Trump Nominates 20 to Fill Federal Court Vacancies

WASHINGTON (CN) – President Donald Trump on Tuesday announced 20 new nominees to courts across the country, including three to federal appellate courts.

The announcement is the largest of the Trump administration and the first since February.

Two of the nominees, Paul Matey and David Porter, would serve on the Third Circuit if confirmed, joining fellow Trump nominee Stephanos Bibas, who the Senate approved in November.

Matey worked as senior counsel and deputy chief counsel to former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie from 2010 to 2015, having worked as a federal prosecutor under the future governor and from 2005 to 2009. Matey was one of the Christie aides interviewed as part of a law firm’s investigation into the New Jersey Bridgegate scandal, according to NJ.com.

Matey also worked with Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, authoring two papers with the future Trump nominee about securities fraud class actions. Matey and Gorsuch overlapped for two years at the Washington, D.C. law firm Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel.

Matey currently works as senior vice president, general counsel and secretary for the Newark, N.J., University Hospital.

If confirmed, Matey would join Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney shareholder David Porter on the Third Circuit. Porter has worked at the Pittsburgh law firm since 1994 and leads the office’s higher education industry group.

Porter has a history representing companies and universities during his time in private practice, with lawsuits touching on subjects from civil rights to defamation.

In a list of his most significant cases published on his profile on his law firm’s website, Porter lists his work representing the New York Times in a $54 million defamation lawsuit, as well as his defense of a publisher after Mumia Abu-Jamal attempted to stop the publication of a book about his trial.

Abu-Jamal, a journalist and political activist who was convicted of murdering Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981, filed the suit in 2001 seeking to enjoin the release of Executing Justice: An Inside Account of the Mumia Abu-Jamal Case.

The third circuit court nominee Trump nominated on Tuesday is Britt Grant, who is currently a justice on the Georgia Supreme Court. Up for a spot on the 11th Circuit, Grant served as the state’s solicitor general from 2015 to 2017.

Grant is a veteran of the Bush White House, having served as the deputy associate director of the Office of Cabinet Affairs and assistant to the director of the Domestic Policy Council before she attended law school.

Republican Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal appointed Grant to the state Supreme Court in 2017. Grant worked in Deal’s congressional office after she graduated from Wake Forest University, according to her profile on the Georgia Supreme Court’s website.

“President Trump has made an excellent choice in selecting Justice Britt Grant to serve on the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals,” Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., said in a statement. “As both a Georgia Supreme Court justice and as Georgia’s former solicitor general, Justice Grant has displayed the highest level of integrity and professionalism in her career and I am certain that will continue with her service on the 11th Circuit.”

All of the other nominees Trump put forward on Tuesday would fill seats on federal district courts if confirmed, with the exception of Emin Toro, a partner at the Washington firm Covington and Burling who would serve on the U.S. Tax Court.

Trump also made his first nomination to the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico on Tuesday, putting forward McConnell Valdes attorney Raul Arias-Marxuach. Arias-Marxuach is the vice-chair of the firm’s litigation practice group and has worked on a wide range of cases, from civil rights disputes to personal injury suits.

All told, 11 states are represented in Trump’s latest round of judicial nominees, with Ohio, Florida, Indiana and Oklahoma each slated to receive two new judges.

Judge Pamela Barker, who has served on the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas since 2011, is up for a spot on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. She won reelection to the court in 2014 with 52.9 percent of the vote and worked in private practice for nearly three decades, focusing primarily on insurance law.

Nominated beside her is Sarah Daggett Morrison, would take a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. Ohio Gov. John Kasich appointed Morrison to lead the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation in 2016, elevating her in the agency after she spent four years working as its general counsel and chief ethics officer.

Ohio Sens. Rob Portman, a Republican, and Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, recommended Morrison to the seat in September based on the work of the state’s bipartisan judicial nominating committee.

Both of Trump’s nominees to federal courts in Florida have judicial experience, as Judge Wendy Berger and Judge Allen Winsor both currently serve on state appellate courts.

Berger was appointed to the Fifth District Court of Appeal in 2012, having spent the previous seven years as a judge on the state’s Seventh Judicial Circuit. Berger also worked as assistant general counsel for the Executive Office of the Governor and as a federal prosecutor.

Winsor, who took a seat on the First District Court of Appeal in 2016, served as Florida solicitor general from 2013 to 2016, moving into state politics after a decade in private practice at the Tallahassee firm GrayRobinson.

Justice Patrick Wyrick, Trump’s nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, also has experience as a judge, having spent the past year on the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Trump has eyed Wyrick for a judicial appointment before, as the 37-year-old appeared on an updated version of potential Supreme Court nominees the White House released in November.

Wyrick served as solicitor general for Oklahoma from 2011 to 2017, having worked at the Oklahoma firm GableGotwals from 2008 to 2011.

John O’Connor, Trump’s nominee to the U.S. District Courts for the Eastern, Northern and Western District of Oklahoma comes with no such judicial experience, but has spent 35 years at the Tulsa, Okla., firm Hall Estill.

Holly Brady, Trump’s nominee to a spot on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, and J.P. Hanlon, chosen for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, both have lengthy experience in private practice in the state.

Brady has worked at the Fort Wayne, Ind., firm Haller & Colvin since 2007, having previously worked as a partner at Theisen Bowers & Brady and as an attorney at Barnes & Thornburg and Gallucci Hopkins & Theisen. Brady has served as vice president of the Fort Wayne Sexual Assault Treatment Center and on the board of directors of the Northern District of Indiana Federal Community Defenders.

Hanlon has worked at the Indianapolis firm Faegre Baker Daniels since 2006, where he focuses on white collar defense and government investigations and enforcement. Hanlon also worked as a federal prosecutor in the state from 2001 to 2006.

Trump might have received inside advice on his nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska, Jonathan Katchen, as the Anchorage attorney clerked for Maryanne Trump Barry, the president’s older sister. Katchen currently specializes in oil and gas litigation at the firm Holland & Hart and worked from 2010 to 2012 as intergovernmental coordinator for the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.

Mary McElroy, Trump’s nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island, was first nominated to the court by President Barack Obama and earned approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee, but never received a vote in the full Senate.

Former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee nominated McElroy to lead the state’s public defender office in 2012, with the career public defender becoming the first woman to lead the organization.

Trump also nominated Alabama Solicitor General Andrew Brasher to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama. Brasher has worked as the state’s solicitor general for four years, having previously served as deputy solicitor general from 2011 to 2014.

Justice Lance Walker, who serves on the Maine Superior Court, would take a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine if confirmed. Maine Gov. Paul LePage nominated Walker to the position on the state court in 2015, elevating him from a spot on the Maine District Court.

“During his nearly two decades of experience as both an attorney in private practice and as a judge in Maine’s judicial system, Justice Walker has demonstrated that he has the intelligence, temperament and integrity required for this important position,” Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King said in a joint statement. “Justice Walker has made numerous contributions on Maine’s legal community and would serve our state well as a federal judge. We look forward to working with our colleagues in the Senate to confirm Justice Walker.”

Continuing his focus on filling judicial vacancies in Texas, Trump nominated David Morales to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. Morales is currently a partner at the firm Kelly Hart & Hallman and previously worked as general counsel to the governor.

Ken Bell, Trump’s nominee for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, currently works as a partner at the Charlotte firm McGuireWoods, focusing on white collar crime and investigations. Bell also worked as a federal prosecutor in North Carolina, serving as first assistant U.S. attorney from 1993 to 2003.

Bell also ran for Congress in 1990, winning the Republican nomination, but ultimately falling to incumbent Democrat Rep. Stephen Neal in the general election.

The final nominee Trump announced on Tuesday is Stephen Clark, who is the managing partner at the St. Louis firm Runnymeade Law Group. Clark works with the firm’s national litigation practice and has experience¬† defending against class action lawsuits, according to his profile on the Runnymeade website.

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