Trump Nominates 12 for Federal Court Judgeships

WASHINGTON (CN) – President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced 12 new federal judicial nominations, including one to fill a seat on the Ninth Circuit, another to a spot on the Second Circuit and five to federal courts in California.

For a vacant spot on the Ninth Circuit, Trump selected Judge Danielle Hunsaker, who serves on the Washington County Circuit Court of Oregon. Democratic Oregon Gov. Kate Brown appointed Hunsaker to the state bench in 2017.

Before taking the bench, Hunsaker worked as a partner at the Portland firm Larkins Vacura Kayser and taught at the Lewis & Clark Law School.

Hunsaker was on the list of four finalists for the vacant spot on the Ninth Circuit that Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley sent to the White House last week. The four finalists came from a bipartisan judicial selection committee the senators and Rep. Greg Walden convened to suggest choices for the seat.

In a letter to the White House, however, both Wyden and Merkley said they were not necessarily endorsing any of the committee’s choices by passing them along to the White House. Nicole L’Esperance, a spokesperson for Wyden, said the Oregon Democrat will “assess the nomination of Judge Hunsaker as it moves forward” when the Senate returns from its August recess.

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

Jeffrey Dobbins, a professor at Willamette University College of Law in Salem, Oregon, said Hunsaker has a “good reputation” in the state and is known as an “even-handed manager” of the court where she serves as presiding judge.

Elizabeth Bingold, the president of Portland lawyer’s section of the Federalist Society, also sang the judge’s praises, calling her a “wonderful lawyer” who is active in the community.

“There are certain people you think of as a Republican lawyer or a far-left lawyer, she’s just a good lawyer,” Bingold said in an interview.

Hunsaker clerked for Ninth Circuit Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain, a Reagan appointee whom she would replace on the bench if confirmed. She also clerked for Judge Paul Kelly, a President George H. W. Bush appointee, on the 10th Circuit.

To fill a seat on the Second Circuit, Trump tapped William Nardini, who serves as a federal prosecutor in Connecticut. Nardini leads the criminal division of the state’s U.S. Attorney’s Office and spent time as a Department of Justice attachĂ© at the U.S. embassy in Rome during the Obama administration.

A former clerk to former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court, Nardini was involved in the prosecution of H. James Pickerstein, the former Connecticut U.S. attorney who pleaded guilty in 2016 to stealing $600,000 from a convicted mobster he represented in private practice.

With another nod to Connecticut, Trump also chose Judge Barbara Jongbloed to serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut. Jongbloed has served on the New London District Superior Court since 2000 and previously spent time as a federal prosecutor.

Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, both Connecticut Democrats, said they “look forward” to seeing the Senate consider both Nardini and Jongbloed’s nominations.

“Barbara Jongbloed and Bill Nardini have long, deep connections with the Connecticut legal community and we look forward to their confirmation processes,” Blumenthal and Murphy said in a joint statement.

Blumenthal has not yet taken a position on whether he will support Nardini’s nomination, Maria McElwain, the senator’s spokesperson, told Courthouse News.

Five of the remaining nominees would serve on federal courts in California if confirmed.

This includes Adam Braverman, who currently serves as associate deputy attorney general at the Justice Department. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed Braverman as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California on an interim basis in 2017 and Braverman kept the position until January despite never being confirmed by the Senate.

Braverman would serve on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California if confirmed.

Also nominated to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California was Shireen Matthews, a partner at the San Diego office of the firm Jones Day. At the firm, Matthews works on internal investigations of companies and defends clients before federal agencies.

A former federal prosecutor in California, Matthews has also worked as an associate at the firm Latham & Watkins.

Trump also tapped a pair of state-court judges for seats on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

Fernando Aenlle-Rocha currently serves on the Los Angeles Superior Court, having taken the bench in 2017 after working as a partner at the Los Angeles firm White & Case. While in private practice, Aenlle-Rocha primarily worked on white collar defense and business crimes litigation. He also served as a federal prosecutor in California before entering private practice.

Born in Cuba, Aenlle-Rocha and his family fled the country before his second birthday as his father faced trial for opposing the Cuban government, according to a profile on the website of Princeton University, where the judge attended undergrad.

Trump drew from the Orange County Superior Court for his next nomination to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, picking Judge Sandy Leal for the seat. Appointed to her current position by former California Gov. Jerry Brown in 2018, Leal previously spent time as a federal prosecutor in the state.

Leal also previously served as assistant district counsel at the Department of Justice Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Also nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California is Rick Richmond, a partner at the Los Angeles office of the firm Jenner & Block. A member of the advisory board of the conservative Federalist Society, Richmond previously was a partner at the firm Kirkland and Ellis and spent time at the Justice Department.

Focusing on complex commercial litigation and class action, Richmond’s profile on the Jenner Block website boasts he secured “what is believed to be the largest verdict” ever won in Wisconsin, a $940 million award for Epic Systems Corporation in a trade secrets lawsuit.

For a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, Trump chose Judge Cory Wilson, who sits on the state’s court of appeals. Wilson served as a Republican in the Mississippi House of Representatives from 2015 to this year, when he was appointed to the state bench.

The other three nominees Trump announced Wednesday are Daniel Traynor, who would serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota, John Gallagher, to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and Judge Silvia Carreno-Coll, who would serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico.

Trump also picked Grant Jaquith and Scott Laurer for seats on the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, an Article I tribunal.

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