Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California

Judge Jacqueline Corley has built up an extensive repertoire of experience with complex civil litigation, and is poised for elevation to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Background

Born Jacqueline Marie Scott in 1966 in Long Beach, California, Corley attended the University of California, Berkeley and Harvard Law School. After graduating, Corley spent two years clerking for Judge Robert Keaton on the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

Corley then spent two years as an Associate at the Boston office of Goodwin Proctor before moving back to California to work as an Associate at Coblentz, Cahen, McCabe & Breyer. After name partner Charles Breyer (brother of the U.S. Supreme Court Justice) was elevated to the federal bench in 1997, Corley moved with him to be his career law clerk.

In 2009, Corley left to become a Partner at Kerr & Wagstaffe LLP in San Francisco, but was selected as a U.S. Magistrate Judge to replace Judge Edward Chen, who was appointed by President Obama to the Northern District bench. Corley currently serves as a magistrate judge.

History of the Seat

Corley has been nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, to a seat vacated on January 21, 2021, by Judge William Alsup.

In January 2021, Corley applied and interviewed for a federal judgeship with selection committees set up by California’s Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla. In July 2021, Corley interviewed with the White House and was selected as a nominee in August 2021. Corley was nominated on November 3, 2021.

Legal Experience

The largest portion of Corley’s pre-bench career has been spent as a law clerk for Judge Charles Breyer on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, where she spent eleven years. The rest of the time, Corley spent in private practice, where she primarily worked on civil issues, although she did work on some white collar criminal matters.

Among the notable matters that Corley was involved with, she represented a class of parents of servicemembers who died in Iraq and Afghanistan in a suit against Prudential, alleging that the company had withheld lump sum insurance payments that they were required to pay by statute. See In re: Prudential Ins. Co. of Am. SGLI/VGLI Contract Litig., 763 F. Supp. 2d 1374 (D. Mass. MDL Feb. 4, 2011) (2010-11). Corley had to withdraw from the representation upon appointment to the bench.

Corley also defended Cristobal Bonifaz, an attorney suing Chevron for environmental damage in Ecuador, against a lawsuit alleging malicious prosecution and seeking millions of dollars in damages. The case was largely dismissed by Judge Claudia Wilken, who ruled that the suit was barred by California’s anti-SLAPP law, but allowed a single claim to go forward. Chevron Corp. v. Bonifaz, 2010 WL 1948681 (N.D. Cal. May 12, 2010). The suit subsequently settled.

Jurisprudence

Since 2011, Corley has served as a federal magistrate judge for the Northern District of California, where she presides over bond matters, administrative appeals, and civil matters by consent. By his estimation, Corley has presided over around 26 trials in her judicial career, the most significant of which was a consolidated antitrust price fixing lawsuit, which she presided over by consent. See In re Cal. Gasoline Spot Mkt. Antitrust Litig., No. 20-CV-3131 JSC.

Corley notably presided over a three-week trial in a products liability action against a fertility clinic after the holding tank for frozen embryos failed. See In re Pac. Fertility Ctr. Litig., No. 18-CV-01586 JSC. The trial ended with a multi-million verdict for the plaintiffs although the case is awaiting final judgment at present.

Over the course of her decade on the bench, Corley has identified ten cases where her decision was reversed or criticized in full or part. Two of those decisions involve reports and recommendations issued by Corley that were only adopted in part by the District Court. See Facebook Inc. v. Sluchevsky, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 181249 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 28, 2020), Report and Recommendation adopted by, modified by, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 181241 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 30, 2020; Livingston v. Art.com, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 92191 (N.D. Cal. July 15, 2015). In three other cases, the Ninth Circuit largely affirmed her decisions (or criticized them in dissent). Lawson v. Grubhub, Inc., 302 F. Supp. 3d 1071 (N.D. Cal. 2018); In re Pac. Fertility Ctr. Litig., 814 F. App’x 206 (9th Cir. 2020); Garris v. FBI, 937 F.3d 1284 (9th Cir. 2019).

Among the rest, two of Corley’s reversals stand out in particular:

In Ramirez v. TransUnion LLC, the Ninth Circuit largely affirmed a class action verdict against the credit reporting bureau TransUnion (presided over by Corley), but was reversed 5-4 by the U.S. Supreme Court, finding that several members of the certified class lacked Article III standing. See 141 S. Ct. 2190 (2021).

In Cortesluna v. Leon, the Ninth Circuit reversed the grant of summary judgment that Corley granted against an officer who pressed his knee against the plaintiff’s back, leading to a claim of unreasonable force. However, the Supreme Court reversed per curiam, reinstating the grant of summary judgment that Corley had originally authored. See Rivas Villegas v. Cortesluna, 2021 WL 4822662 (U.S. Oct. 18, 2021) (per curiam).

Political Activity

Corley has a fairly limited political history, having made one donation to then Senator Barack Obama’s campaign in 2004.

Overall Assessment

Coming from an Administration that has prioritized drawing nominees from unusual sources, Corley is a surprisingly conventional nominee. That being said, Corley’s background lacks any real bases for controversy, and her traditional background should help her avoid controversy in the process.