Arianna Freeman – Nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

After Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley’s reversal on blue slips in the Trump Administration, he processed and confirmed three Trump nominees to the Third Circuit over the objections of their home state senators. With the shoe now on the other foot, Arianna Freeman looks strongly favored to join the Third Circuit, even without the support of her home-state senator.


Arianna J. Freeman received her B.A. with Honors from Swarthmore College in 2001 and J.D. from Yale Law School in 2007. Freeman then clerked for Judges C. Darnell Jones and James Giles on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

After her clerkships, Freeman joined the Federal Community Defender Office for the Eastern District of Philadelphia. Freeman has stayed with the office since then, currently serving as managing attorney.

History of the Seat

Freeman has been nominated for a Pennsylvania seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which will be vacated by Judge Theodore McKee upon the confirmation of the successor.

Legal Experience

Freeman has spent her entire legal career as an indigent defender, serving in various capacities with the Federal Community Defender’s Office, including her current role as managing director.

Among the matter she handled with the office, Freeman persuaded a district judge to grant habeas relief to a state prisoner, noting that the prisoner had suffered ineffective assistance of counsel when his counsel failed to raise on appeal a claim that his judge had improperly closed the courtroom for his trial. See Tucker v. Werenowicz, 98 F. Supp. 3d 760 (E.D. Pa. 2015). However, the ruling was subsequently overturned by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. See Tucker v. Superintendent Graterford SCI, 677 Fed. Appx. 768 (3d Cir. 2017).

Freeman also argued a number of appeals before the Third Circuit in her role. See, e.g., Norris v. Brooks, 794 F.3d 401 (3d Cir. 2015). In one notable case, Freeman persuaded the Third Circuit to grant habeas relief to a defendant whose Confrontation Rights were violated when the trial court admitted a co-defendant’s confession, which the prosecution improperly acknowledged implicated the defendant. See Brown v. Sci, 834 F.3d 506 (3d Cir. 2016).

Outside the habeas context, Freeman unsuccessfully argued before the Third Circuit that the district court acted correctly in finding a defendant to not be a “career offender” under the Armed Career Criminal Act. See United States v. Ramos, 892 F.3d 599 (3d Cir. 2018).

Overall Assessment

Despite her youth, Freeman has established herself as one of the foremost advocates for the indigent in eastern Pennsylvania. Additionally, Freeman does not have a paper trail of controversial stances that might emperil Democratic support for her nomination. As such, Freeman is strongly favored for confirmation to the Third Circuit.