Judge Elizabeth Hanes – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia

Judge Elizabeth Hanes is, like Biden’s last nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, a former federal defender and U.S. Magistrate Judge.

Background

Elizabeth Wilson Hanes received her B.A. from the University of Richmond in 2000 and her J.D. from the University of Richmond School of Law in 2007.

After graduation, Hanes clerked for Judge Joseph Goodwin on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia and then for Judge Robert King on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Hanes then spent seven years as an assistant federal public defender in the Eastern District of Virginia before joining the firm Consumer Litigation Associates, P.C.

In 2020, Hanes was appointed as a U.S. Magistrate Judge in the Alexandria Division of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. She continues to serve there today.

History of the Seat

Hanes has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. This seat opened on November 1, 2021, when Judge John Gibney moved to senior status. Hanes was recommended, along with federal prosecutor Melissa O’Boyle, by Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine to the White House in November 2021.

Legal Experience

Outside of her clerkships, Hanes started her legal career as a federal defender in the Eastern District of Virginia. For example, Hanes represented James Edward May II, who was sentenced to thirty years in prison for production of child pornography. See Frank Green, Powhatan Man Receives 30 Years in Child Porn Case, Richmond Times Dispatch, Nov. 3, 2012. The position also allowed Hanes to argue before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. See, e.g., United States v. Winfield, 665 F.3d 107 (4th Cir. 2012).

From 2016 to 2020, Hanes practiced civil litigation at Consumer Litigation Associates, P.C. in Newport News. Among the matters she handled there, Hanes filed an amicus brief before the Fourth Circuit on behalf of the Federal Public Defender’s Office in a case holding whether the Federal Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 can be justified under Congress’ Commerce Clause power. See United States v. Hill, 927 F.3d 188 (4th Cir. 2019). The Fourth Circuit upheld the Act as a valid exercise of Congress’ Commerce power.

Jurisprudence

Hanes has served as a U.S. Magistrate Judge since 2020. In this capacity, Hanes oversees discovery, adjudicates cases where jurisdiction is consented to, and presides over settlement. She also oversees pretrial detention, and administrative appeals. See, e.g., Anthony A. v. Kijakazi, 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 61087 (E.D. Va. Mar. 30, 2022) (upholding ALJ decision not to consider the VA’s 100% disability determination).

Overall Assessment

Nominees to the federal bench in Virginia have generally not attracted much opposition, regardless of the president making the appointments. In fact, not since the nomination of Judge Glen Conrad to the Fourth Circuit has a Virginia federal nominee not been confirmed. Hanes is likely to maintain that trend.