathan previously ordered Maxwell held without bond, finding her to be a risk of flight.

Overall Assessment

There is little doubt that Nathan is well-qualified for a seat on the Second Circuit. Having extensive experience both as a judge and in analyzing the law as an attorney, Nathan would be able to hit the ground running on the famously intellectual court. Nonetheless, Nathan is likely to attract a sizeable cadre of opposition, based less on a particular decision or case but more on her likelihood to be a liberal heavyweight on the bench.

Judge Cristina Silva – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada

When President Trump nominated Jennifer Togliatti to the Nevada federal bench in 2019, she was expected to sail to confirmation. However, despite bipartisan support out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Togliatti’s nomination stalled on the Senate floor as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell prioritized other nominees. With Togliatti left unconfirmed at the end of the Trump Administration, President Biden has now nominated Judge Cristina Silva to fill the vacancy.

Background

Cristina D. Silva graduated from Wellesley College in 2001 and from the Washington College of Law in 2007.

After graduation, Silva joined the Miami-Dade County State’s Attorney’s Office as a criminal prosecutor. In 2010, Silva moved to Nevada to become a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. In 2019, Gov. Steve Sisolack chose Silva to be a District Court with Nevada’s Eighth Judicial District, where she currently serves.

History of the Seat

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

On October 16, 2019, President Trump announced the nomination of Jennifer Togliatti, a senior judge on Nevada’s Eighth Judicial Circuit, to fill the vacancy. While Togliatti received bipartisan support in being approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, her nomination was never voted on the floor and the seat was left vacant at the end of the Administration.

On November 3, 2021, President Biden nominated Silva to fill the vacancy.

Legal Career

Silva spent her entire career before becoming a judge as a prosecutor: first working as a state prosecutor in Florida, and then as a federal prosecutor in Nevada.

Among the matters she handled as a prosecutor, Silva was part of the legal team prosecuting Caesars employees and guests participating in a scheme to illegally bet on the World Cup Soccer Tournament. See United States v. Wei Seng Phua, 100 F.Supp.3d 1040 (D. Nev. 2015). Among the various decisions in the prosecution, Judge Andrew Gordon suppressed evidence obtained by the government after they cut DSL service to a room and sent agents disguised as DSL employees to conduct a search. See id. at 1047. Judge Gordon found that any consent for the government agents was invalid and the result of deception. See id. at 1040.

Jurisprudence

Silva served as a trial court judge in Nevada since her appointment in 2019. Among the matters she handled as a trial court judge, Silva denied the postconviction habeas petition for Lee Reed, who was convicted in a proceeding where jury selection was conducted without swearing in the jury venire. See Reed v. State, 472 P.3d 192 (Nev. 2020). The Nevada Supreme Court affirmed the denial of relief, finding that Reed couldn’t demonstrate prejudice from his trial counsel’s failure to object. Id.

Among other matters, the Nevada Supreme Court overturned Silva’s ruling not to seal criminal records in a misdemeanor sexual offense case. See In re Tiffee, 485 P.3d 1249 (Nev. 2021). The Nevada Supreme Court also overruled Silva’s decision to allow victim impact statements from family, friends, and coworkers of the victims killed by a drunk driver, noting that she took too broad a view of a “victim” under Nevada law. See Aparicio v. State, 496 P.3d 592 (Nev. 2021).

Overall Assessment

While Togliatti’s bid to fill this judgeship stalled, Silva’s looks more likely to be successful. While she is still likely to draw a sizable contingent of opposition, there is little in Silva’s background that is likely to be be fatal to confirmation and nominees who have served as prosecutors have generally attracted less controversy in general. As such, barring the unexpected, Silva will likely be confirmed early next year.

Anne Rachel Traum – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada

Anne Rachel Traum, a law professor with the University of Nevada, was nominated for a federal judgeship in the waning days of the Obama Administration but was never confirmed. Traum now has a second chance to join the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada.

Background

Anne Rachel Traum was born in 1969 in Redwood City, California. Traum graduated from Brown University in 1991 and from the University of California Hastings College of Law in 1996.

After graduation, Traum clerked for Judge Stanwood Duval on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana and then joined the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. Traum then spent two years as a federal prosecutor before becoming a public defender in Las Vegas. Since 2008, Traum has worked as a law professor with the University of Nevada Las Vegas William S. Boyd School of Law.

History of the Seat

Traum has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada. This seat opened on February 1, 2016, when Judge Robert Clive Jones moved to senior status.

On April 28, 2016, Traum had been nominated by President Barack Obama to replace Jones, but her nomination was never considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee and was not confirmed before the end of the Obama Presidency. Throughout his Presidency, Trump never nominated a judge to replace Jones and the seat remains vacant to this day.

Legal Career

Traum started her legal career at the Department of Justice, where she worked on issues of Indian and environmental law, as well as a detail with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Nevada, where she worked in the civil division on both affirmative and defensive cases. Additionally, from 2002 to 2008, Traum worked as a federal public defender, and has worked as a law professor since 2008. Throughout her career, Traum has tried one criminal jury trial and one habeas bench trial.

Among the notable cases she handled, Traum represented a defendant serving a 52-year sentence on a habeas petition. See Mitchell v. State, 149 P.3d 33 (Nev. 2006). Traum was able to obtain a vacatur of Mitchell’s conviction for attempted murder and his release from prison, arguing that a conviction for attempted murder required proof of a specific intent to kill. See id.

Writings

As a law professor, Traum has written multiple papers on criminal law and procedure. In particular, Traum has been fairly critical of the Supreme Court’s narrowing of Confrontation Clause protections in Ohio v. Clark, which allowed evidence of a 3-year-old’s testimony to be introduced against a defendant. See, e.g., Anne Traum, Confrontation after Ohio v. Clark, Nevada Lawyer, Oct. 1, 2015. Traum has noted that the Clark decision could eliminate a defendant’s confrontation rights in a variety of cases.

In another paper, Traum advocated that judges should consider the systemic impact of mass incarceration in making individual sentencing determinations. See Anne R. Traum, Mass Incarceration at Sentencing, 64 Hastings L.J. 423 (2013). In doing so, Traum argues that judges can mitigate the effects of mass incarceration.

Overall Assessment

While Traum’s last nomination to a federal judgeship was unsuccessful, put forward under a Democratic Senate, Traum is likely to be confirmed early next year barring unexpected developments. Any opposition to her opposition will likely point to her academic writings in arguing that Traum has been unduly critical of the criminal justice system and Supreme Court jurisprudence.

Judge Leonard Stark – Nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

The lone judge on the Federal Circuit with experience as a federal trial judge is retiring next year. President Biden has nominated a second trial judge, Judge Leonard Stark, from his home state of Delaware to replace her.

Background

Born on July 5, 1969 in Detroit, Leonard Philip Stark received a B.A., an M.A., and a B. Sc. from the University of Delaware in 1991 and received a J.D. from Yale Law School in 1996. After graduating, Stark clerked for Judge Walter Stapleton on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

After his clerkship, Stark joined the Wilmington office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom as an Associate. In 2002, Stark became an Assistant United States Attorney in Delaware. In 2007, Stark became a U.S. Magistrate Judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware.

On March 17, 2010, Stark was nominated by President Barack Obama to the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware. He was confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate on August 5, 2010, and has served on the U.S. District Court since then.

History of the Seat

Stark has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The seat will open on March 11, 2022 when Judge Kate O’Malley moves to senior status.

Political Activity

While at the University of Delaware, Stark worked as a co-coordinator for Michael Dukakis’ presidential campaign. In 1992, Stark was an alternate delegate for Bill Clinton’s campaign.

Legal Career

After his clerkship on the Third Circuit, Stark joined Skadden Arps in Delaware, working in corporate and securities law. He then spent five years as an Assistant United States Attorney, working in both the criminal and civil divisions. Over the course of his career, Stark worked on two bench trials at Skadden and two jury trials at the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Among the notable matters Stark handled at Skadden, he was part of the legal team for Cantor Fitzgerald LP, who sued several of its partners for breach of agreement, leading to a forty-day bench trial ending in a ruling in favor of Stark’s client. See Cantor Fitzgerald, LP v. Cantor, Del. Ch. No. 16297, 2000 WL 307370 (Del. Ch. Mar. 13, 2000).

Among his significant cases at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Stark prosecuted three high-ranking officials with New Castle County, Delaware, for public corruption, racketeering, and fraud. See United States v. Gordon. Stark also handled appellate matters for the office, successfully defending a conviction and sentence for bank robbery before the Third Circuit. See United States v. Faines, 216 Fed. Appx. 227 (3d Cir. Feb. 14, 2007).

Jurisprudence

In 2007, Stark, at only 38, was appointed to be a U.S. Magistrate Judge for the District of Delaware, where he presided over arraignments, bond hearings, and federal misdemeanors, as well as felonies and civil cases where the parties consented to magistrate determinations. In his time as a magistrate judge, Stark handled one civil trial. Among the prominent cases he handled, Stark recommended that a class action challenging misrepresentations in automobile insurance agreements should be dismissed, a recommendation adopted by Judge Joseph Farnan and affirmed by the Third Circuit. See Eames v. Nationwide Mutual Ins. Co., 2009 WL 3041997 (3d Cir. Sept. 24, 2009).

Since his confirmation in 2010, Stark has been a U.S. District Court Judge on the District of Delaware, where he was made a name for himself by carrying an extensive patent docket. For example, Stark currently has 264 active patent cases on his docket and has presided over 31 patent jury trials. In a recent notable ruling, Stark ruled that Mentone Solutions could not patent packet data transmissions, as this was an invalid patent of an “abstract idea.” The Federal Circuit reversed Stark and revived the patent in a November 15 ruling.

Writings

Stark has written extensively throughout his career, including pieces describing the jurisprudence of his mentor Judge Walter Stapleton, see eg., Leonard Stark, Judge ‘The Game By The Rules’: An Appreciation of the Judicial Philosophy and Method of Walter K. Stapleton, 6 Delaware Law Review 223 (2003), and on presidential history. See Leonard Stark, Review: Mutual Contempt – Lyndon Johnson, Robert Kennedy, and the Feud that Defined a Decade, 85 The American Oxonian 210 (Spring 1998). More interestingly, as a college student, Stark drafted multiple papers on the negative effects of gender roles, particularly in perpetuating homophobia and sexism. See L.P. Stark, Traditional Gender Role Beliefs and Individual Outcomes: An Exploratory Analysis, 24 Sex Roles: A Journal of Research 639 (1991). See also Leonard Stark, Examining the Effects of Gender Roles, 10 Enquiry: Research at the University of Delaware 8 (1989).

Overall Assessment

With extensive experience with patent litigation, it is hard to argue that Stark would not be qualified for the patent-heavy docket of the Federal Circuit. He will likely get a fairly smooth confirmation with bipartisan support.

Charles Fleming – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio

Longtime federal defender Charles Fleming would be, if confirmed, the second black judge on the Northern District, after Judge Solomon Oliver.

Background

Born in 1962, Charles Esque Fleming received his B.A. from Kent State University in 1986 and his J.D. from Case Western Reserve University School of Law in 1990. After law school, Fleming spent a year as an associate at Forbes, Forbes & Associates before becoming an assistant federal defender, where he has worked ever since.

History of the Seat

Fleming has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. This seat was vacated on January 31, 2021, when Judge James Gwin moved to senior status.

Legal Experience

Other than a brief stint in private practice, Fleming has spent his entire legal career as a federal defender, representing indigent defendants at the trial and appellate levels in Northern Ohio. Among the matters he handled there, Fleming successfully suppressed evidence obtained against his client through an illegal arrest. See United States v. Walker, 43 F. Supp. 2d 828 (N.D. Ohio 1998).

Fleming has also had the opportunity to argue a number of appellate matters as federal defender. For example, Fleming challenged the conviction of one of his clients where a juror brought a dictionary into the deliberation room and looked up the definition of “reasonable.” See United States v. Gillespie, 61 F.3d 457 (6th Cir. 1995). The Sixth Circuit rejected the challenge by noting that the trial judge had taken appropriate measures to ensure that the independent investigation had not affected the jury verdict. See id. at 460. Fleming also challenged an in-court identification of his client after the victim was shown a photograph of him by the police during a line-up. United States v. Meyer, 359 F.3d 820 (6th Cir. 2004). A divided panel of the Sixth Circuit affirmed the conviction.

In one notable case, Fleming convinced Judge Gwin to suppress evidence obtained through a police stop where the officer asked the defendant to see his identification, leading to a warrantless arrest and search of his vehicle. See United States v. Campbell, 486 F.3d 949 (6th Cir. 2007). However, a divided panel of the Sixth Circuit reversed the grant of the motion to suppress, over the dissent of Judge Ransey Guy Cole. Id. at 958.

Political Activity

Fleming has a handful of political contributions to his name, one each to the senatorial and presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and one to Florida Democrat Kendrick Meek.

Overall Assessment

Fleming would bring three decades of criminal defense experience to the bench. While some nominees with public defense experience have been criticized lately for a narrow focus of experience (in a manner that nominees who have only been prosecutors have not been), it is unlikely that such arguments will derail Fleming’s nomination.

Judge David Ruiz – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio

A former civil litigator, federal prosecutor, and federal magistrate judge, Judge David Ruiz is well-qualified for a federal trial level position, and is expected to receive a comfortable confirmation.

Background

David Augustin Ruiz received his B.A. from Ohio State University in 1997, and his J.D. from the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law in 2000. After law school, Ruiz spent two years in Pittsburgh before returning to Ohio to work at Calfee Halter & Griswold in Cleveland.

In 2010, Ruiz became a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio.

In 2016, Ruiz was selected to be a U.S. Magistrate Judge with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. He continues to serve in that capacity today.

History of the Seat

Ruiz has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. This seat was vacated on February 15, 2021, when Judge Solomon Oliver moved to senior status.

Legal Experience

Before he joined the federal bench, Ruiz practiced with Calfee Halter & Griswold in Cleveland. Among the matters he handled there, Ruiz defended Wells Fargo Bank West against a class action suit in Ohio state court alleging failure to properly record mortgages. See Coleman v. Wells Fargo Bank West N.A., 2008-Ohio-3559 (Ohio App. 8th 2008). In another case, Ruiz represented a public utility company in successfully defending against a suit alleging damages from power surges. Pro Se Commer. Props. v. Illuminating Co., 2010-Ohio-516 (Ohio App. 8th 2010).

From 2010 to 2016, Ruiz served in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio. In the office, among other matters, Ruiz defended denials of supplemental security income from the Social Security Administration. See, e.g., Jones v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 933 F. Supp. 2d 934 (N.D. Ohio 2013). See also Henry v Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 973 F. Supp. 2d 796 (N.D. Ohio 2013).

Jurisprudence

Ruiz has served as a U.S. Magistrate Judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio since his appointment in 2016. Among his most notable cases, Ruiz served as the magistrate judge on a securities fraud action involving ViewRay, Inc., a MRI-guided radiation systems manufacturer. See Plymouth Cty. Ret. Ass’n v. ViewRay, Inc., 2021 U.S. Dist. 160230 (N.D. Ohio Aug. 25, 2001).

Overall Assessment

Ruiz has little that should cause him trouble during his confirmation. As a relatively uncontroversial nominee, he should be confirmed early next year.

Bridget Brennan – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio

A long time federal prosecutor who currently heads the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio, Bridget Brennan’s support from Ohio Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown makes her a likely candidate for a smooth confirmation.

Background

Bridget Meehan Brennan received her B.A. from John Carroll University in 1997 and her J.D. from the Case Western Reserve University School of Law in 2000.

Brennan started her legal career as an associate at the Cleveland office of Baker Hostetler, where she worked until 2007. Since then, Brennan has been a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio. Brennan served as First Assistant with the office since 2018 and is currently the acting U.S. Attorney.

History of the Seat

Brennan has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. This seat was vacated on January 31, 2021, when Judge Dan Polster moved to senior status.

Legal Experience

Brennan has worked in two capacities throughout her legal career: the first as an associate in private practice; and the second as a federal prosecutor. During her time in private practice, Brennan was part of the legal team for Progressive Corp., defending against a class action fighting an alleged policy of using cheap imitation parts to repair insured vehicles. See Augustus v. Progressive Corp., 2003-Ohio-296 (Ohio App. 8th 2003). She also defended the Cleveland Plain Dealer against a defamation complaint filed by a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Peter Sikora. Sikora v. Plain Dealer Publ. Co., 2003-Ohio-328 (Ohio App. 8th 2003).

Since 2007, Brennan has been with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, serving in various capacities, including heading the Civil Rights Unit, the Criminal Division, and, since 2021, the entire office. Brennan was notably one of the lead prosecutors in the hate crime trial of Samuel Mullet, who attacked and cut the hair of religiously orthodox Amish with others. After convictions at trial, the Sixth Circuit overturned the hate crime convictions of Mullet and 15 others, finding that the jury should have been instructed that the religious belief of the victims was a “but for” cause of the attack, rather than a “significant factor.” See United States v. Miller, 767 F.3d 585, 589 (6th Cir. 2014). Brennan also prosecuted Randolph Linn, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for setting fire to the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo.

Overall Assessment

With a largely uncontroversial record and the support of her home state senators, Brennan will likely be confirmed swiftly with little opposition.

Samantha Elliott – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire

Concord based attorney Samantha Elliott is President Biden’s nominee to replace Judge Paul Barbadoro on the U.S. District Court in New Hampshire.

Background

Samantha Dowd Elliott received a B.A. cum laude from Colgate University in 1997 and a J.D. from Columbia Law School in 2006. Elliott has been at the firm of Gallagher, Callahan & Gartrell, P.C. since her graduation, and currently works as a partner.

History of the Seat

Elliott has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire. The seat opened on March 1, 2021, with Judge Paul Barbadoro’s move to senior status. Elliott was nominated to fill the vacancy on September 30, 2021.

Legal Experience

Elliott has spent her entire career at Gallagher, Callahan & Gartrell, P.C., where she worked primarily in commercial and employment litigation, while also taking some cases involving negligence and product liability matters. Among her notable matters, Elliott represented a supermarket developer in litigation challenging a zoning variance that it received from the town of Bedford. See Hannaford Bros. Co. v. Town of Bedford, 64 A.3d 951 (N.H. 2013). The New Hampshire Supreme Court found that the petitioner challenging the variance lacked standing to bring the suit, dismissing it. See id. at 959. Elliott also represented municipalities before the First Circuit as it rejected a challenge to a law establishing a buffer zone around abortion clinics. Reddy v. Foster, 845 F.3d 493 (1st Cir. 2017).

In other matters, Elliott represented the Town of Sanbornton in defending against a suit brought by a man injured by a stun gun while allegedly fleeing during a field sobriety test. See Huckins v. McSweeney, 90 A.3d 1236 (N.H. 2014). The plaintiff sued the town and the officer for battery, among other claims, and challenged the constitutionality of a New Hampshire statute that established immunity of municipalities for certain intentional torts committed by their employees. See id. at 1239. However, the New Hampshire Supreme Court found the laws to be constitutional, and noted that this allowed the plaintiff to continue to pursue his claim against the officer directly. Id. at 1242-43. Elliott later represented the City of Concord in another challenge before the New Hampshire Supreme Court that reaffirmed the immunity officers had in intentional tort matters. See Farrelly v. City of Concord, 130 A.3d 548 (N.H. 2015).

Political Activity

Elliott has made several political contributions throughout her career, all of them to New Hampshire Democrats.

Overall Assessment

As an experienced attorney in New Hampshire state and federal courts, Elliott is likely to be well-versed in the cases she is likely to hear as a federal judge. While some may object to her work defending municipalities in suits based on officer torts, Elliott’s supporters can likely point out that her positions were ultimately affirmed unanimously by the New Hampshire Supreme Court, and that her clients were entitled to zealous representation.

Judge John Chun – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington had some of the oldest judicial vacancies in the country coming into the Biden Administration. Three appointments later, the court is now short only two judges. Additionally, with the nomination of Judge John Chun, another vacancy is scheduled to be filled.

Background

John Hyung-Seung Chun received his B.A. from Columbia University in 1991 and his J.D. from Cornell University Law School in 1994. After graduating, Chun clerked for Judge Eugene Wright on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and then joined Mundt McGregor LLP as an associate. In 2002, he became a partner at the firm.

In 2005, Chun became a partner at Preston, Gates & Ellis LLP (now K&L Gates). In 2006, he shifted to the Summit Law Group PLLC.

In 2013, Chun was appointed by Governor Jay Inslee to the King County Superior Court. In 2018, Inslee elevated Chun to the Washington State Court of Appeals, Division One, where he serves to this day.

History of the Seat

Chun has been nominated for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. This seat opened on June 28, 2016, when Judge James Robart moved to senior status. On April 14, 2016, President Obama nominated federal prosecutor J. Michael Diaz to replace Robart. Diaz’s nomination stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate and was never confirmed.

Due to a dispute between the Trump Administration and Washington’s U.S. Senators over the Ninth Circuit nomination of Eric Miller, no agreement was reached on district court judges, and the Administration did not nominate anyone to fill this vacancy. President Biden nominated Chun on September 30, 2021.

Legal Experience

Before becoming a judge, Chun served in private practice for nearly two decades, during which time he focused on labor and employment litigation. He started at the firm of Mundt McGregory LLP, where he represented American Property Consultants, Ltd. in defending against claims that his client induced the plaintiffs to sign contracts through fraudulent claims. Kamaya Co. v. Am. Property Consultants, Ltd., 959 P.2d 1140 (Wash. App. 1998). Chun argued that the claims should be arbitrated under the contract’s arbitration clause, which the Court of Appeals agreed with. Id. at 1142.

Among other matters he has handled, Chun was hired by the City of Edmonds to investigate if any state or federal antidiscrimination laws were violated when Finance Director Lorenzo Hines left. Edmonds Beacon Staff, Finance Director Resigns; Cites City Council Conflict, Disrespect, Edmonds Beacon, Jan. 16, 2014. Chun concluded that there was no violation of law. See id. Chun also argued before the Washington Supreme Court against a wrongful termination in violation of public policy claim brought by a police officer. Piel v. City of Federal Way, 306 P.3d 879 (Wash. 2013). The Washington Supreme Court ruled against him on a 4-3 vote. See id.

Jurisprudence

Chun has been a judge since 2013, first serving on the King County Superior Court, handling civil, domestic relations, juvenile,and felony criminal cases, as well as appeals from the lower courts of limited jurisdiction, and then serving on the Washington Court of Appeals since 2018.

Among the notable matters he handled on the King County Superior Court, Chun rejected a challenge to the Washington charter school initiative, which the legislature funded with lottery proceeds. See Opinion, Charter School Ruling a Victory for Students, Spokane Spokesman Review, Feb. 26, 2017. Chun ruled that the funding mechanism did not divert funds from public schools. See id. Chun’s ruling was affirmed by the Washington Supreme Court. El Centro de la Raza v. State, 428 P.3d 1143 (Wash. 2018).

In another notable ruling, Chun ordered a Defendant who plead guilty of possession of child pornography to pay restitution to the victim depicted in the images. State v. Velezmoro, 384 P.3d 613 (Wash. App. 2016). The Washington Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling, finding that Chun did not need to find that the Defendant was the “but-for” cause of the victim’s trauma before ordering restitution. See id. at 617.

One decision that may draw attention is a 2015 ruling that the Washington Department of Corrections could not release the evaluations for level I sexual offenders under a public records request. John Doe G. v. Dep’t of Corr., 391 P.3d 496 (Wash. App. 2017). While the Washington Court of Appeals affirmed his ruling, the Washington Supreme Court reversed, finding both that the evaluations could be released but also that Chun erred in allowing the plaintiffs to proceed pseudonymously. John Doe G. v. Dep’t of Corr., 410 P.3d 1156 (Wash. 2018).

Among other reversals, the Washington Court of Appeals reversed a 2016 grant of summary judgment against a plaintiff who fell while leaving a store, finding that the issue of causation of injury should have been left to the jury. See Mehlert v. Baseball of Seattle, Inc., 404 P.3d 97 (Wash. App. 2017). The Washington Court of Appeals also reversed in favor of Tommie Davis, who Chun sentenced for unlawful possession of a firearm, finding that Chun had improperly used Davis’ convictions for burglary in California to enhance the sentence, ruling that the California burglary statute was not sufficiently similar to the Washington Burglary statute. See id. at 209.

Since 2018, Chun has served on the Washington Court of Appeals, reviewing appeals from superior court rulings. Among the opinions he has authored, Chun agreed that a trial court judge could not admit a defendant into Drug Diversion Court over the objection of the prosecutor, State v. Daniels, 437 P.3d 723 (Wash. App. 2019), and affirmed a trial court for declining to strike an asian juror in a criminal case where the defendant failed to adequately provide race neutral reasons for the strike. State v. Omar, 460 P.3d 225 (Wash. App. 2020).

Earlier this year, Chun notably ruled that a Seattle ordinance barring a person from carrying a “dangerous knife” did not violate the Second Amendment as applied against the Defendant for carrying a sword. See Zaitzeff v. City of Seattle, 484 P.3d 470, 474 (Wash. 2021).

Writings and Statements

As a law student, Chun authored a note discussing developments in product liability law, which governs damages arising from defects in commercial products. John H. Chun, The New Citadel: A Reasonably Designed Products Liability Restatement, 79 Cornell L. Rev. 1654 (September 1994). After discussing various standards of liability adopted by state courts, Chun endorses the risk-utility standard, which attaches liability where a product’s inherent danger outweighs its utility. Id. at 1659.

Overall Assessment

The Western District of Washington has seen a feast of new judges after years of famine. The Biden Administration’s nominees to this court have all drawn stiff opposition but have nonetheless pushed through with narrow bipartisan majorities. Chun is likely to be no different.