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Trial Judge Nominated as Jackson’s Successor on DC Circuit (3)

May 25, 2022, 3:46 PMUpdated: May 25, 2022, 10:36 PM

President Joe Biden nominated district Judge Florence Pan to the seat on the powerful federal appeals court vacated by soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.

In addition to Pan’s selection on Wednesday to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Biden also nominated Rachel Bloomekatz, a public interest lawyer, to the Sixth Circuit and federal Magistrate Judge Doris Pryor to the Seventh Circuit.

A former prosecutor, Pan has served on the US District Court for the District of Columbia since 2021 and was previously a judge on the Superior Court for the District of Columbia for more than a decade. Pan also filled Jackson’s vacancy on the federal trial court after she was elevated to the appeals court.

In the Clinton administration, the Stanford law graduate was a Treasury Department financial markets and domestic finance adviser. Pan also clerked for Judge Ralph Winter of the Second Circuit and Judge Michael Mukasey in the Southern District of New York.

The D.C. Circuit is the chief venue for cases involving Congress and inter-agency disputes and has been a springboard for the Supreme Court. The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote Thursday on the nomination of Michelle Childs to another open D.C. Circuit seat. Childs was a contender for the Supreme Court vacancy filled by Jackson.

Pryor has served as a magistrate judge for the Southern District of Indiana since 2018. An Indiana University Law graduate, Pryor is a former federal prosecutor and a state public defender in Arkansas. She clerked for Judge J. Leon Holmes in the Eastern District of Arkansas and Chief Judge Lavenski Smith of the Eighth Circuit.

Bloomekatz, a solo practitioner and a lecturer at Ohio State University Law School, is a former principal at Gupta Wessler and was an associate at Jones Day before that. The UCLA Law school graduate was an assistant attorney general in Boston and clerked for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. Jackson was confirmed in April to replace Breyer, who is retiring at the end of the current term.

GOP Support

While home state senator support is no longer needed for nominations to advance at the circuit level, most of Biden’s circuit nominees thus far have been in states with two Democratic senators.

The new list, however, adds one nominee—Bloomekatz in Ohio— to a seat in a split delegation stateand one to a seat in a state represented by two Republicans—Pryor in Indiana. Already, Pryor has the backing from Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.).

“Judge Pryor is a public servant of the highest caliber. Her legal experience and expertise would make her an asset to the Seventh Circuit. I look forward to introducing Judge Pryor to my colleagues and supporting her nomination once it comes to the Senate floor,” Young said in a statement Thursday.

Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) didn’t go quite as far, saying in a statement that he looks “forward to carefully considering the qualifications, legal record and judicial philosophy of Magistrate Judge Doris Pryor.”

The support from Young contrasts with Biden’s only other red-state circuit pick, Andre Mathis, who faced opposition from both of his home-state senators for his nomination to a Tennessee seat on the Sixth Circuit. His nomination is pending on the Senate floor but hasn’t been brought up for a vote.

A spokesman for Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) didn’t respond to a request for comment on Bloomekatz’s nomination.

Other Circuits

The latest nominations came as Sarah Merriam, Biden’s latest pick for the New York-based Second Circuit, and Lara Montecalvoto, ticketed for the Boston-based First Circuit, cruised through their Senate confirmation hearings on Wednesday.

Like Pryor, both have public defender experience. Biden has made good on his pledge to add professional diversity to the federal bench, which traditionally has been a landing spot for prosecutors and law firm partners.

Merriam has been a federal district judge in Connecticut since 2021, and was a magistrate judge there before that. She was a federal defender in New Haven from 2007-15, and a former Democratic campaign worker.

Montecalvoto has been a state public defender in Rhode Island since 2004, and also has experience as a trial attorney with the Justice Department’s tax division, and is a former governing board member of watchdog Common Cause Rhode Island.

The Senate also on Wednesday confirmed Evelyn Padin to the District of New Jersey, 51-43, and Charlotte Sweeney to the District of Colorado, 48-46. Sweeney makes history as the first openly LGBT federal judge in Colorado, according to the White House.

Biden has so far appointed 65 judges, including 16 to circuit courts. The new nominations leave him with at least 12 current or expected appellate vacancies that don’t have a pending nominee.

(Updates with comments from Young and Braun.)

To contact the reporter on this story: John Crawley in Washington at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com; Madison Alder in Chicago at malder@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com