WASHINGTON (CN) — President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced two new nominees to federal courts in Florida and California.
Nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, Dirk Paloutzian currently works at the Fresno, Calif., firm Baker Manock & Jensen, having also spent time as deputy district attorney for Fresno County.
In his current role, Paloutzian specializes in commercial and agribusiness litigation and defending health care providers against product liability claims.
After graduating from the University of California Davis’ King Hall School of Law, Paloutzian was an extern for California Supreme Court Justice Marvin Baxter, who was considered one of the most conservative members of the court before his retirement in 2015.
California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, both Democrats, did not immediately return requests for comment on Paloutzian’s nomination.
There are currently 17 vacancies on federal district courts in California and Trump has yet to successfully fill a trial court seat in the Golden State.
Under the Senate tradition known as the blue slip, Paloutzian would need both senators to sign off before his nomination can go forward in the Senate.
Mike Davis, who worked as chief nominations counsel to former Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, said Paloutzian should be palatable to the California Democrats and help ease the pressure on the state’s federal bench.
“If they don’t think this guy is worthy of even a hearing, then we might as well just close down the federal courts in California,” Davis, who is now the president of the Article III project, which works to support Trump’s judicial nominees, told Courthouse News.
Aileen Cannon currently works on criminal appeals for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida and would serve as a district judge in that district if confirmed. Before joining the appellate section, Cannon worked in the office’s major crimes division, working on gun, drug and immigration-related prosecutions.
Cannon argued for the government in the appeal of Anthony Livoti Jr., who received a decade behind bars for his role in a more than $1 billion dollar life insurance scam.
Before joining the U.S. attorney’s office, Cannon worked on civil litigation at the firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and clerked for Judge Steven Colloton on the 11th Circuit. An appointee of President George W. Bush, Colloton was on Trump’s shortlist of potential replacements for Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court.
Benjamin Greenberg, who led the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida from March 2017 to September 2018 and worked with Cannon, praised Cannon’s work ethic, knowledge and writing ability, all of which he said will serve her well on the bench.
He particularly said her experience handling both trials and appeals will be important, as she is familiar with 11th Circuit law and has insight into how to develop a record in the district court.
“She’s a brilliant lawyer with an outstanding work ethic and strong commitment to following the law,” Greenberg, who is now a shareholder at the firm Greenberg Traurig, told Courthouse News. “And she definitely has the right demeanor for the job, which is incredibly important and should never be overlooked. It’s a big loss for the U.S. attorney’s office, but a big win for the court.”
Florida Senator Rick Scott, a Republican, congratulated Cannon in a tweet and said he looks “forward to supporting her nomination in the Senate & appreciate [Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell]’s commitment to acting swiftly on federal judicial noms.”
Senator Marco Rubio, also a Florida Republican, did not return a request for comment on the nominations.
Trump has had far more success filling seats on Florida federal courts, so far appointing nine judges on the state’s federal trial courts.
Once the White House formally sends the nominees to the Senate, they will go through the Senate Judiciary Committee’s nomination process, beginning with a public hearing and ending with a vote out of committee. The Senate is scheduled to return to Washington next week and is expected to continue work on its project of confirming the president’s judicial nominees.
Lena Zwarensteyn, the fair courts director at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, criticized the Senate for planning to spend time on judicial nominees during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Trump and McConnell’s priorities are all wrong — during a pandemic they are pushing judicial nominees who threaten to put America’s health care in jeopardy,” Zwarensteyn said in a statement. “And with the administration and Senate staff now having to spend more time churning out judicial nominees — taking valuable time away from focusing their efforts on saving lives and providing relief and recovery to the communities that need it most — is simply irresponsible.”