Trump Goes on Judge-Nominating Spree, Picking 12

WASHINGTON (CN) – President Donald Trump announced 12 new nominees for federal courts across the country on Thursday, including three for appellate courts.

Two of Trump’s newest batch of judicial nominees would serve on the Sixth Circuit if confirmed, both from Ohio.

Eric Murphy has served as Ohio’s solicitor general since 2013, transitioning to government work after spending six years at the law firm Jones Day.

A former clerk for Justice Anthony Kennedy, Murphy recently argued before the Supreme Court in Husted V. Randolph Institute, a case challenging Ohio’s method of purging its voter rolls.

Murphy faced tough questions from the justices in January as he defended Ohio’s voter roll maintenance process, which challengers have said reduces turnout and disadvantages minorities.

He would be joined on the Sixth Circuit by Chad Readler, who currently serves as principle deputy and acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Division.

Like Murphy, Readler also worked at Jones Day, spending 18 years at the firm and rising to the level of partner before leaving for the Justice Department.

Readler also has experience arguing before the Supreme Court, having successfully argued McQuiggin v. Perkins in which the high court held people convicted of crimes may get around a statute of limitations imposed on habeas petitions if they can provide “a credible showing of actual innocence.”

The case was one of many Readler handled pro bono while in private practice, with a White House press release noting he has also represented people facing the death penalty and life in prison.  Readler successfully represented a Native American man sentenced to death after being convicted of killing three people in Oklahoma.

The Tenth Circuit agreed with Readler’s argument in the case that because the crimes occurred on tribal land, the man should have been tried in federal court and could not face the death penalty.

“I’ve met with both Chad and Eric and they are extremely well qualified to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit,” Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said in a statement. “I look forward to supporting their nominations on the floor of the U.S. Senate.”

Trump also tapped Jonathan Kobes to a seat on the Eighth Circuit. Kobes serves as general counsel to Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., and previously worked as director of corporate compliance for Raven Industries, a Sioux Falls, South Dakota, technology company.

Kobes also worked as senior regulatory counsel for DuPont Pioneer and as senior counsel at ethanol company Poet. He additionally spent time in private practice at the firm Murphy Goldammer & Prendergast.

He also has experience as a government lawyer, as both a federal prosecutor and as an honors attorney at the CIA.

“Jon’s wide range of experiences in both the public and private sectors provides a strong platform for this role as a judge,” Rounds said in a statement Thursday. “A lifelong conservative, he believes a judge’s role is to make decisions based on the law as it is written, not to legislate from the bench. President Trump has done a tremendous job putting fair-minded, conservative judges on the bench and nominating Jon Kobes upholds that standard. I’ve relied on Jon’s sound counsel and advice since coming to the Senate and look forward to supporting his nomination.”

Three of the other nominees Trump announced on Thursday would serve on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, including U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Rowland, who currently serves on the same court.

Rowland has served as a magistrate judge on the court since 2012, and previously spent more than a decade at the Chicago firm Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym. Before entering private practice, Rowland worked at the Federal Defender Program in Chicago providing free legal services for people in federal court proceedings

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., initially recommended Rowland for a seat on the court in 2009, based on the suggestion of a judicial screening commission.

Trump also picked Martha Pacold for a spot on the court. Pacold currently works as deputy general counsel at the Treasury Department, and previously served as executive secretary in the agency.

Pacold also spent time at the Chicago firm Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott and as a special federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of Virginia. A former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Pacold also worked as counsel to the attorney general at the Justice Department.

Trump’s final nominee to the Illinois court on Thursday is Steven Seeger, who currently works as senior trial counsel for the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Chicago office. Before joining the SEC in 2010, Seeger worked at the Chicago offices of the firm Kirkland & Ellis, becoming a partner in 2003.

In a joint statement on Thursday, Durbin and fellow Illinois Democrat Sen. Tammy Duckworth praised Trump’s selections, saying all three were the product of a screening committee the senators set up last year to vet potential candidates for judicial vacancies.

“We are pleased that the president has nominated these three Illinoisans,” Durbin and Duckworth said in the statement. “They have the qualifications, integrity and judgment to serve with distinction as district court judges in the Northern District of Illinois. We appreciate the administration’s willingness to work with us and with our nonpartisan screening committee to reach consensus on nominees who will serve the people of Illinois well. We look forward to guiding these nominations through the Senate.”

For a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Trump chose Judge Rossie Alston Jr., currently with the Court of Appeals of Virginia.

Virginia Republicans attempted to place Alston on the state’s Supreme Court in 2015 in an effort to prevent former Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s choice from taking a vacant seat.

Alston has served on the Court of Appeals of Virginia since 2009. Before that he served as a judge on the Circuit Court for the 31st Judicial Circuit of Virginia and as a judge on the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court of Prince William County.

Before taking the bench, Alston worked as a staff attorney at the National Labor Relations Board during the Reagan administration and spent five years at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation before entering private practice.

Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both Democrats, recommended Alston for the federal court seat in December.

“We are pleased that the president has nominated Judge Alston to the vacancy and are confident his experiences on the state bench will serve him well at the federal level,” Warner and Kaine said in a joint statement Thursday. “He fills large shoes in replacing Judge Gerald Bruce Lee, who served with great distinction, and we hope Judge Alston can proudly carry on his legacy. We urge the Department of Justice to send background materials to the Judiciary Committee as soon as possible so our colleagues can review his record and promptly advance his nomination.”

Crossing the Potomac, Trump tapped WilmerHale partner Carl Nichols for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Nichols has been with WilmerHale since 2010 and currently leads the government and regulatory litigation practice group at the firm, where he handles matters involving issues such as government contracts, trade secrets and antitrust law.

Before entering private practice, Nichols spent 2005 to 2009 at the Justice Department, serving as deputy assistant attorney general for the Civil Division’s Federal Programs Branch and later as principal deputy associate attorney general.

For the federal court in nearby Maryland, Trump selected U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephanie Gallagher. Gallagher has served as a magistrate judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland since 2011, and previously worked as a partner at the firm Levin & Gallagher.

Before entering private practice, Gallagher worked as a federal prosecutor, where she handled cases “ranging from fraud to violent crime,” according to her profile on the court’s website.

President Barack Obama nominated Gallagher to a vacancy on the same court in September 2015 and the Judiciary Committee reported her to the full Senate the following May. However, Gallagher’s nomination was caught in a Republican blockade against Obama judicial nominees during the presidential election and the full Senate never voted to confirm her.

In statements on Thursday, Maryland Democratic Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen praised Trump’s selection of Gallagher, lauding her experience and qualifications for the bench.

“Judge Gallagher brings tremendous experience to the courtroom as a sitting U.S. magistrate judge in Baltimore, as well as being a former prosecutor, private law firm attorney and judicial law clerk,” Cardin said in a statement. “Her strong roots in the Maryland legal community and tremendous understanding and respect for the rule of law make her an exceptional nominee.”

Trump’s final district court nominee is Judge Karin Immergut, who currently serves on the Multnomah County Circuit Court. Immergut was appointed to the court in 2009, having spent the previous six years as the United States attorney for the District of Oregon.

Immergut came to the West Coast when she took several “informational interviews” with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles while in town visiting friends. The interviews resulted in a job offer and she left her job at the D.C. firm Covington & Burling to become a federal prosecutor in Los Angeles, according to a profile originally published in Multnomah Lawyer and posted on the Multnomah Bar Association’s website.

She spent six years in Los Angeles, before moving to Burlington, Vermont, to work at the firm Gravel & Shea. She eventually went back out west, however, becoming a state prosecutor in Portland before taking a job as a federal prosecutor in the same district.

Immergut worked as an associate independent counsel under Independent Counsel Ken Starr and participated in the questioning of Monica Lewinsky during a deposition in 1998. Immergut is the second judge Trump has nominated with ties to the investigation that eventually led to former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment.

Her nomination comes on the same day the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the controversial nomination of Ryan Bounds, Trump’s selection to serve on the Ninth Circuit. Bounds did not receive the approval of either of Oregon’s senators, who said he deceived the state’s bipartisan judicial nominating commission by not turning over controversial writings he published as an undergrad at Stanford.

Immergut is unlikely to have such trouble with Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, who both praised her nomination on Thursday.

“Karin Immergut has a long and distinguished record of public service as U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon and most recently on the bench in Multnomah County Circuit Court,” the senators said in a joint statement. “The choice of Judge Immergut for the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon vacancy fits with our bipartisan state judicial selection committee’s decision that she was among the highest-qualified applicants and exemplifies how the judicial selection process should work.”

Trump also chose two nominees to the Court of International Trade, including Timothy Reif, who currently serves as senior advisor to the U.S. trade representative. Reif has spent his career in international trade law, working as general counsel of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative from 2009 to 2017 and before that as chief international trade counsel for the House Ways and Means Committee.

Joining him on the court if confirmed would be Miller Baker, who works at the Washington D.C., firm McDermott Will & Emery. Baker has been with the firm for 17 years, and previously served as counsel to Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Baker’s practice has been extensive, working on cases covering issues from white collar crime to patent law. He has successfully argued before the Supreme Court three times, according to his profile on the McDermott Will & Emery website.

 

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