David Woll – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York

David C. Woll has already had his nomination to a senate confirmed position fail before the Republican Senate.  Now, Woll faces a tricky path to confirmation through Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.

Background

David Carey Woll Jr. received a B.A. from the University of Maryland and a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law.[1]  Woll then joined the Securities & Exchange Commission as a Senior Counsel before becoming an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.[2]

Woll then became a federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, focusing on financial and white collar crimes.[3]  In 2013, Woll was selected by Governor Chris Christie to handle disaster relief in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.[4] 

Since 2018, Woll has served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Community Planning and Development at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  On August 1, 2019, Woll was nominated by President Trump to be Assistant Secretary for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  While his nomination was approved on a 16-9 vote by the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Development Committee, his nomination never received a vote on the Senate floor and was withdrawn by the Administration on March 18, 2020.

History of the Seat

Woll has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.  While the seat to which he will be nominated has not been specified, it will either be the vacancy that opened with Judge Dora Irizarry’s move to senior status on January 26, 2020 or the seat vacated by Judge Brian Cogan on June 12, 2020.

Legal Experience

Woll started his legal career at the Securities and Exchange Commission, where he worked as Senior Counsel.[5]  There, he handled a case against a securities boiler room that was targeting elderly investors.[6]  Then, as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the District of Columbia, Woll prosecuted violent and sex crimes.[7] 

In 2007, Woll was one of the attorneys hired by DOJ attorney Monica Goodling as part of an improper politicized hiring process she conducted.[8]  Woll was asked during his interview whether he had ever “cheated on his wife.”[9]  Woll would become a federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, handling white collar and financial prosecutions.

Since 2018, Woll has served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Community Planning and Development at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  However, Woll’s tenure at HUD was criticized by Sen. Sherrod Brown for not being responsive to Congress and for failing to provide timely aid to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.[10]  Brown also criticized Woll’s office for releasing a proposed rule that would weaken anti-discrimination provisions in housing for LGBTQ individuals.[11]  Woll’s reluctance to release funds to Puerto Rico was also criticized by members of the House of Representatives.[12]  In testimony before the House, Woll admitted that he had failed to comply with a Congressional deadline for releasing hurricane relief.[13]

Political Activity

Woll is a Republican, and all his political contributions of record have been to Republicans, including a contribution to President Trump’s re-election in 2020 and to John McCain in 2008.[14] 

Overall Assessment

The odds are stacked against Woll’s confirmation to the district court.  First, there are only four months left for Senate action on the nomination.  Second, the controversies regarding Woll’s views on LGBT protections in federal housing, and regarding his failure to comply with congressional deadlines on Puerto Rico relief make him a very controversial nominee.  As Woll has been nominated to the district court, his nomination can be blocked through blue slips, and it’s unlikely that New York’s senators will return their blue slips on the nomination.


[1] See Opening Statement of David C. Woll, Nominations Hearing, Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Development, available at https://www.banking.senate.gov/hearings/11/07/2019/nomination-hearing (last visited Aug. 21, 2020).

[2] See id. 

[3] See id.

[4] Id.

[5] See id.

[6] See Woll, supra n. 2 at 16.

[7] EEOC v. Local 638, 117 F. Supp. 2d 386 (S.D.N.Y. 2000).

[8] See Eric Lipton, Colleagues Cite Partisan Focus By Justice Official, N.Y. Times, May 12, 2007.

[9] See Greg B. Smith, Mob Dials for Dough Say Millions Swindled Using Tiny Midwest Firm, N.Y. Daily News, Sept. 19, 2004.  

[10] See Statement of Sen. Sherrod Brown, Markup, Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Development, Dec. 10, 2019, available at https://www.banking.senate.gov/hearings/executive-session-to-consider-nominations (last visited Aug. 21, 2020).

[11] Id.

[12] See Report: Puerto Rico’s Infrastructure Failing As Relief Stalls, Congressional Quarterly News, Nov. 12, 2019.

[13] Nicole Acevedo, HUD Officials Knowingly Failed ‘To Comply With The Law’ Stalled Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief, NBC News, Oct. 18, 2019, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/hud-officials-knowingly-failed-comply-law-stalled-puerto-rico-hurricane-n1068761.

[14] See Center for Responsive Politics, https://www.opensecrets.org/donor-lookup/results?name=david+woll (last visited Aug. 21, 2020).