Today, the Trump administration announced another slate of incredibly strong judicial nominees, including three nominees for federal appellate courts.
The new appellate nominees are Justice Allison H. Eid of the Colorado Supreme Court for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, Professor Stephanos Bibas of the University of Pennsylvania Law School for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, and U.S. District Judge Ralph R. Erickson of North Dakota for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit.
These are impressive nominees. Eid was previously listed on President Trump’s list of potential Supreme Court nominees and, as Orin notes, Bibas is among the nation’s most prominent and important criminal procedure scholars, and has argued several cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Although one might not have expected this, the Trump administration appears to have a soft spot for academics. Five of the nine circuit court nominees announced thus far are current or former law professors (Eid, Bibas, Joan Larsen, David Stras and Amy Coney Barrett). Much like the Reagan administration, this administration appears to believe that appointing academics is one way to maximize its influence on the federal judiciary. President Ronald Reagan placed quite a few prominent legal academics on the bench, including Antonin Scalia, Frank Easterbrook, Douglas Ginsburg and Stephen Williams, and these nominations certainly had an outsize influence on the courts.
In addition to the three circuit court nominees, the White House announced several additional judicial nominees (as reported by the Washington Times):
— Michael P. Allen of Florida to serve as a judge on the U.S Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. He is a law professor and director of the Veterans Law Institute at Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, Florida. The White House called him “a recognized expert on the law of veterans’ benefits.”
— Claria Horn Boom of Kentucky to serve as a district judge on the U.S. District Courts for the Eastern and Western Districts of Kentucky. Currently a partner in the Lexington office of Frost Brown Todd LLC, Ms. Horn Bloom also served as an assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern and Western Districts of Kentucky, and before that, practiced at King & Spalding in Atlanta, Georgia.
— Dabney L. Friedrich of Washington, D.C., to serve as a district judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Ms. Friedrich most recently served as a commissioner on the U.S. Sentencing Commission. She also served as an associate counsel to the president during the George W. Bush administration, and as chief crime counsel to Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican. She also has worked as an assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, as a trial attorney at the Department of Justice, and as an assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of California.
— Timothy J. Kelly of Washington, D.C., to serve as a district judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Mr. Kelly is chief counsel for national security and senior crime counsel to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, Iowa Republican. Earlier in his career, he spent a decade as a federal prosecutor.
— Trevor N. McFadden of Virginia to serve as a district judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Mr. McFadden is a deputy assistant Attorney General in the criminal division of the Department of Justice.
— Amanda L. Meredith of Virginia to serve as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Ms. Meredith is deputy staff director and general counsel of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. She previously served as general counsel to the Veterans’ Affairs panel.
— Stephen S. Schwartz of Virginia to serve as a judge on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. He is a partner at Schaerr Duncan LLP in D.C, where he litigates civil, constitutional, and administrative law matters in federal courts, including the Supreme Court. Mr. Schwartz previously served as counsel at Cause of Action, a public interest law firm based in Washington.
— Joseph L. Toth of Wisconsin to serve as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Mr. Toth is a veteran of the Judge Advocate General Corps of the U.S. Navy. In 2011, he served as a field officer in the Rule of Law Field Force Afghanistan, where he was stationed with the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division in the Zhari District of Afghanistan. While there, the White House said, Mr. Toth “partnered with Afghan prosecutors to establish the rule of law in the district where the Taliban was formed, and he was awarded the Joint Service Commendation Medal for his service.”
In related news, three of Stras’s former colleagues on the Minnesota Supreme Court — Alan Page, Helen Meyer and Paul Anderson — have authored a letter strongly supporting his nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit. Although these jurists could all be described as “liberal,” they believe that Stras has the temperament and intellect that merits swift confirmation. They write:
Justice Stras has all the attributes and qualifications necessary to make an excellent circuit court judge. We have firsthand knowledge that this is true given that we served with him as justices on the Minnesota Supreme Court. . . .
As his colleagues on the court, we have gained firsthand insights into his abilities and qualifications. He is a hard worker and was always prepared for the cases that came before us. He was a valued voice during court conferences. While he looks at issues from a definite and well-defined perspective, he evaluates legal issues with objectivity and an open mind, traits that are not universal. We found him to be independent and impartial in his approach to the law.