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Montana Law Professor Is Biden’s Pick for Ninth Circuit Seat

Sept. 2, 2022, 5:00 PM

President Joe Biden intends to nominate a University of Montana law professor to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and a Susman Godfrey partner to the Southern District of New York, the White House announced.

Anthony Johnstone, a former solicitor for the state of Montana who began his legal career as a Ninth Circuit clerk in Montana and Cravath associate in New York, is the only federal appellate nominee announced Friday along with eight federal trial court nominees.

Arun Subramanian, who has worked at Susman Godfrey since 2007, would be the first South Asian judge to serve on the Southern District of New York. The White House also announced two intended nominees for the Eastern District of New York: Orelia Merchant, who previously served as executive assistant US attorney there, and Ramon Reyes, who has served as a US magistrate judge there since 2006.

P. Casey Pitts, a partner at Altshuler Berzon in San Francisco where he has worked at the firm since 2009, is the intended nominee for the Northern District of California. He would be the only LGBTQ Article III judge actively serving in the district and is among 11 plaintiff-side litigators nominated by Biden to the federal bench, who account for 8% of all of his judicial nominees, according to the White House.

The other intended US District Court nominees announced Friday are:

  • Charnelle Marie Bjelkengren, currently a Washington State Superior Court judge, would be the first woman of color to serve as a judge in the Eastern District of Washington and the first Black woman to serve as a federal trial court judge in the state.
  • Gordon Gallagher, a part-time US magistrate judge with a background as a criminal defense lawyer and deputy district attorney, to a seat in the District of Colorado.
  • Jonathan J.C. Grey, a federal magistrate judge and former assistant US attorney and Seyfarth Shaw associate, to the Eastern District of Michigan; and
  • Colleen Lawless, an associate judge on Illinois’ Seventh Judicial Circuit, to the Central District of Illinois;

Biden has made diversifying the federal bench a priority and 68% of his 143 judicial nominees have been women, 31% are Black, and 36% have been public defenders.

To contact the reporter on this story: Madison Alder in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Seth Stern at; John Crawley at