Judge Shalina Kumar – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan

Chief Judge Shalina Kumar from the Oakland County Circuit Court, is President Biden’s first nominee to the Eastern District of Michigan. If confirmed, Kumar would be the first Indian-American on the court.

Background

Shalina Deborah Kumar received a B.A. from the University of Michigan in 1993 and her J.D. from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law in 1996.

After graduation, Kumar joined the office of Sommers, Schwartz, Silver & Schwartz PC as an associate. In 2004, Kumar moved to the firm of Weiner & Cox PLC. In 2007, Kumar was appointed to the Oakland County Sixth Circuit Court by Governor Jennifer Granholm. Kumar has served on the court ever since, including serving as Chief Judge since 2018.

History of the Seat

Kumar has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. This seat opened on February 24, 2021, when Judge Victoria Roberts moved to senior status.

Legal Career

Kumar has held two primary positions in her pre-bench career. From 1997 to 2004, Kumar worked as an associate at Sommers, Schwartz, Silver & Schwartz PC. Then, from 2004 to 2007, Kumar worked at the firm of Weiner & Cox PLC. In both positions, Kumar focused on commercial litigation, working on medical malpractice, and wrongful death, among other matters.

Political Activity

Kumar has occasionally given to political and judicial candidates. She was particularly active in the 2020 cycle, giving to President Biden, as well as Michigan Supreme Court Justices Bridget McCormack and Elizabeth Welch, as well as Indian American Democratic State Representatives Padma Kuppa and Ranjeev Puri.

Jurisprudence

Kumar has served as a circuit court judge in Oakland County since her appointment in 2007. In this role, she presides over civil claims over $25,000 and all felony criminal cases. Some of Kumar’s more prominent cases are summarized below.

Kid Rock Lawsuit

Early in her time on the bench, Kumar presided over a defamation and harassment lawsuit filed by rocker Kid Rock against Novi native Kelly Ann Kozlowski. See Judge Fed Up with Kid Rock For No-Show in Lawsuit Deposition, A.P. State & Local Wire, Nov. 15, 2007. After Kid Rock failed to show up for a court-ordered deposition, Kumar threw out his lawsuit and entered a default judgment on Kozlowski’s claims against him. See id. A jury later threw out Kozlowski’s suit.

Recall Drive

In 2007, Kumar ruled that a recall petition against Rep. Marie Donigan with the Michigan House of Representatives could not go before voters because it was unclear. See Donigan v. Oakland County Comm’n, LC No. 2007-087516-CZ, Shalina Kumar, J. The Michigan Court of Appeals reversed Kumar’s decision, finding that she erred “by failing to uphold defendant’s approval of the petition language.” See Donigan v. Oakland County Comm’n, 755 N.W.2d 209, 212 (Mich. App. 2008).

Ben Wallace

In 2011, Kumar presided over DUI and gun possession charges against Detroit Pistons player Ben Wallace, and sentenced him to a year in probation, fines, and 30 hours of community service. See Corey Williams, Ben Wallace Gets Probation For DUI, Gun Charges, A.P. State & Local Wire, Dec. 13, 2011.

Tucker Cipriano

In 2012, Kumar presided over the case of Tucker Cipriano, charged with murdering his father and attacking his family with a baseball bat while under the influence of K2. Kumar sentenced Cipriano to life in prison after a no contest plea, while sentencing co-defendent Mitchell Young, who was convicted at trial, also to life in prison. See Life Sentences Given in Bat Attack on Mich. Family, A.P. State & Local Wire, July 24, 2013.

Overall Assessment

With a decade in private practice and fifteen years on the bench, Kumar has established a record of legal experience that would serve her well as a federal judge. Additionally, her time on the bench has established a reputation as a judge that’s not afraid to be bold. While senators may question Kumar’s reversal in the Donigan recall case, or her sentence of probation for Ben Wallace, Kumar is ultimately likely to attract the support needed to be confirmed.

Judge Stephanie Davis – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan

Judge Stephanie Davis is one of two Michigan nominees nominated as part of a deal between the White House and Michigan’s Democratic Senators.  While the other nominee, Michael Bogren, was forced to withdraw due to Republican opposition, Davis has been widely approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, refreshing given her left-of-center background.

Background

Davis was born Stephanie Renaye Dawkins in Kansas City Missouri in 1967.  Davis received a B.S. from Wichita State University in 1989 and her J.D. from the Washington University School of Law in 1992.[1]

After graduation, Davis joined the Detroit office of Dickinson Wright PLLC.[2]  In 1997, Davis joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan as a federal prosecutor.[3]  In 2010, newly appointed U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade chose Davis to be Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney.[4] 

In 2016, Davis was appointed as a U.S. Magistrate Judge in 2016 where she still serves.

History of the Seat

Davis has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.  This seat opened on October 26, 2016, when Judge Gerald Rosen moved to senior status.  With the vacancy opening with only a couple of months left in the Obama Administration, no nominee was put forward to fill it.

In July 2017, Davis applied for the vacancy with a selection committee by Michigan Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters.[5]  Davis was recommended to the White House by the senators in December 2017.  After extensive negotiations, Davis was nominated on March 11, 2019.

Legal Career

Davis has held two primary positions in her pre-bench career.  From 1992 to 1997, Davis worked at the Detroit office of Dickinson Wright PLLC, where she focused largely on commercial litigation.  Then, from 1997 to 2016, Davis worked as a federal prosecutor, including as the Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney, the second in command to then-U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade, from 2010 to 2016.

Notably, Davis prosecuted Sohrab Shafinia, a Farmington doctor, for writing prescriptions for controlled substances in exchange for cash payments.[6]  She also helped prosecute Detroit officials for taking bribes and kickbacks and conspiring to defraud retirees.[7]

Political Activity

Davis’ political activity has exclusively been in support of Democrats.  For example, Davis served with the transition team of Detroit mayor Dennis Archer in 1993 and volunteered to conduct election protection for the Obama campaign in 2008.[8]  She also gave $250 apiece to the Obama campaigns in 2008 and 2012.[9]  Furthermore, Davis was a member of the American Constitution Society, an organization of left-leaning lawyers and law students, from 2008 and 2016, and served on the Board of the Detroit Chapter of the group between 2012 and 2015.[10]

Jurisprudence

Davis has served as a U.S. Magistrate judge since her appointment in 2016.  In this role, she handles settlement, discovery, and makes recommendations on dispositive motions.  She also presides over cases where the parties consent.  Between 2016 and 2019, Davis presided over sixteen civil cases that proceeded to judgment.[11]  Davis’s more prominent trials include a Computer Fraud Act case against a former employee who stole information before setting up a competitor,[12] and a bench trial arising from a traffic collision at Fort Meade.[13]  Additionally, in another matter, Davis denied summary judgment against Muslim plaintiffs who argued that they were denied calorically equivalent meals during their fasts for Ramadan.[14]

Overall Assessment

While fellow Michigan nominee Bogren faced scrutiny for his legal advocacy, Davis has received bipartisan support in the Senate Judiciary Committee.  As such, one can predict a relatively comfortable confirmation for the experienced jurist.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 114th Cong., Stephanie Davis: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] Id. at 2.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id. at 58.

[6] Michigan Physician Guilty of Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substance, Targeted News Service, Sept. 3, 2009.

[7] Jury Convicts Former Detroit City Treasurer, Pension Officials of Conspiring to Defraud Pensioners Through Bribery, U.S. Fed News, Dec. 8, 2014.

[8] Id. at 40.

[10] See Davis, supra n. 1 at 4.

[11] See id. at 12.

[12] Am. Furukawa, Inc. v. Hossain, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 161650 (E.D. Mich. Sept. 29, 2017).

[13] United States v. McNeill, Traffic Violation No. 2359730.

[14] Conway v. Purves, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 128171 (E.D. Mich. Aug. 1, 2016), report and recommendation adopted, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 127648 (E.D. Mich. Sept. 20, 2016) (Parker, J.).