Judge Sandy Leal – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California

Judge Sandy Leal currently serves on the Orange County Superior Court.  While Leal’s experience on the bench is fairly brief, she has extensive experience as a federal prosecutor.

Background

Sandy Nunes Leal was born in Longview Washington in 1972.  Leal got an B.A. from the University of Washington in 1995, and a J.D. from Boston College Law School in 1989.[1]  After graduating, Leal joined the Immigration and Naturalization Service as an assistant district counsel.[2] 

In 2004, Leal joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California as a federal prosecutor.  She stayed with the Office until her appointment to the bench.

In 2018, Leal was named by Gov. Jerry Brown to the Orange Superior Court, where she currently serves.[3] 

History of the Seat

Leal has been nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, to a seat vacated on November 23, 2016 by Judge Christina Snyder.

In February 2019, Leal was contacted by the White House Counsel’s Office to gauge her interest in a federal judgeship.[4]  After interviews with the Judicial Advisory Commission set up by Senators Feinstein and Harris, Leal was nominated on October 17, 2019.

Legal Experience

For the first few years of her career, Leal worked for INS, where she appeared in immigration court on removal proceedings, asylum hearings, and appeals.[5]  From 2004 to 2018, Leal has worked as a federal prosecutor, where she worked primarily on immigration and human trafficking matters.

As a federal prosecutor, Leal prosecuted Robert Ornelas, an Orange County teacher, who traveled to the Philippines to engage in sexual conduct with minors and produce child pornography.[6]  Ornelas was tried and convicted by a jury and was sentenced by Judge Cormac Carney to 190 years in prison.[7]  Leal also prosecuted Roshaun (“Kevin”) Nakia Porter for trafficking victims to engage in commercial sex acts.[8] 

Jurisprudence

Since 2018, Leal has served as a judge on the Orange County Superior Court.  In this role, Leal presides over trial court matters in criminal, civil, family, and other state law matters.  By her estimation, Leal has not authored any opinions during her tenure on the bench.[9]  Among the cases that Leal has presided over, they are primarily cases of family and domestic law, including petitions for dissolution,[10] request for restraining orders,[11] and child custody orders.[12]

Overall Assessment

Despite, or perhaps because of, her limited judicial record, there is little in Leal’s background that should cause trouble through the confirmation process.  When confirmed, she would be a fairly middle of the road judge on the Central District.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 116th Cong., Sandy Nunes Leal: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] See Press Release, Office of Gov. Edmund G. Brown, Brown Names Aide, Five Others to Superior Courts, Dec. 18, 2018 (available at http://www.metnews.com/articles/2018/appt121818.htm).  

[3] See id. 

[4] See Leal, supra n. 1 at 26.

[5] See id. at 15.

[6] Press Release, Justice Department, Former Orange County Teacher in Sex Tourism Case Found Guilty of Traveling to Phillipines to Molest Young Girls and Filiming the Abuse, (Nov. 18, 2016).

[7] See United States v. Ornelas, SA CR 14-183-CJC (C.D. Cal.).

[8] See United States v. Porter, SA CR 12-97-JLS (C.D. Cal.).

[9] See Leal, supra n. 1 at 7.

[10] See, e.g., Campbell v. Campbell, No. 16D001563 (O.C. Sup. Ct.).

[11] See, e.g., Y.A. v. O.T., No. 19P000051 (O.C. Sup. Ct.).

[12] See, e.g., C.D. v. G.D., No.18D006591 (O.C. Sup. Ct.).

Rick Richmond – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California

Longtime Federalist Society leader Rick Richmond has been flagged as a potential federal judicial nominee since 2017, but the extensive process of negotiation over California nominees is allowing his nomination to move now.

Background

Rick Lloyd Richmond was born in Grand Junction, Colorado in 1959.  Richmond attended Brigham Young University, getting a B.S. in 1983.[1]  He then received a J.D. with Honors from the George Washington University Law School in 1986.[2]

After law school, Richmond clerked for Judge Harlington Wood on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit before joining the U.S. Department of Justice as an Appellate Attorney with the Civil Division.  After two years there, Richmond joined the D.C. office of Kirkland & Ellis, where he became a Partner in 1993.[3]  In 1997, Richmond moved to the Los Angeles office of Kirkland.  In 2009, Richmond moved to the Los Angeles office of Jenner & Block, where he currently works.

History of the Seat

Richmond has been nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, to a seat vacated on November 4, 2018 by Judge Manuel Real, the last judge appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson still serving in active status.[4] 

Richmond was recruited to be a judicial nominee by the White House and interviewed with them in August 2017.[5]  Richmond then applied and interviewed with selection committees set up by California’s Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris.[6]  On August 28, 2019, Richmond was nominated by the White House.

Legal Experience

Richmond has practiced commercial litigation for over thirty years, with experience in contract cases, intellectual property, and class actions.  Over the course of his career, Richmond has tried 31 cases and has argued approximately 20 appeals.[7]  Notably, Richmond has briefed several cases at the U.S. Supreme Court, including Morse v. Frederick, in which Richmond represented a school district seeking to prohibit students from displaying pro-marijuana messages.[8]  The court sided with Richmond’s client on a 5-4 basis.[9]

Among other cases, Richmond represented the credit card company Discover in successfully enforcing arbitration agreements that prevented consumers from pursuing class actions to recovering interest and penalties.[10]  He also represented Louisiana citizens in challenging a black-majority Louisiana congressional district as an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.[11]

Political Activity

In addition to being a longtime member of the Federalist Society, Richmond has frequently donated to support Republican presidential and congressional candidates.  Richmond has been particularly generous in donating to Sen. Mitt Romney’s campaign for the Presidency, giving $5000 directly to the campaign and an additional $500 to Romney’s SuperPAC in 2012.[12]

Overall Assessment

Given his generally conservative record, Richmond’s greatest obstacle to confirmation is the return of blue slips from California’s Democratic senators.  However, given that Richmond was nominated as a part of a package of nominees which includes others chosen by the Senators, it is likely that he will be confirmed, albeit with some negative votes.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 116th Cong., Rick Richmond: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] See id.

[3] See id. at 2.

[4] Judge Real passed away in 2019.

[5] See id. at 37.

[6] Id.

[7] Id. at 24.

[8] Morse v. Frederick, 551 U.S. 393 (2007).

[9] Id.

[10] W.A. Lee, Discover’s Legal Win May Be Industry’s, The American Banker, Jan. 21, 2003.

[11] Hays v. Louisiana, Nos. CV92-1522S & CV95-1241 (W.D. La. 1995).

John Holcomb – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California

An intellectual property lawyer based in Orange County, John Holcomb is one of several California nominees recommended by Democratic Senators and approved by the Administration.

Background

John William Holcomb was born in Olean, NY in 1963.  Holcomb attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology, getting an S.B. in civil engineering in 1984.[1]  He then spent five years in the U.S. Navy.  He then received a J.D. and M.B.A. from Harvard in 1993.  While in law school, Holcomb worked as a Research Assistant for a visiting professor named Elizabeth Warren (now a U.S. Senator and Democratic presidential contender).[2]

After law school, Holcomb clerked for U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Ronald Barliant before joining Irell & Manella LLP in Newport Beach as an Associate.[3]  In 1997, he moved to Knobbe, Martens, Olson & Bear LLP.  He became a Partner with the firm in 2002.

In 2019, Holcomb joined Greenberg Gross LLP in Costa Mesa as a Partner, where he currently serves.[4] 

History of the Seat

Holcomb has been nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, to a seat vacated on January 28, 2016, by Judge Dean Pregerson’s move to senior status.  On December 16, 2015, President Obama nominated Paul Abrams, a U.S. Magistrate Judge on the Central District to fill this vacancy.  However, while Abrams received a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 18, 2016, he was blocked from a confirmation vote by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Holcomb had broached his interest in a judicial appointment in October 2017 with the White House.[5]  He interviewed with selection committees set up by California’s Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris in 2017 and 2018.[6]  In March 2019, Holcomb interviewed with the White House and was selected as a nominee in September 2019. Holcomb was nominated on November 21, 2019.

Legal Experience

Holcomb has spent virtually his entire career focusing on intellectual property law, and has tried five cases throughout his career, including two jury trials.[7]  Notably, Holcomb represented Jean Sprengel, a physician who sought copyright protections over her book, which provided advice to cancer patients.[8]  Holcomb represented Dr. Sprengel in a bench trial in front of Judge Michael Fitzgerald who held that Dr. Sprengel retained the sole right to create derivative works from the book.[9]

Political Activity

Holcomb’s political history is fairly mixed.  While Holcomb has been a member of the Federalist Society since 1992, his only political contribution of record is to Rep. Matt Cartwright, a Democrat from Pennsylvania.[10]

Overall Assessment

Holcomb’s history with intellectual property law and his relatively uncontroversial history should ensure a smooth confirmation and a relatively moderate presence on the Central District.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 116th Cong., John Holcomb: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] Id. at 2-3.

[3] See id. at 2.

[4] See id. 

[5] See id. at 31.

[6] Id.

[7] Id. at 20.

[8] Sprengel v. Mohr, 2013 WL 645532 (C.D. Cal. 2013).

[9] Jason Frankovitz, Apple Patent Trial Goes to Jury: Why Fight When You Can License, TechZulu, Nov. 20, 2013.

Judge Steve Kim – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California

On October 8, 2017, Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell, a federal judge in Los Angeles, unexpectedly and tragically passed away after collapsing in a middle of a speech to the California State Bar.  Two years after Judge O’Connell’s passing, President Trump has nominated an apolitical magistrate judge to fill that vacancy.

Background

Judge Steve Kim was born in Seoul, South Korea in 1972.  Kim got his B.A. from the University of Oklahoma in 1996, and a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center in 1999.[1]  After graduating, Kim clerked for Judge Sidney Thomas on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and for Judge Stephen Wilson on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California before joining Munger Tolles Olson in Los Angeles as an Associate.[2]

In 2003, Kim joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California as a federal prosecutor.[3]  In 2007, he joined Stroz Freidberg LLC.  In 2015, he left to found SK Advisory Services.

In 2016, Kim was selected as a U.S. Magistrate Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.[4] 

History of the Seat

Kim has been nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, to a seat vacated on October 8, 2017 by the untimely death of Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell.

In November 2017, Kim applied and interviewed for a federal judgeship with selection committees set up by California’s Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris.[5]  In February 2019, Kim interviewed with the White House and was selected as a nominee in September 2019.  Kim was nominated on November 21, 2019.

Legal Experience

Before he joined the federal bench, Kim worked both as a prosecutor handling criminal matters in federal court, and in private practice handling white collar, cybersecurity, and forensic issues.  Over his career, Kim has litigated eight trials, and has argued five cases before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

As a federal prosecutor, Kim argued before the Ninth Circuit that forensic searches of computers crossing the U.S. border did not require reasonable suspicion, a position adopted by the appellate court.[6]  He also handled the trial and appeal involving a real estate agent convicted of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.[7] 

Jurisprudence

Since 2016, Kim has served as a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Los Angeles.  In this role, Kim presides over settlement, preliminary hearings, bail, and any cases where the parties consent to his jurisdiction.  By his estimation, Kim has presided over five bench trials over his judicial career.[8] 

Notably, Kim presided over the arraignment of Lori Loughlin, who was arrested for her role in fraudulently obtaining college admissions.[9]  Kim allowed Loughlin to be released on a bail of $1 million, although he prohibited her from international travel beyond Vancouver, Canada, where she was filming.[10]  Kim also presided over the bench trial of Robert Rosebrock, who was charged with displaying U.S. flags on the fence of a Veteran’s Affairs facility without permission.[11]  Kim acquitted Rosebrock, finding that the state had failed to provide evidence that Rosebrock lacked permission to display the flags.[12]

Overall Assessment

Judge Steve Kim was recommended for appointment by California’s Democratic senators and has been approved by the White House.  Additionally, given his apolitical background and relatively noncontroversial record, Kim should be confirmed relatively comfortably and will create a relatively moderate record on the district court.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 116th Cong., Steve Kim: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] See id. at 2.

[3] See id. 

[4] See id. 

[5] Id. at 46-47.

[6] See United States v. Arnold, 533 F.3d 1003 (9th Cir. 2008).

[7] See United States v. Lloyd, No. 05-50300, 2006 WL 1737564 ((th Cir. June 22, 2006).

[8] See Kim, supra n. 1 at 9.

[9] Jonah Valdez, Actress Released on Bail of $1 M, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Mar. 14, 2019.

[10] See id.

[11] U.S. Army Veteran Acquitted of Illegally Displaying Flags at Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Facility, City News Service, Apr. 18, 2017.

[12] See id.

Judge Fernando Aenlle-Rocha – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California

Judge Fernando Aenlle-Rocha, who currently serves on the Los Angeles Superior Court,  comes to the federal bench with extensive experience in litigation, and will likely be fairly uncontroversial.

Background

Fernando Lazaro Aenlle-Rocha was born in Havana, Cuba in 1961.  Aenlle-Rocha got an A.B. from Princeton University in 1983, and a J.D. from U.C. Berkley School of Law in 1986.[1]  After graduating, Aenlle-Rocha joined the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office as a Deputy District Attorney.[2]

In 1990, Aenlle-Rocha joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida as a federal prosecutor.  In 1994, he moved to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Central District of California.[3]  In 1999, he joined Stephan , Oringher, Richmand & Theodora PC and then moved to the Los Angeles office of McDermott, Will & Emery in 2000.  He became a Partner at White & Case in 2005.

In 2017, Aenlle-Rocha was named by Gov. Jerry Brown to the Los Angeles Superior Court, where he currently serves.[4] 

History of the Seat

Aenlle-Rocha has been nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, to a seat vacated on December 30, 2018, by Judge S. James Otero.

In May 2017, Aenlle-Rocha applied and interviewed for a federal judgeship with selection committees set up by California’s Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris.[5]  In February 2019, Aenlle-Rocha interviewed with the White House and was selected as a nominee in August 2019.  Aenlle-Rocha was nominated on October 17, 2019.

Legal Experience

Aenlle-Rocha has worked both as a state and federal prosecutor and in private practice, where he primarily handled white-collar criminal defense.  As such, he has extensive experience with the criminal justice system.  Over the course of his career, Aenlle-Rocha tried 37 jury trials and four bench trials.  

As a federal prosecutor, Aenlle-Rocha prosecuted Todd McCormick, an activist for legalized marijuana.[6]  He also prosecuted Peter McWilliams, who argued that he used marijuana to treat his medical issues.[7]  During the prosecution of McWilliams, Aenlle-Rocha opposed requests for McWilliams to smoke marijuana as a part of his treatment.[8]  The stance of Aenlle-Rocha and the federal government was criticized by others who argued that it lacked compassion.[9]

In private practice, Aenlle-Rocha largely handled white collar criminal defense and complex civil litigation.  However, in a pro bono capacity, Aenlle-Rocha also represented a philanthropic group seeking to stop the sale of a home for the elderly.[10]

Jurisprudence

Since 2017, Aenlle-Rocha has served as a judge on the Los Angeles Superior Court.  In this role, Aenlle-Rocha presides over trial court matters in criminal, civil, family, and other state law matters.  By his estimation, Aenlle-Rocha has presided over around 38 trials in his judicial career.[11]  Aenlle-Rocha has presided over both the criminal and civil dockets on the court, including cases involving child abuse,[12] drugs,[13] and domestic violence.[14] 

Political Activity

Despite having been appointed to the state bench by a Democratic Governor, Aenlle-Rocha is a registered Republican.[15]

Overall Assessment

Aenlle-Rocha’s record overall is fairly uncontroversial, with few hot-button issues implicated in his rulings.  Furthermore, as he is a Republican who was suggested and recommended for the federal bench by California’s Democratic senators, his confirmation process should be fairly smooth.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 116th Cong., Fernando Aenlle-Rocha: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] See id. at 2.

[3] See id. 

[4] See id. 

[5] Id. at 46-47.

[6] David Houston, Marijuana Mansion, City News Service, Apr. 27, 1998.

[7] See David Houston, Medical Marijuana, City News Service, July 27, 1998.

[8] David Houston, Pot Politics, City News Service, Feb. 26, 1999.

[9] Doug Bandow, Punishing the Sick, Copley News Service, Jan. 18, 2000.

[10] National Charity League, Inc., Glendale Chapter, et al. v. Jack W. Anderson et al., Case No. E061333.

[11] See Aenlle-Rocha, supra n. 1 at 14.

[12] People v. Gomez, No. 5AV07341 (L.A. Sup. Ct.).

[13] People v. Ayala, No. MA069885 (L.A. Sup. Ct.).

[14] People v. Alvarez, No. 6AN01213 (L.A. Sup. Ct.).

[15] Press Release, Office of Gov. Edmund G. Brown, Governor Brown Appoints Nine to Los Angeles Superior Court, May 22, 2017 (available at https://www.ca.gov/archive/gov39/2017/05/22/news19797/index.html).

Jeremy Rosen – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California

The Los Angeles-based Jeremy Rosen has been  one of the most prominent conservative attorneys in California for years, frequently commenting on legal issues and working on prominent matters.  After consideration for the Ninth Circuit, Rosen has been tapped for the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

Background

Jeremy Brooks Rosen was born in Hanover, NH on October 16, 1971.  Rosen attended Cornell University, getting a B.A. in 1993.[1]  He then received a J.D. magna cum laude from Duke University School of Law in 1997.[2]

After law school, Rosen clerked for Judge William Byrne on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California and for Judge Ferdinand Fernandez of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  He then spent a year at Munger Tolles & Olson LLP before joining Horvitz & Levy LLP as an Associate.[3] He became a Partner with the firm in 2008 and has served there ever since.

Additionally, since 2013, Rosen has served as Director of the Ninth Circuit Appellate Advocacy Clinic at Pepperdine University School of Law.[4] 

History of the Seat

Rosen has been nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, to a seat vacated on October 29, 2015, by Judge Margaret Morrow’s move to senior status.  Despite the seat opening with more than a year left in the Obama Administration, the Administration did not put a candidate forward to fill the vacancy.  

Rosen had broached his interest in a judicial appointment in June 2017 with the White House.[5]  He interviewed with the White House in August 2017 (for both the Ninth Circuit or a district court seat) and then with selection committees set up by California’s Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris.[6]  In October 2018, Rosen was nominated by the White House to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Califronaia.

Legal Experience

Unusually for a district court nominee, Rosen has primarily worked as an appellate attorney, handling cases in a variety of legal issue areas.  As such, Rosen has not tried any cases.  Among his more prominent appeals, Rosen represented a pastor who was ousted in a church vote.[7]  He also represented a male inmate who sought to limit observation from female prison guards while he showered and used the bathroom.[8]

As Director of the Ninth Circuit Appellate Advocacy Clinic at Pepperdine University School of Law, Rosen also supervised law students in their legal representations.  For example, he served as a supervisor for students as they represented a Title VII plaintiff seeking relief after her complaint was dismissed for failure to pay the filing fee.[9]

Political Activity

In addition to being a longtime member of the Federalist Society, Rosen is politically active, volunteering for a number of Republican campaigns.[10]  For example, in 1988, Rosen volunteered for George Bush’s presidential campaign.[11]  Similarly, Rosen supported President George W. Bush in 2004, John McCain in 2008, and Jeb Bush in 2016.[12]

Writings & Commentary

Rosen has written extensively on the law and policy, especially discussing California’s anti-SLAPP statute (which allows defendants sued for First Amendment activity to strike the suits against them).[13]  In other matters, Rosen has also commented on judicial nominations issues.  For example, Rosen was one of many conservatives (including Ninth Circuit Judge Dan Collins) who endorsed Judge Paul Watford, when he nominated by President Obama to the Ninth Circuit in 2011.[14]  Watford was ultimately confirmed in 2012, despite drawing opposition from many Republican senators who saw him as a future Supreme Court nominee.

Overall Assessment

As a prominent (but still young) California appellate attorney, Rosen reminds one of other Ninth Circuit nominees such as Watford, or Judge Kenneth Lee.  However, unlike them, Rosen has been tapped for the district court.  Presumably, this is to better accord with the wishes of California’s home state senators.  That being said, while Rosen is probably one of the more acceptable choices for California’s senators when it comes to district court nominees, he may still face questions for his lack of trial court experience.  As such, some senators may be concerned that Rosen has never tried a case and may be unfamiliar with the minutiae of trial-level litigation.  Ironically, Rosen may have better luck as a nominee to the Ninth Circuit, to which his appellate experience seems better suited.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 115th Cong., Jeremy Rosen: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] See id.

[3] See id. at 2.

[4] See id. 

[5] See id. at 75.

[6] Id.

[7] Hawkins v. St. John Missionary Baptist Church, No. F071584 (Cal. Ct. App. Mar. 15, 2017).

[8] Byrd v. Maricopa Cnty. Bd. of Super., 745 F.3d 919 (9th Cir. 2017).

[9] Escobedo v. Applebees, 787 F.3d 1226 (9th Cir. 2015).

[10] See Rosen, supra n. 1 at 41-42.

[11] Id.

[12] See id.

[13] See, e.g., Jeremy Rosen, Mark Goldowitz, Josephine Mason, Anti-SLAPP: Why We Need a Federal Counterpart, Los Angeles Daily Journal, June 9, 2012.

[14] Ian Millhiser, Is President Obama’s Latest Judicial Nominee Too Qualified to Get Confirmed, ThinkProgress, Oct. 18, 2011, https://thinkprogress.org/is-president-obamas-latest-judicial-nominee-too-qualified-to-get-confirmed-d47438ba802d/.  

Judge Stanley Blumenfeld – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California

Of the seven candidates nominated to California federal courts so far, Judge Stanley Blumenfeld is the only one with judicial experience, having been a judge for the last thirteen years.

Background

Stanley Blumenfeld Jr. was born in Patchogue, NY in 1962.  Blumenfeld got a B.A. from Binghampton University in 1984, an M.A. from New York University in 1985 and a J.D. from UCLA School of Law in 1988.[1]  He then clerked for Judge Cynthia Holcomb Hall on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.[2]

In 1989, Blumenfeld joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California as a federal prosecutor.[3]  In 1993, he moved to the Los Angeles office of O’Melveny & Myers LLP.[4]  He became a Partner with the firm in 1998.

In 2006, Blumenfeld was named by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to the Los Angeles Superior Court, where he currently serves.[5] 

History of the Seat

Blumenfeld has been nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, to a seat vacated on August 1, 2014, by Judge Audrey Collins’ move to senior status.  On July 17, 2015, President Obama nominated Judge Mark A. Young, a colleague of Blumenfeld’s on the Los Angeles Superior Court, to fill the vacancy.  While Young’s nomination was unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on November 5, 2015, he was blocked from a final vote for over a year by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, leaving the seat open for the Trump Administration.  

In August 2017, Blumenfeld was contacted by the White House to gauge his interest in a federal judgeship.[6]  He interviewed with the White House in September 2017 and then with selection committees set up by California’s Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris.[7]  In October 2018, Blumenfeld was nominated by the White House.

Legal Experience

Blumenfeld has held two primary legal positions before joining the bench: as a federal prosecutor; and as an attorney at O’Melveny & Myers.  In the former position, Blumenfeld was in the civil division, and, as such, handled civil and constitutional claims in which the federal government was the defendant.  In the latter, Blumenfeld handled commercial and environmental litigation, as well as some white collar defense.  

Blumenfeld notably represented General Telephone and Electric Co. in defending a lawsuit brought by O.J. Simpson seeking access to phone records he claimed would exonerate him.[8]  Blumenfeld was able to get the lawsuit dismissed, with Judge Dean Pregerson finding that the suit “borders on being frivolous.”[9]

Jurisprudence

Since 2006, Blumenfeld has served as a judge on the Los Angeles Superior Court.  In this role, Blumenfeld presides over trial court matters in criminal, civil, family, and other state law matters.  By his estimation, Blumenfeld has presided over around 200 trials in his judicial career.[10] 

Notably, Blumenfeld presided over the trial of the so-called “kitty litter” killer, Isaac Campbell.[11]  Campbell was so named for dumping the body of his victim into a trash can full of cat litter.[12]  Campbell was found “not guilty” of murder by a jury but was convicted of voluntary manslaughter, and Blumenfeld sentenced him to the maximum penalty, 11 years in prison.[13]

In other cases, Blumenfeld has shown a willingness to impose strict criminal penalties.  For example, he sentenced Richard Tauch, convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend, to life in prison without the possibility of parole.[14]  In another case, he sentenced Carlos Andres Lopez to four years in prison for stealing a custom-made tricycle from a young boy with cerebral palsy.[15]

Political Activity

Blumenfeld is a Republican and has contributed to the campaign of President George W. Bush and to the Republican National Committee.[16]

Writings & Commentary

As a law student, Blumenfeld authored a note attempting to parse out the tension between two competing legal principles: the “master of the complaint” doctrine and the “artful pleading” doctrine.[17]  The former doctrine emphasizes the plaintiff’s right to dictate in their complaint which laws and jurisdictions they wish to avail themselves of whereas the latter allows state law claims to be moved to federal court where courts find that the complaint is essentially asserting a federal right.[18]  Blumenfeld argues in the note that the “artful pleading” doctrine serves no real purpose and undermines other legal principles that allow plaintiffs to shape “the face” of their lawsuit.[19]  As such, he recommends that the doctrine be abandoned.[20]

Overall Assessment

An overall review of Blumenfeld’s record does not suggest any characteristics that would make him controversial.  Rather, Blumenfeld was likely picked as a nominee because he was seen as acceptable to California’s Democratic senators.  However, with all California nominees in a temporary limbo, it remains to be seen if and when the confirmation process will start for Blumenfeld.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 115th Cong., Stanley Blumenfeld: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] See id. at 2.

[3] See id. 

[4] His tenure at O’Melveny overlapped with that of fellow CDCA nominee Mark Scarsi.

[5] See id. 

[6] Id. at 42.

[7] Id.

[8] Linda Deutsch, Federal Judge Throws Out O.J. Simpson Lawsuit, A.P. State & Local Wire, Apr. 25, 2000.

[9] See id. (quoting Judge Dean Pregerson).

[10] See Blumenfeld, supra n. 1 at 10.

[11] People v. Campbell, No. GA0707040 (L.A. Sup. Ct.).

[12] Lauren Gold, Alhambra ‘Kitty Litter’ Killer Gets Maximum Sentence, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, July 16, 2012.

[13] See id.

[14] ALHAMBRA, Man Sentenced to Life Without Parole For Murdering Ex-Girlfriend, Her New Boyfriend, City News Service, June 19, 2014.

[15] PASADENA, Man Sentenced to Four Years in Prison For Stealing Disabled Boy’s $5300 Tricycle, City News Service, June 20, 2016.

[17] Stanley Blumenfeld Jr., Artful Pleading and Removal Jurisdiction: Ferreting out the True Nature of a Claim, 35 UCLA L. Rev. 315 (Dec. 1987).

[18] See id. at 317-20.

[19] Id. at 366-67.

[20] Id.

Mark Scarsi – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California

The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California is a very busy court.  However, it is particularly shorthanded at present, as a mix of retirements and deaths have left the court nine judges short. Ongoing negotiations between California’s Democratic senators and the White House, as well as mistrust from the White House’s Ninth Circuit nominations, have left the few district court picks in California hanging in limbo.  Among them is Mark Scarsi, an experienced intellectual property attorney in Los Angeles.

Background

Mark Christopher Scarsi was born in Syracuse, NY in 1964.  Scarsi attended Syracuse University, getting a B.A. in 1987 and an M.S. in 1993.[1]  He then received a J.D. magna cum laude from the Georgetown University Law Center in 1996.[2]

After law school, Scarsi joined Christie, Parker & Hale LLP in Pasadena as an Associate.[3]  In 1998, he moved to the Los Angeles office of O’Melveny & Myers LLP.  He became a Partner with the firm in 2003.

In 2007, Scarsi joined Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy LLP in L.A. as a Partner and serves as Managing Partner of the L.A. office since 2013.[4] 

History of the Seat

Scarsi has been nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, to a seat vacated on January 6, 2017, by Judge George King’s move to senior status.  Scarsi had broached his interest in a judicial appointment in April 2017 with the White House.[5]  He interviewed with the White House in August 2017 and then with selection committees set up by California’s Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris.[6]  In October 2018, Scarsi was nominated by the White House.

Legal Experience

Scarsi has spent virtually his entire career focusing on intellectual property law, and has tried twenty eight cases throughout his career, including fifteen jury trials.[7]  Notably, Scarsi has served as Apple’s attorney in defending a number of patent infringement claims.  For example, Scarsi helped defend Apple against an infringement suit brought by California inventor Richard Ditzik based on his 1997 patent for a wireless handset device.[8]  He also represented Apple in defending a suit brought by Netairus Technologies relating to the ability of Apple smartphones to communicate with cell towers and wifi signals.[9]  He also successfully defended Apple against an infringement suit brought by Wi-LAN Inc. relating to Apple’s alleged infringement of patents relating to the use of 3G technology.[10]

In other cases, Scarsi has represented Google,[11] and Lockheed Martin.[12] 

Writings & Commentary

Scarsi has occasionally commented on issues of law and policy through his career, including weighing in on the confirmation process for Justice Elena Kagan.[13]  Notably, Scarsi expressed his optimism following the 2010 midterm elections that a divided Congress would be able to enact patent reform, stating:

“Maybe a divided Congress creates a perfect storm in which patent reform can be passed.”[14]

Overall Assessment

The White House and California’s Democratic Senators have already had some public clashes over the three California Ninth Circuit nominees confirmed so far.  While Feinstein and Harris had limited control over appellate confirmations, they have considerable power over Scarsi.  As such, his confirmation will ultimately turn on whether the White House can reach an agreement with the senators over California’s district court judges.  Such a deal may ultimately include a nominee to fill a Fourth California seat on the Ninth Circuit as well.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 115th Cong., Mark Scarsi: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] See id.

[3] See id. at 2.

[4] See id. 

[5] See id. at 24.

[6] Id.

[7] Id. at 15.

[8] Jason Frankovitz, Apple Patent Trial Goes to Jury: Why Fight When You Can License, TechZulu, Nov. 20, 2013.

[9] Netairus Technologies, LLC v. Apple Inc., Civ. No. 2:10cv03257-JAK-E (C.D. Cal.), aff’d, 587 F. App’x 658 (Fed. Cir. 2014).

[10] Wi-LAN Inc. v. Apple Inc., et al., Civ. No. 2:12-cv-600-JRG (E.D. Tex.), aff’d, 811 F.3d 455 (Fed. Cir. 2016).

[11] See Callwave Communications v. Google, Inc. et al., C.A. No. 12-cv-1701, 1704, 1788-RGA, 207 F.Supp.3d 405 (D. Del. 2016).

[12] See Space Sys./Loral, Inc. v. Lockheed Martin Corp., C-95-3530 SI (N.D. Cal.).  

[13] If I Were a Senator, I’d Ask Kagan . . . , Law360, May 10, 2010.

[14] Mark Scarsi Comments on the Impact of the Elections on Intellectual Property Law and Policy, Milbank.com, Nov. 4, 2010, https://www.milbank.com/en/news/mark-scarsi-comments-on-the-impact-of-the-elections-on.html.