Douglas Cole – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio

A former Ohio State Solicitor General and attorney in private practice, Douglas Cole would join the bench with over twenty years of practice experience.

Background

Cole was born in Janesville, WI in 1964.[1]  Cole received a B.A. from Ripon College in 1985, a B.S.E.E. from the University of Wisconsin College of Engineering in 1988 and his J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School in 1993.[2]  Following his graduation, Cole clerked for Judge Frank Easterbrook on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.[3]

After his clerkship, Cole joined the Chicago office of Kirkland & Ellis as an associate.  Cole left in 1997 to become a Visiting Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Oklahoma College of Law and then, in 1998, joined Zeiger & Carpenter in Columbus as Of Counsel.[4]

In 2000, Cole became an Assistant Professor of Law at the Ohio State University Moritz School of Law.[5]  In 2003, he left when he was appointed State Solicitor General in Ohio.  Cole left the Solicitor General’s Office in 2006 when the Attorney General’s Office was taken over by Democrats, and joined the Columbus office of Jones Day as a Partner.[6]  In 2011, Cole left to become a Partner at Organ Cole in Columbus, where he still needs.

History of the Seat

Cole has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.  This seat was vacated on May 31, 2018, when Judge Sandra Dlott moved to senior status.  However, he previously interviewed with the White House in 2017 in connection with the vacancy created by Judge Gregory Frost’s retirement.[7]  That seat was ultimately filled by Judge Sarah Morrison.

Cole reapplied for the Dlott vacancy with a selection commission put together by Ohio Senators Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, and Rob Portman, a Republican.[8]  Cole interviewed with the Commission in late August of 2018, and with Portman in September.[9]  He was nominated in May 2019.  

Legal Experience

Cole has fairly extensive experience with litigation, having worked both in private practice and as Ohio’s Solicitor General.  Cole has practiced in state and federal court through his career, having tried eleven cases to verdict.[10] 

Private Practice

At the firms of Kirkland & Ellis, Zeiger & Carpenter, Jones Day, and Organ Cole, Cole has primarily worked in commercial litigation.  Notably, Cole represented Uber in a suit seeking to allow the company to operate in Hillsborough County.[11]  He also represented ProMedica in a suit seeking to invalidate a Federal Trade Commission ruling undoing a hospital acquisition in Toledo.[12]

State Solicitor General

From 2003 to 2006, Cole served as Ohio’s Solicitor General, working under Republican Attorney General Jim Petro.  In this role, Cole argued five cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, winning three,[13] and losing two.[14]  The most notable of these cases was Cutter v. Wilkinson, in which Cole brought, on behalf of Ohio, a First Amendment challenge to the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).[15]  In the challenge, Cole argued that RLUIPA, by requiring all restrictions on the religious rights of state prisoners to be justified by a “compelling state interest” elevated religion above nonreligion and violated the First Amendment.  The Court rejected this argument in a unanimous opinion by Justice Ginsburg.[16]

Political Activity

Cole has been a generous donor to Republicans over the last 10-12 years.[17]  Notably, Cole gave $10,000 to Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign in 2012, and $7700 to Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel (who ran against Sen. Sherrod Brown in 2012).[18]

Overall Assessment

With over twenty years of practicing law, Cole certainly meets the base level of qualifications for the federal bench.  Overall, given the stamp of approval from Sen. Brown, Cole is favored to be confirmed before the end of the year.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 115th Cong., Douglas R Cole: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] Id. 

[3] Id. at 2.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id. 

[7] Id. at 36.

[8] Id. 

[9] See id.

[10] Id. at 18.

[11] See Hillsborough Cnty. PTC v. Uber Tech., Case No. 15-CA-3097 (Circuit Ct, Hillsborough Cnty., Florida).

[12] ProMedica Health Sys. v. FTC, 749 F.3d 559 (6th Cir. 2014).

[13] DaimlerChrysler Corp. v. Cuno, 547 U.S. 332 (2006) (holding that plaintiffs lack standing to challenge economic development plan by Ohio); Bradshaw v. Stumpf, 545 U.S. 175 (2005) (upholding guilty plea by Ohio inmate but reversing and remanding sentence); City of Littleton v. Z.J. Gifts D-4, LLC, 541 U.S. 774 (2004) (holding that due process rights of adult business barred from operating in Littleton was not violated).

[14] Cutter v. Wilkinson, 544 U.S. 709 (2005) (holding that the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act does not violate the First Amendment); Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74 (2004) (holding that prisoners may raise challenges to their parole hearings in a 1983 suit).

[15] Cutter v. Wilkinson, 544 U.S. 709 (2005).

[16] Id.

[18] Id.

Sarah Morrison – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio

A prominent labor and worker’s compensation attorney from Columbus, Sarah Morrison is favored to short-handed bench where she would become the only active female judge.

Background

Morrison was born Sarah Elizabeth Daggett in Lufkin, TX on November 12, 1970.[1]  Morrison received her B.A. from Ohio State University in 1992 and her J.D. magna cum laude from Capital University Law School in 1997.[2]  Following her graduation, Morrison clerked for Judge John Holschuh on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.[3]

After her clerkship, Morrison joined the Columbus office of Chester, Willcox & Saxbe as an associate.  Morrison became a partner at the firm in 2005.[4]

In 2012, Morrison became General Counsel and Chief Ethics Officer at the Ohio Bureau of Worker’s Compensation.[5]  She became the Administration and Chief Executive Officer in 2016 and continues to serve in that capacity today.

History of the Seat

Morrison has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.  This seat was vacated on May 2, 2016, when Judge Gregory Frost moved to senior status.  Even though this seat opened with more than eight months left in the Obama Presidency, no nomination was put forward for the seat.

In April 2017, Morrison applied for the vacancy with a selection commission put together by Ohio Senators Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, and Rob Portman, a Republican.[6]  Morrison interviewed with the Commission in late August, and was recommended to the senators.[7]  Morrison interviewed with Portman in September and the two senators jointly recommended Morrison shortly after.[8]

In October 2017, Morrison interviewed with the White House.[9]  She was officially nominated on April 12, 2018.

Legal Experience

Morrison began her legal career at Chester, Willcox & Saxbe in Columbus.  While there, Morrison focused on civil and commercial litigation.  During her time there, Morrison notably represented the National Football League (NFL) in defending against a suit filed by the widow of Korey Stringer, an offensive lineman with the Minnesota Vikings who died of heatstroke during a practice.[10]   She also represented Honda against an employment discrimination case brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.[11]  After becoming a partner at the firm, Morrison represented Ohio State University and the University of Toledo in defending against multiple employment discrimination claims.[12]

In 2012, Morrison moved to the Ohio Bureau of Worker’s Compensation, where she served as General Counsel.  In this role, she headed the Bureau’s legal department and managed both litigation and in-house work.  She has worked in a non-legal capacity as head of the Bureau in 2016.

Political Activity

Morrison has been fairly active in the Ohio Republican Party, having volunteered with the Ohio Republican Women Campaign Fund and Capital Area Republican Women.[13]  Morrison has also served on the Franklin County Republican Party Executive Committee since 2007 and volunteered for a PAC supporting Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s Presidential bid in 2016.[14]

Overall Assessment

Despite her Republican background, Morrison has obtained the support of Sen. Sherrod Brown.  At the same time, despite her work for Trump bete noire Kasich, Morrison has received a judicial nomination from the Administration.  These two facts together speak to Morrison’s general acceptability as a nominee.  Overall, given her strong support from Brown and Portman, Morrison is expected to be comfortably confirmed and add a moderate-conservative voice to the Southern District of Ohio.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 115th Cong., Sarah D. Morrison: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] Id. at 2.

[3] Id. 

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id. at 49.

[7] Id. 

[8] See id.

[9] Id.

[10] Stringer v. Nat’l Football League, Inc., 474 F. Supp. 2d 894 (S.D. Ohio 2007).

[11] EEOC and Ways v. Honda of North Amerca Mfg., No. 2:06cv233 (S.D. Ohio 2006).

[12] See Crystal Dixon v. University of Toledo, 842 F. Supp. 2d 1044 (N.D. Ohio 2012), aff’d, 702 F.3d 369 (6th Cir. 2012); Sheryl Szeinbach v. Ohio State University, No. 2:08cv822 (S.D. Ohio 2008); Rosa Rodriguez-Monguio v. Ohio State University, No. 2:08cv139 (S.D. Ohio 2008).

[13] See Morrison, supra n. 1 at 35.

[14] Id.