John Gallagher – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

John Gallagher, the head of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Allentown, is the Trump Administration’s latest nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.    

Background

John Michael Gallagher was born in Queens, NY in 1966.  He attended the Long Island University, getting his B.S. in 1989 and a J.D. from NYU Law School in 1994.[1]  While in Law School, Gallagher worked as a Police Officer in Harlem, NY.

After graduating, Gallagher worked as an Assistant District Attorney in the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office.[2]  He then joined the New York City Police Department as a Special Prosecutor before moving to the Philadelphia Police Department as Special Counsel to the Police Commissioner.[3] 

In 2000, Gallagher became a White House Fellow in the Clinton White House, working as Counsel for Attorneys General Janet Reno and John Ashcroft.[4]  He then became a federal prosecutor in Albuquerque, NM and Assistant Chief of Police in Miami before becoming an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.[5]  In 2014, he became Chief of the Allentown Division of the office.

History of the Seat

Gallagher has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  This seat opened on October 9, 2018, when Judge Joel Slomsky moved to senior status.  

In September 2018,  Gallagher applied for and interviewed with the Judicial Nomination Advisory Panel for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  Gallagher then interviewed with Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa), Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa), and the White House before being nominated.

Legal Experience

Gallagher has spent virtually his entire legal career as either a prosecutor or working for the police.  In the latter capacity, Gallagher worked with police departments on issues of training, civil rights, and public relations.  For example, Gallagher worked with the Philadelphia Police Department to develop policies against racial profiling in traffic stops.[6]  He also countered claims by activists and protesters that they suffered police abuse during the 2000 Republican National Convention.[7]

As a federal prosecutor, Gallagher has prosecuted a number of high profile cases.  For example, Gallagher prosecuted Kiboni Savage for the firebombing death of the family of an informant who was testifying against him, securing the death penalty against Savage.[8]

Overall Assessment

Given the bipartisan support he has received from his home state senators and his relatively apolitical background, Gallagher should sail to confirmation.  While he may receive some questions regarding his work with the police, such questions are unlikely to derail what would otherwise be an uncontroversial nomination.


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

[2] Id. at 2.

[3] Id. 

[4] Id.

[5] Id. at 3.

[6] See Michael Rubinkam, Lawmakers Call For Racial Breakdown on People Stopped By Police, A.P. State & Local Wire, May 27, 1999.

[7] See Bill Johnson, Little Proof of Activists’ Claims of Police Abuse, A.P. State & Local Wire, Aug. 20, 2000.

[8] See Peter Hall, Allentown Federal Prosecutor Nominated to Fill Federal Judgeship Serving Lehigh Valley, Morning Call, Aug. 28, 2019, https://www.mcall.com/news/breaking/mc-nws-lehigh-valley-federal-judge-nomination-20190828-esm77yajyrftpaeqonoys5m45m-story.html.  

Karen Marston – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Karen Marston is the Administration’s fourth nominee (and first woman) tapped for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.    

Background

Karen Spencer Marston was born in Portsmouth, Virginia in 1968.  She received a B.A. from Davidson College, an M.A.T. from Salem College and a J.D. from Wake Forest University School of Law.[1]  Marston then joined the Charlotte firm Moore & Van Allen PLLC as an Associate.

In 2000, Marston became a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina.[2]  She moved to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in 2006 and became Chief of the Narcotics & Organized Crime branch in 2018.[3]  She serves there today.

History of the Seat

Marston has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  This seat opened on September 28, 2017, when Judge Legrome Davis moved to senior status.  

In February 2019, Marston applied for and interviewed with the Judicial Nomination Advisory Panel for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  Marston then interviewed with Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa), Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa), and the White House.  President Trump announced Marston’s nomination to the vacancy on August 14, 2019.

Legal Experience

Marston has spent most of her career as a federal prosecutor, primarily prosecuting drug and organized crime cases.  In the course of her career, Marston has tried thirty-five jury cases, a sizable number.[4]  Notably, Marston prosecuted the drug company Novartis for marketing its drug Trileptal for off-label uses, despite only being approved by the FDA for treatment of epilepsy.[5]  In 2016, Marston also prosecuted supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid for entering a secured area during the Democratic National Convention.[6]   

Political Activity

Marston has been a member of the Federalist Society since 2019.[7]  Other than that, her only political involvement has been as an intern with the National Republican Committee while in college.[8] 

Overall Assessment

For better or for worse, prosecutors generally tend to be uncontroversial nominees, salable as “tough on crime.”  With her record, Marston falls into this pattern and will likely be confirmed by a bipartisan majority.


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

[2] Id. at 2.

[3] Id. 

[4] See id. at 17.

[5] United States v. Novartis Pharmaceutical Corp., 2:10-CR-650 (E.D. Pa.).

[6] See Jeremy Roebuck, Feds Drop Case Against Four DNC Fence-Jumpers, Philadelphia Inquirer, Aug. 9, 2016.

[7] See Marston supra n. 1 at 7-8.

[8] See id. at 13-14.

Judge John Milton Younge – Nominee for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

When Judge John Milton Younge was nominated to the federal bench by President Obama, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley killed the nomination by refusing to give it a final Committee vote.  With Younge renominated by President Trump, Grassley appears to have dropped his opposition and scheduled the vote, making it significantly more likely that Younge will be confirmed.

Background

A native of Philadelphia, John Milton Younge was born there in 1955.  He attended Boston University, graduating in 1977 and then getting a J.D. from Howard University School of Law in 1981.[1]

After graduation, Younge worked as a solo practitioner for three years and then joined the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority as a Staff Attorney.[2]  He moved up through the ranks of the organization, becoming General Counsel in 1990 and Deputy Executive Director in 1991.[3]

In 1996, Younge ran for and won a seat on the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas as a Democrat.[4]  He has served in that position ever since.  Younge made two unsuccessful runs for the Superior Court, losing elections in 2007 and 2009 to Republican candidates.

History of the Seat

Younge has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  This seat opened on November 18, 2013, when Judge Mary McLaughlin moved to senior status.  Younge, who had applied for a judgeship with Pennsylvania Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey back in 2011, was nominated on July 30, 2015.[5]  Younge received a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on December 9, 2015, but never received a vote to move to the floor.  In blocking Younge, Chairman Chuck Grassley cited Younge seeking the endorsement of Planned Parenthood during his judicial campaigns.[6]  As such, Younge was never confirmed and the seat remained open throughout the Obama Presidency.

In early 2017, Casey and Toomey asked the White House to renominate Younge for the position.[7]  Younge was initially interviewed by the White House in April 2017, but then sat in limbo for a year before the vetting process began.[8]  President Trump announced Younge’s nomination to the vacancy on July 17, 2018.

Jurisprudence

From 1996, Younge has served as a Judge on the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, which are the primary trial courts in Pennsylvania.  As a Judge, Younge presided over cases in civil and criminal matters, as well as domestic relations, juvenile, and family law matters.  Over the last twenty two years, Younge has presided over approximately 2300 cases.[9]

Among his more notable cases, Younge presided over a settlement between victims of gun violence and WalMart in relation to charges that WalMart negligently sold ammunition.[10]  Younge also presided over the settlement of claims arising from the sex abuse of Sean McIlmail by a priest at the Philadelphia Archdiocese.[11]

Over his twenty two years on the bench, Younge’s rulings have been reversed by higher courts twenty times.  Of these reversals, the most significant is in Zenak v. Police Athletic League City of Philadelphia.[12]  In that case, Younge allowed whistleblower claims brought by a police officer to proceed in a jury action against the City.[13]  The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court reversed the decision, finding that the claims needed to statutorily be decided by a judge, not a jury.[14]

Political Activity

Younge has been involved with the Philadelphia Democratic Party since 1984, when he served on the Ward Executive Committee for the Party.[15]  Younge won election to the bench as a Democrat and ran twice unsuccessfully as a Democrat for the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

Overall Assessment

While the Trump Administration has renominated a fair number of Obama judicial nominees, Younge is a particularly unusual choice for renomination.  This is because, unlike the other picks renominated, Younge was actively opposed by Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley.  As such, Younge could potentially not be considered a mainstream choice and could attract strong opposition from Republican senators.

However, even in the (slightly) more Republican senate of 2019, it is still likely that Younge gets confirmed.  Assuming all Democrats support Younge, he only needs three Republican votes to be confirmed.  One of those votes will undoubtedly come from Sen. Toomey, who pushed for his renomination.  Sens. Collins and Murkowski will likely provide the other two.  In addition, there are probably a fair number of Republicans who do not wish to see a Trump nominee fail on their watch.

Nevertheless, Younge will likely attract more opposition than most other Trump nominees, and does face a non-zero chance of being blocked by conservative opposition.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 115th Cong., John M. Younge.: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] Id. at 2.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id. at 65.

[6] Philip Wegmann, After Facing Questions on Abortion, 2 Obama Judicial Nominees Fail to Advance, The Daily Signal, Jan. 29, 2016, https://www.dailysignal.com/2016/01/29/after-facing-questions-on-abortion-2-obama-judicial-nominees-fail-to-advance/.  

[7] See Younge, supra n. 1 at 65.

[8] Id.

[9] See Younge, supra n. 1 at 32.

[10] Peter Hall, Wal-Mart, Victims’ Families Settle, The Morning Call, Apr. 7, 2017.  

[11] Craig R. McCoy, In Largest Reported Payout Yet, Philadelphia Archdiocese Settles Abuse Suit, June 25, 2018.

[12] 132 A.3d 541 (Pa. Cmnwlth 2016).

[13] See id. 

[14] Id.

[15] See Younge, supra n. 1 at 58.

Joshua Wolson – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Joshua Wolson, a nominee to the Eastern District of Philadelphia, continues the trend of Federalist Society leaders being nominated to the federal bench by the Trump Administration.

Background

Joshua David Wolson was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1974.  He attended the University of Pennsylvania, graduating magna cum laude in 1996 and then received a J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1999.[1]

After graduating, Wolson clerked for Judge Jan DuBois on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.[2]  He then joined the Washington D.C. Office of Covington & Burling LLP as an Associate.[3]

In 2008, Wolson moved to Philadelphia to become an Associate at Dilworth Paxson LLP.[4]  He became a Partner at the firm in 2010, and continues to work there to this day.[5]

History of the Seat

Wolson has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  This seat opened on April 3, 2017, when Judge James Knoll Gardner moved to senior status (Gardner himself replaced Judge Jan DuBois, for whom Wolson clerked).

In February 2017, Wolson discussed an appointment to the federal bench with the White House.[6]  Wolson then applied for and interviewed with the Judicial Nomination Advisory Panel for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  Wolson then interviewed with Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa), Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa), and the White House.  President Trump announced Wolson’s nomination to the vacancy on May 10, 2018.[7]

Legal Experience

Wolson has spent his entire post-clerkship career in two firms: Covington in Washington D.C.; and Dilworth in Philadelphia.  At the former, Wolson focused on commercial litigation, including intellectual property, contract disputes, and antitrust matters.[8]  Notably, Wolson represented the National Football League (NFL) in defending against an antitrust case brought by Maurice Clarett.[9]  Clarett, a former player with the Ohio State Buckeyes, sought to enter the NFL Draft despite his dismissal from Ohio State.[10]  Judge Shira Scheindlin found in favor of Clarett, but the Second Circuit reversed (in an opinion by then-Judge Sonia Sotomayor), finding that the non-statutory labor exception covered the NFL.[11]

Since 2008, Wolson has worked at Dilworth in Philadelphia.[12]  At the firm, Wolson continued his practice in business litigation, while adding a government practice as well.  Notably Wolson represented the City of Butler, Pennsylvania in suing phone companies for undercharging 911 fees (a case presided over by fellow Pennsylvania judicial nominee Marilyn Horan).[13]  Wolson also Philadelphia Newspapers LLC in bankruptcy proceedings.[14]

Political Activity

In addition to volunteering with the Philadelphia Republican Party and serving as President of the Philadelphia Lawyers Chapter of the Federalist Society of Law & Public Policy Studies, Wolson has been an active donor to Republicans, having given approximately $8000 to candidates over the last eight years.[15]  In comparison, Wolson has also donated to two Democrats, U.S. Representatives Steny Hoyer and Eliot Engel.[16]

Overall Assessment

Given his youth and his Federalist Society pedigree, it is unlikely that Wolson will receive unanimous approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee.  However, his background yields nothing likely to significantly impede his nomination, and Wolson should see himself on the federal bench within the year.


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

[2] Id. at 2.

[3] Id. 

[4] Id.

[5] Id. at 3.

[6] Id. at 33.

[7] Press Release, White House, President Donald J. Trump Announces Fourteenth Wave of Judicial Candidates, Thirteenth Wave of United States Attorney Nominees, and Eighth Wave of United States Marshall Nominees (May 10, 2018) (on file at https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office).  

[8] See Wolson, supra n. 1 at 15.

[9] Clarett v. Nat’l Football League, 306 F. Supp. 2d 379 (S.D.N.Y. 2004), rev’d, 369 F.3d 124 (2d Cir. 2004).

[10] See id.

[11] See 369 F.3d 124 (2d Cir. 2004).

[12] Jan Murphy, Charter School Advocates Think Gov. Tom Wolf Is Out to Shut Their Schools Down, Penn Live, Mar. 4, 2015, http://www.pennlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/03/charter_school_advocates_think.html.  

[13] Cty. of Butler v. Centurylink Commc’ns LLC, 163 A.3d 504 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2017).

[14] In re Phila. Newspapers LLC, 423 B.R. 98 (E.D. Pa. 2010).

[16] See id.

Judge Chad Kenney – Nominee for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

A former elected Sheriff in Pennsylvania, Judge Chad Kenney comes to the federal bench with experience in law enforcement and on the state bench.

Background

A native Pennsylvanian, Chad Francis Kenney Sr. was born in Lower Merion on August 8, 1955.  He attended Villanova University, graduating cum laude in 1976 and then getting a J.D. from Temple University School of Law in 1980.[1]

After graduation, Kenney worked at Benson Zion & Associates in Haverford for a year and then joined the Superior Court of Pennsylvania as a Staff Lawyer.[2]  In 1983, Kenney joined the Law Office of Boardman and Schermer in Philadelphia.  After six years there, Kenney started his own law practice in Upper Darby.[3]

In 1992, Kenney joined O’Donnell & Kenney as a named partner.  In 1996, he left the position to become an Assistant County Solicitor in Media, Pennsylvania.[4]  In 1998, Kenney was elected to be County Sheriff for Delaware County.[5]

In 2003, Democratic Governor Ed Rendell appointed Kenney to the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas.[6]  Kenney served as President Judge of the Court from 2012 to 2017 and still serves as a Judge today.

History of the Seat

Kenney has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  This seat opened on January 11, 2016, when Judge L. Felipe Restrepo was elevated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.  While the seat opened with a year left in President Obama’s second term, no nomination was ever made to fill the seat.

After reaching out to Sen. Patrick Toomey (R-PA), Kenney interviewed for a judgeship with Toomey and his staff in February 2017.[7]  Kenney then interviewed with Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) in April 2017 and with the White House in May.[8]  President Trump announced Kenney’s nomination to the vacancy on December 20, 2017.[9]

Jurisprudence

From 2003, Kenney has served as a Judge on the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas, which is the primary trial courts in Pennsylvania.  As a Judge, Kenney presided over cases in civil and criminal matters, as well as domestic relations, juvenile, and family law matters.  Over the last fifteen years, Kenney has presided over approximately 150 jury trials.[10]

Charter School Funding

In 2015, newly elected Democratic Governor Tom Wolf created a new funding formula for charter schools in the state, one that critics suggested was intended to shut down the schools.[11]  The new funding plan set a uniform funding rate for charter schools based on the number of students served.[12]  Based in part on the formula and seeking to resolve a budget crisis, Wolf attempted to cut the tuition payments paid by the Chester Upland School District to charter schools.[13]  However, Kenney refused to approve the cut, instead rejecting Wolf’s plan and requiring the School District to continue to fully fund charter schools.[14]

Public Defender “Punishment”

In 2013, Joseph De Ritis, a recently-terminated Delaware County public defender, filed a lawsuit naming Kenney as one of the defendants.  The lawsuit claimed that Kenney had conspired by Douglas Roger, the head of the defender’s office to fire De Ritis for not pressuring his clients to accept plea deals rather than take cases to trial.[15]  De Ritis based his claim on the hearsay statement that Kenney thought that De Ritis was not moving his cases quickly enough.[16]  Kenney was ultimately dropped from the lawsuit by Judge Cynthia Rufe in 2016.[17]

Reversals

Over his fifteen years on the bench, Kenney’s rulings have been reversed by higher courts five times.  Of these reversals, the most significant is in Commonwealth v. Goldsborough.[18]  In that case, Kenney granted a defendant’s motion to suppress all evidence from his arrest, finding that the police lacked probable cause to detain the defendant.[19]  The Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed the decision, finding that probable cause existed for the detention.[20]

Political Activity

Before he became a judge, Kenney was an elected Sheriff in Delaware County where he was supported by the Pennsylvania Republican Party.[21]  Kenney also served as Pennsylvania State Republican Committee member from 1996 and 2003.[22]  He also donated in support of Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter (a liberal Republican who later switched parties to become a Democrat).[23]

Overall Assessment

For the most part, close cooperation between Toomey and Casey on judicial nominations have spared Pennsylvania nominees the controversy that other states have drawn.  Toomey supported the renomination of two Obama nominees, for example, who did not receive votes in 2016.  Kenney, whose nomination was a product of this cooperation, also looks likely to receive a comfortable conformation.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 115th Cong., Chad F. Kenney Jr.: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] Id. at 3.

[3] Id. at 2-3.

[4] Id.

[5] Id. at 3.

[6] Id. at 1.

[7] Id. at 43.

[8] Id.

[9] Press Release, White House, President Donald J. Trump Announces Ninth Wave of Judicial Candidates and Tenth Wave of United States Attorney Nominees (December 20, 2017) (on file at https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office).  

[10] See Kenney, supra n. 1 at 20.

[11] Jan Murphy, Charter School Advocates Think Gov. Tom Wolf Is Out to Shut Their Schools Down, Penn Live, Mar. 4, 2015, http://www.pennlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/03/charter_school_advocates_think.html.  

[12] See id.

[13] Mari A. Schaefer and Caitlin McCabe, Judge Rejects Wolf Challenge to Charter Funding, Philadelphia Inquirer, Aug. 26, 2015.

[14] Id. 

[15] Julie Zauzmer, Ex-Delco Defender: Fired Over Lack of Plea Deals, Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec. 5, 2013.

[16] See id.

[17] Alex Rose, Judge Dropped as Defendant in Wrongful Firing Lawsuit, Delaware County Daily Times, Mar. 2, 2016, http://www.delcotimes.com/article/DC/20160302/NEWS/160309905.

[18] 31 A.3d 299 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2011).

[19] See id. at 304.

[20] Id. at 308.

[21] See Nancy Petersen, Sanchez Likely As County’s First Hispanic Judge, Philadelphia Inquirer, Nov. 5, 1997.

[22] See Kenney, supra n. 1 at 36.