Judge Jane Beckering – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan

In 2007, Grand Rapids attorney Jane Beckering was named to the Michigan Court of Appeals, replacing Judge Janet Neff, who was elevated to the federal bench. This year, Beckering has, once again, been tapped to replace Neff: this time on the Western District of Michigan.


56-year-old Beckering was born into a family of Michigan lawyers, with her father, grandfather, and great uncle all practicing. See James Prichard, Lawyering Runs in Beckering’s Family, A.P., Sept. 27, 2006. Beckering received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in 1987 and her J.D. from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1990. After graduation, Beckering spent two years at McDermott, Will & Emery LLP in Chicago before moving to Grand Rapids to found Buchanan & Beckering PLC with her brother. See id.

In 2007, Beckering was appointed to the Michigan Court of Appeals by Governor Jennifer Granholm to fill the vacancy left by Judge Janet Neff’s elevation to the federal bench. Beckering still serves on the court, having won re-election unopposed in 2008, 2012, and 2018.

History of the Seat

Beckering has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan. This seat opened on March 1, 2021, when Judge Janet Neff moved to senior status.

Legal Career

Beckering worked in private practice for approximately seventeen years before being appointed to the bench, the vast majority of it at the firm of Buchanan & Beckering PLC in Grand Rapids. While working in private practice, Beckering specialized in medical malpractice work representing both plaintiffs and defendants. See James Prichard, Lawyering Runs in Beckering’s Family, A.P., Sept. 27, 2006.

In addition, Beckering also worked as a mediator for the Kent County Circuit Court and was active with the Michigan Trial Lawyers Association.

Political Activity

In 2006, Beckering was nominated by the Michigan Democratic Party to be a candidate for the Michigan Supreme Court. See Kathy Barks Hoffman, Democrats Choose Williams for AG, Sabaugh for Secretary of State, A.P., Aug. 27, 2006. Beckering lost the election, however, coming in third behind incumbents Michael Cavanagh and Maura Corrigan.


Beckering has served on the Michigan Court of Appeals since 2007, issuing rulings and opinions in hundreds of cases since then. Some of her noteworthy decisions, opinions, and dissents are summarized below.

Criminal Law

In her rulings on criminal law, Beckering has generally interpreted statutes narrowly, holding ambiguities against the government. For example, in 2010, Beckering held that the Michigan Sex Offender Registry Act did not require an individual who has homeless to register with local police as they lacked a habitual residence. See Todd A. Heywood, Appeals Court Says Homeless Sex Offenders Not Obligated to Register, Michigan Messenger, Feb. 5, 2010.

Notably, in 2012, Beckering wrote for the court in overturning Jimmie Nelson’s murder conviction for killing Cherita Thomas in 1980, ruling that the evidence was insufficient for the conviction. Mich. Court Strikes Murder Conviction in 1980 Case, A.P. State & Local Wire, Aug. 24, 2012. Earlier this year, Beckering joined a unanimous decision making a juvenile prisoner who had spent nearly 50 years in custody eligible for release. Ed White, Juvenile Lifer Locked Up For Nearly 50 Years Could Go Free, A.P. State & Local, Jan. 22, 2021.

Civil Rights

In civil rights cases, Beckering has generally interpreted protections broadly. For example, Beckering wrote for the court in holding that a northern Michigan bar could be sued for failing to call the police when a black patron was attacked based on his race. Ed White, Bar Can Be Sued For Attack on Black Man, Michigan Court Says, A.P. State & Local, Apr. 23, 2021.

In one of her most notable decisions, Beckering partially dissented from a panel decision throwing out a lawsuit brought by prisoners suffering from sexual violence and abuse in the prison system. See Dana Leibelson, Court Decides Civil Rights Protections Don’t Apply to Kids in Prison, Huffington Post, Aug. 28, 2015, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/civil-rights-kids-prison_n_55e0a663e4b0b7a96338df8c. In her dissent, Beckering argued that the law governing the dispute, a 1999 statute excluding prisoners from civil rights protections, was unconstitutional, stating:

“The Legislature could no sooner enact an amendment [excluding] prisoners from the scope of the statute as it could…blue-eyed individuals, African-Americans, or anyone named, ‘Steve.’”

In contrast, in 2014, Beckering joined a unanimous decision throwing out damages awarded to a black state employee who had a 5-foot tall stuffed gorilla placed in her cubicle, finding that the 3-week long presence of the animal was not sufficient to prove a hostile work environment. Ed White, Black Worker Loses Appeal Over Stuffed Gorilla, A.P. State & Local, June 27, 2014.

Civil Liability

Beckering’s rulings in civil cases have generally read both liability and damages expansively. In 2011, Beckering ruled that a Michigan homeowner whose house was destroyed after 400 gallons of heating oil were mistakenly pumped into it could recover $100,000 in non-economic damages for the loss, finding that a plaintiff could suffer mental anguish from losing their home. See Ed White, Court Backs Verdict in Home Lost to Oil Mess, A.P. State & Local Wire, Aug. 26, 2011. In another case, Beckering joined a 2-1 decision held that a parking lane falls under the jurisdiction of the Michigan Department of Transportation and that the agency could be sued for injuries in such lanes. Woman With Broken Ankle on M-22 Can Sue MDOT, A.P. State & Local Wire, Dec. 24, 2012.

Administrative Law

In her time on the Court of Appeals, Beckering has had the opportunity to opine on a number of agency decisions and regulations. In 2011, Beckering joined a panel decision upholding a Michigan Department of Environmental Quality regulation governing the amount of manure that factory farms could put in waterways. Appeals Court Upholds State ‘Factory Farms’ Rule, A.P. State & Local Wire, Mar. 30, 2011. In contrast, in 2012, Beckering overturned a $37 million rate increase imposed by the Michigan Public Service Commission, finding that the agency failed to provide evidence to support the increase. See Dan Testa, Mich. Appeals Court Rules Against Detroit Edison Rate Hike for Smart Meters, SNL Energy Finance Daily, Apr. 13, 2012.

In a notable ruling with Second Amendment implications, Beckering joined a 2-1 ruling holding that a public library exceeded its authority in barring patrons from carrying weapons on the premises. See Michael Kelley, No Guns in the Library: Curbing the Second Amendment in the Stacks, Library Journal, Jan. 1, 2013.


While a candidate for the Michigan Supreme Court, Beckering detailed her judicial philosophy, stating that the role of the courts are to remain “nonpartisan” and to “protect the minority against the majority when they have overstepped their bounds on civil rights, on constitutional rights, on that which the law is there to protect them. See James Prichard, Lawyering Runs in Beckering’s Family, A.P., Sept. 27, 2006 (quoting Jane Beckering). Beckering also criticized the conservative majority of the Michigan Supreme Court for “taking a very literal interpretation of the language” of statutes and stated that she would “apply a commonsense interpretation of the statute or the law which we are interpreting and have it make sense.” See id.

Overall Assessment

Having three decades of legal experience under her belt, Beckering would come to the federal bench well-prepared for its rigors. The flip side of this experience, however, is that Beckering has a long record to be parsed by senators. Expect Beckering to get questions about the judicial philosophy she expressed during her Supreme Court run, as well as her many decisions on the Court of Appeals. In the end, Beckering is likely to attract conservative opposition, but will likely still be confirmed to the federal bench.

Judge Hala Jarbou – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan

In 2019, the Trump Administration negotiated an agreement over two district nominees with Michigan’s Democratic senators.  Ironically, the Republican half of the agreement, Michael Bogren, withdrew due to opposition from Republican senators, while the Democratic half, Judge Stephanie Davis, sailed to confirmation.  Now, Bogren has been replaced as a nominee by Judge Hala Jarbou, who would, if confirmed, be the first Chaldean-American on the federal bench.[1]


The 48-year-old Jarbou was born in Iraq as a member of the Chaldean Christian community.[2]  Her family moved to the United States when she was a child.[3]  Jarbou received her Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Michigan and her J.D. from Wayne State University Law School.[4]  After graduation, Jarbou started her career as an assistant prosecuting county with the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office and then moved onto the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan in 2010 under newly appointed U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade.[5] 

In 2015, Jarbou was appointed as an Oakland County Circuit Judge by Governor Rick Snyder.  She still serves on the court.

History of the Seat

Jarbou has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan.  This seat opened on January 31, 2017, when Judge Robert Bell moved to senior status.  After extensive negotiations, Trump nominated attorney Michael Bogren on March 11, 2019.  However, Bogren’s nomination ran into opposition from Republican Senators on the Judiciary Committee, who objected to Bogren’s advocacy on behalf of the City of Grand Rapids in enforcing its anti-discrimination ordinances.[6]  While Bogren likely had enough support to advance, he chose to withdraw his nomination.[7]

On March 18, 2020, Jarbou’s nomination was submitted to the U.S. Senate by the Trump Administration to replace Bogren.

Legal Career

Jarbou has held two primary positions in her pre-bench career.  From 1997 to 2010, Jarbou worked as an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney with the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office, where she prosecuted sexual and violent crimes.  For example, Jarbou prosecuted boxing coach Ruben Flores for allegedly fondling the breast of a 16-year-old girl.[8]

Then, from 2010 to 2015, Jarbou worked as a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan. At the office, Jarbou handled a wide variety of cases, from narcotics cases to corruption.  For example, Jarbou prosecuted Lorris Capshaw, a clerk with the Wayne County Clerk’s Office, for accepting bribes in exchange for Concealed Pistol licenses.[9]

Political Activity

Jarbou is a Republican with one political contribution of record, a 2007 contribution to Republican Rep. Joe Knollenberg.[10]  In 2004, Jarbou was a supporter of President George W. Bush’s re-election.[11]  Jarbou has also been a member of the Federalist Society for Law & Policy since 2011.[12]


Jarbou has served as a state circuit judge since her appointment in 2015.  In her role as a trial judge, Jarbou notably presided over a land dispute between Holly Township and the Smith family.[13]  The fight involved a ten acre parcel of land that the town had seized from the family under foreclosure proceedings.[14]  Jarbou ultimately approved a consent decree that allowed the family to retain possession of the land.[15]  In another matter, Jarbou sentenced Brieanna Smart to a year in jail for hitting a police officer with her car while he attempted to arrest her for driving on a suspended license.[16]  Jarbou also presided over a defamation lawsuit brought by U.S. Rep. Kerry Bentvolio against fellow Republican Rocky Raczkowski.[17]

Overall Assessment

Like Bogren, Jarbou is a Republican with strongly conservative credentials.  But unlike Bogren, Jarbou doesn’t have any particular controversies in her background that might trigger Republican opposition.  As such, Jarbou is poised to become the first Chaldean American jurist on the federal bench.

[1] Paul Natinsky, Hala Jarbou is First Chaldean American Nominated for Federal Bench, Chaldean News, Mar. 27, 2020, https://www.chaldeannews.com/features-1/2020/3/27/hala-jarbou-is-first-chaldean-american-nominated-for-federal-bench.  

[2] See Charlie Cain, Cheney Questions Kerry’s Ability to Lead; He Tells Michigan Supporters Country Needs Bush At Helm, Detroit News, Sept. 22, 2004.

[3] See id.

[5] See id.

[6] Melissa Nann Burke, Michigan Judicial Nominee Bogren Withdraws From Consideration, Detroit News, June 11, 2019, https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/politics/2019/06/11/michigan-federal-judicial-nominee-pulls-nomination/1423875001/.  

[7] See id.

[8] A.P., Boxing Coach Arraigned on Fondling Charges, A.P. State & Local Wire, Sept. 13, 2003.

[9] Press Release, Office for the Department of Justice, Former Employee at the Wayne County Clerk’s Office Pleads Guilty to Bribery, June 19, 2014.

[11] See Cain, supra n. 1.

[12] See Jarbou, supra n. 3.

[13] See Mike Martindale, Property Fight in Holly Twp. Adds Twist, Detroit News, Nov. 14, 2016.

[14] See id.

[15] Mike Martindale, Family Gets Deed, Will Return to Holly Twp. Land, Detroit News, Mar. 9, 2017.

[16] Woman Who Slammed Officer with Car in Detroit Area Gets Jail, The Daily Cardinal: University of Wisconsin – Madison, Dec. 18, 2015.

[17] Mike Martindale, Ex-Rep Sues Candidate for Defamation, Detroit News, May 17, 2018.