Maryellen Noreika – Nominee for the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware

The U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, one of the nation’s busiest trial courts, is currently down two judges.  In seeking common ground with the state’s two Democratic senators, the Trump Administration has agreed to nominate two candidates recommended by them: one is a Republican former-U.S. Attorney, Colm Connolly; the other is Maryellen Noreika, a commercial litigator and a Democrat.

Background

Maryellen Noreika was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on July 12, 1966.  Noreika attended Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, getting a Bachelor in Science in 1988.[1]  After graduating, Noreika received an M.A. in Biology from Columbia University and then a J.D. magna cum laude at the University of Pittsburgh.

After graduating law school, Noreika joined Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tunnell LLP, where she had been a summer associate.[2]  While at the firm, she briefly overlapped with her fellow nominee Connolly, who was a partner at the firm before his appointment as U.S. Attorney.  In 2001, Noreika became a partner at the firm and has served in that capacity until the present.

History of the Seat

Noreika has been nominated for a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware.  This seat was opened by Judge Gregory Sleet’s move to senior status on May 1, 2017.  Noreika’s nomination was recommended and made in tandem with that of Connolly’s, who was nominated to fill a second vacancy on the court.

In mid-2017, Noreika interviewed with the selection committee set up by Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons (D-DE).[3]  Noreika was one of three candidates recommended by the committee.[4]  She was formally nominated on December 20, 2017.

Legal Experience

Noreika has spent virtually her entire legal career at the firm of Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tunnell LLP, starting as a summer associate while in law school, becoming an associate after she graduated, and finally becoming a partner in 2001.[5]  While at the firm, Noreika solely practiced civil litigation, primarily focusing on intellectual property issues.[6]  Among the most prominent cases she handled, Noreika represented a drug manufacturer in a successful suit based on infringement of hydrocone patents.[7]

In another notable case, Noreika represented Paradox Entertainment, whose character Red Sonya had been sued for trademark infringement by Red Sonja LLC.[8]  Serving as lead counsel for Paradox, Noreika was able to settle the infringement suit on the second day of trial for nominal damages of $1.[9]

Political Activity

Noreika may be a registered Democrat but she has donated several times to Republicans including the Presidential campaigns of John McCain and Mitt Romney.[10]  Noreika has also donated $3000 to Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and $1000 to then-Sen. Rick Santorum in 2005.[11]  On the other side, Noreika gave $1000 to Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) in 2008 as well as $1000 to the DSCC in 2009.[12]

Overall Assessment

The federal trial court in Delaware is home to some of the most complex commercial litigation in the country.  As such, Noreika, with the depth of her experience, is well-suited to this specialized jurisdiction.  While Noreika lacks the criminal experience to handle a significant portion of her docket, her civil experience more than makes up for this deficiency.

Furthermore, given Noreika’s strong support from Delaware’s senators, she is likely to be confirmed comfortably.  Additionally, as Noreika is, on one hand, a registered Democrat, and, on the other, a frequent donor to Republican candidates, both sides are likely to find her an acceptable choice.


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

[2] See id. at 2.

[3] Id.

[4] See Tom McParland, Sources: Trump to Tap Connolly, Noreika for Delaware District Court, Delaware Law Weekly, Sept. 22, 2017, https://www.law.com/delawarelawweekly/sites/delawarelawweekly/2017/09/22/sources-trump-to-tap-connolly-noreika-for-delaware-district-court/.  

[5] See Noreika, supra n.1 at 9-10.

[6] See id. at 10.

[7] Recro Gainesville LLC v. Actavis Laboratories FL Inc., C.A. No. 14-1118 (GMS) 2017 WL 710051 (D. Del. Feb. 24, 2017).

[8] Red Sonja LLC v. Paradox Entertainment Inc., C.A. No. 06-270 (SLR) (D. Del.).

[9] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 115th Cong., Maryellen Noreika: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 15.

[10] Center for Responsive Politics, https://www.opensecrets.org/donor-lookup/results?name=maryellen+noreika&order=desc&sort=D (last visited Jan. 31, 2018).

[11] See id.

[12] Id.