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Trump to Tap White House Aide for N.Y.-Based Appeals Court (2)

Aug. 14, 2019, 9:18 PMUpdated: Aug. 14, 2019, 11:05 PM

President Donald Trump plans to nominate a White House legal aide to the federal appeals court based in New York where he’s two seats shy of flipping it to a majority of judges appointed by Republican chief executives.

The administration announced on Wednesday that Trump plans to tap Steven Menashi to the New York-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Menashi is a special assistant to the president and senior associate White House counsel.

Trump also intends to nominate a batch of district court nominees for seats in Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina, and Missouri.

The circuit and district court line-up includes attorneys with Big Law pedigrees, key judicial clerkships, and one dedicated to anti-abortion and religious freedom causes backed by conservatives.

Menashi clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and is a former Kirkland & Ellis partner in New York where his practice focused on civil and regulatory litigation. He also worked as acting general counsel at the Department of Education before transitioning to the White House.

He would fill one of two Second Circuit vacancies, if confirmed by the Senate. The duty stations for those judges have been in Hartford and New York.

The Second Circuit is based in the nation’s financial capital and has been called the “Mother Court” of securities law. It’s been the center of high-profile financial cases. Moreover, the focus of Trump-related investigations has shifted to New York with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe completed.

The Second Circuit currently has six judges appointed by Democrats Barack Obama and Bill Clinton and five named by Republicans George H.W. Bush and Trump.

Although a majority of appointments by a president of one party or another doesn’t guarantee case outcomes, Trump has made good on his pledge to stock the courts with conservatives.

With the help of the Republican-led Senate, he has appointed more than 40 judges to appeals courts, which sit one rung below the Supreme Court. Only a few vacancies remain nationally, including the New York spots.

Trump has flipped the Pennsylvania-based Third Circuit, and is closing in on doing the same in the California-based Ninth Circuit.

The planned district court nominees include Jodi Dishman, who worked at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in San Antonio. Dishman is up for a seat in the Western District of Oklahoma, and is a shareholder at McAfee & Taft in Oklahoma City. She clerked for the Fifth Circuit.

Richard Myers, a former attorney at O’Melveny & Myers, is up for a seat in the Eastern District of North Carolina. He is a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law and a former federal prosecutor. He clerked for the D.C. circuit.

Trump also plans to nominate Sarah Pitlyk, a former attorney at Covington & Burling in Washington, to the Eastern District of Missouri. She clerked for Justice Brett Kavanaugh while he was on the D.C. Circuit.

Pitlyk is now special counsel at the Thomas More Society where her practice focuses on constitutional and civil rights litigation. The group is a non-profit public interest firm its website says is “dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty.”

Anuraag ‘Raag’ Singhal was tapped for the Southern District of Florida and Karen Marston for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

District, or trial court, nominees also must be confirmed by the Senate, which is slated to resume consideration of another batch appointments when it returns from its recess in September.

(Updates throughout with background on circuit court seats)

To contact the reporter on this story: Jake Holland in Washington at jholland@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com

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