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.