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Trump Judicial Confirmation Goal Hit in Year-End Senate Sprint

Dec. 19, 2019, 11:06 PM

An accelerated push by Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell to pack the judiciary with conservatives wrapped up for the year in a confirmation sprint that just cleared the president’s appointment goal through 2019.

The Republican-led Senate approved 13 district, or trial court, nominees over the course of two days, concluding on Dec. 19.

That brought the number of Trump appointees to district and appeals courts to 183 with two more to the Supreme Court since he took office in 2017. Trump exceeded his target, announced in November, for nearly three years in office by a few seats.

The White House is already making plans to re-start those efforts in 2020 with judicial appointments a signature accomplishment of the Trump White House and Senate conservatives.

Trump announced plans Dec. 18 to fill two more district court seats and it’s expected that a number of nominees who didn’t get a vote this year will be re-nominated in early 2020.

Confirmation Sprint

The list of appointees confirmed in the final days of the Senate session includes former Big Law partners, prosecutors, and state court judges. Two nominees were originally picked by President Barack Obama. Most of the of new trial court judges would go to eight states with at least one Republican senator and five represented by Democrats.

Republicans have moved swiftly to fill seats in red states, while blue state vacancies stack up. Democrats often push back on Trump’s nominees, saying they are too ideological or lack requisite experience.

Gary Richard Brown for the Eastern District of New York, which includes Brooklyn, and Robert J. Colville for the Western District of Pennsylvania, which includes Pittsburgh were both nominated by Obama and renominated by McConnell.

The new appointees also include Jodi Dishman, who worked at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in San Antonio who will be a judge in the Western District of Oklahoma. She’s a shareholder at McAfee & Taft in Oklahoma City and formerly clerked for on the Fifth Circuit.

More Nominations

Trump announced his intent to nominate a federal prosecutor and a Big Law partner to federal district court seats Dec. 18. Thomas T. Cullen of Virginia and Anna M. Manasco are nominated to U.S. District Courts for Western District of Virginia and the Northern District of Alabama, respectively. Those nominations will likely be officially sent to the Senate in the new year.

Cullen currently a U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia, who previously worked in private practice and was an assistant U.S. attorney in both Virginia and North Carolina. He was previously a law clerk for Judge Robert E. Payne on the Eastern District of Virginia and Judge Roger L. Gregory U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

Manasco is a partner at Bradley Arant Boult Cummings in Alabama, who focuses on complex commercial litigation. Her experience includes presenting cases before the U.S. Supreme Court for her clients, and she previously clerked for Judge William H. Pryor on the Eleventh Circuit.

—With assistance from Nancy Ognanovich and Cheryl Bolen

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

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at; John Crawley at