After only about six months on the federal district court bench, Judge Sarah Merriam is now poised for elevation to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Sarah A.L. Merriam earned her B.A. from Georgetown University in 1993 and her J.D. from Yale Law School in 2000. After graduating law school, Merriam joined the Hartford office of Cowdery, Ecker, & Murphy as an Associate. In 2007, Merriam moved to the public sector as an Assistant Federal Defender, staying in the office for eight years. In 2015, Merriam was chosen to be a federal magistrate judge, replacing Judge Holly Fitzsimmons.
On June 15, 2021, President Joseph Biden nominated Merriam to the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut. Merriam was confirmed by the Senate on October 6, 2021 and has served as a U.S. District Court judge since.
History of the Seat
Merriam has been nominated to a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit for a seat to be vacated upon confirmation (likely by Judge Susan Carney).
Merriam started her legal career as an associate at Cowdery, Ecker, & Murphy, where she worked alongside partner Steven Ecker, who now serves on the Connecticut Supreme Court. Among the cases that Merriam and Ecker worked on together, they represented Directors of Reflexite Corp. in defending against a suit alleging that they violated their fiduciary duties to the corporation. See Frank v. LoVetere, 363 F. Supp. 2d 327 (D. Conn. 2005).
From 2007 to 2014, Merriam worked in the Office of the Federal Defender, representing indigent defendants in Connecticut federal court. Among the cases she handled with the office, Merriam represented Michael Danzi, one of two brothers charged with participating in a drug distribution ring importing marijuana from Canada. United States v. Danzi, 726 F. Supp. 2d 109 (D. Conn. 2009).
Merriam served as a U.S. Magistrate Judge since her appointment in 2015, where she handles detention, discovery disputes, misdemeanors, and social security/benefits cases. As an example of a matter she handled, Merriam affirmed an administrative decision denying disability benefits for Dana Poole, finding that substantial evidence supported the determination that Poole’s disabilities were not sufficiently severe to qualify her for the benefits. Poole v. Saul, 462 F. Supp.3d 137 (D. Conn. 2020).
In another notable decision, Merriam ruled against the Libertarian Party of Connecticut, finding that the plaintiffs had not shown that Connecticut’s petitioning requirements were overly burdensome on the party. Libertarian Party of Conn. v. Merrill, 470 F. Supp. 3d (D. Conn. 2020).
Since October 2021, Merriam has served as a U.S. District Judge. In her limited tenure as a District Judge, Merriam presided over the corruption trial of State Rep. Michael DiMassa, accused of embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars of epidemic relief money. See Chris Powell, Corruption in Connecticut Switches Political Parties, Manchester Journal Enquirer, Oct. 27, 2021. Merriam also presided over a suit by Yale Law students alleging retaliation for their refusal to lie in a faculty investigation, in which she declined to allow the plaintiffs to proceed pseudonymously.. See Eugene Volokh, No Pseudonymity in Yale Law School DinnerPartyGate Lawsuit, Volokh Conspiracy, Jan. 19, 2022.
In other rulings, Merriam found that a Federal Tort Claims Act suit brought by a Honduran immigrant was outside the statute of limitations. See Grace Dixon, Honduran Migrant’s Rape Case Against ICE Agent Too Late, Law360, Mar. 29, 2022.
Merriam’s initial confirmation to the bench was relatively uncontentious, even though she still drew opposition from the vast majority of Senate Republicans. While Merriam may draw 2-3 Republican votes for elevation at most, she is still favored for confirmation.