Trump nominates 10 new judges, including one for 9th Circuit Court
(Courthouse News Service) - President Donald Trump on Thursday announced the nominations of 10 new judges, including one to the Ninth Circuit and seven to courts across New York.
Ryan Nelson, Trump’s pick for a Ninth Circuit vacancy, currently works as general counsel for multi-level marketing company Melaleuca Inc., which sells wellness products.
Nelson was initially nominated to serve as solicitor for the Department of the Interior in 2017. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved Nelson in January, but Democrats have held up his nomination and prevented a vote in the full Senate.
Trump withdrew Nelson’s nomination on Thursday, shortly after announcing his intent to put him up for the Ninth Circuit vacancy.
Nelson is a veteran of the Senate Judiciary Committee, having served as special counsel for Supreme Court nominations to then-Sen. Jeff Sessions. Nelson also spent time in the Bush administration, having worked as deputy assistant attorney general for the Environmental and Natural Resources Division at the Department of Justice.
In addition, Nelson served as deputy general counsel to the Office of Management and Budget and also spent time in private practice at the Washington D.C. firm Sidley Austin.
Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, both Republicans, praised Nelson’s nomination in a statement on Thursday, lauding his experience and Idaho roots.
“Throughout his diverse legal career, Ryan developed the necessary tools to serve the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals as a sound and principled jurist,” Risch said in a statement. “A native Idahoan, Ryan will bring a valuable perspective to the court – upholding our way of life, respecting the rule of law and rejecting judicial activism.”
Most of the nominees Trump announced on Thursday would serve on federal courts in New York, with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York receiving four new nominees.
Rachel Kovner currently serves as assistant to the solicitor general at the Justice Department, having joined the Solicitor General’s Office in 2013. A former clerk for the late Justice Antonin Scalia, Kovner has argued 11 cases before the Supreme Court since joining the Justice Department.
Kovner also spent four years as a federal prosecutor in New York, working 10 felony trials and handling seven appeals at the Second Circuit, according to a White House press release.
Diane Gujarati similarly has experience as a federal prosecutor, as she currently serves as the deputy chief of the Criminal Division in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. President Barack Obama nominated her to serve as a judge on the Eastern District of New York, but the Republican controlled Senate took no action on her nomination. Trump has nominated her to the same position.
Gujarati has worked as a prosecutor for the Southern District of New York since 1999, rising to her current position in 2012. Before becoming a prosecutor, Gujarati worked as an associate at the New York firm Davis Polk & Wardwell.
Judge Gary Brown currently serves as a magistrate judge on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York and has been nominated to become a district judge on the same court. Obama nominated Brown to the same position and the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved his nomination in November 2015, but he never received a vote from the full Senate.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., recommended Brown to serve on the court in June 2015, citing his work handling the deluge of cases that came to the court after Hurricane Sandy. In a statement, Schumer at the time credited Brown with issuing an order that “was the spark that led to an overhaul of the entire National Flood Insurance Program.”
Brown served for 15 years as a federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of New York, rising to the level of chief of the Long Island Criminal Division. He also worked as litigation director and chief compliance officer for software company CA Technologies, according to his profile on the court’s website.
The final judge nominated to the Eastern District of New York is Eric Komitee, who works as general counsel for Viking Global Investors, a Connecticut-based hedge fund. Komitee also comes to the job after spending time as a prosecutor, working for eight years for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.
He also spent time as an associate at the firm Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, focusing on white color crime and government enforcement, according to a White House press release.
Two of the other judges Trump nominated on Thursday would serve on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, a federal court that hears cases from New York City and the surrounding areas.
Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil currently serves as a U.S. bankruptcy judge on the court, having been selected to the position in 2016. Vyskocil worked at the New York City firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett for more than three decades after law school, becoming a partner in 1991.
While at the firm, she successfully represented Swiss Reinsurance in several disputes over insurance coverage following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Trump also nominated Lewis Liman, an attorney at the New York City firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, to a seat on the Southern District of New York. Liman has been at the firm since 2003 and focuses on complex litigation, white collar defense, investigations and securities class action suits, according to a White House press release.
Liman’s past clients at the firm include Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Dow Chemical and he successfully argued a case before the Supreme Court in 2013 that narrowed the statute of limitations within which the Securities and Exchange Commission can bring securities fraud suits.
Liman also worked as a prosecutor in the Southern District of New York for five years, having spent time at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund following law school.
The final New York judge nominated Thursday is John Sinatra Jr., an attorney at the Buffalo, N.Y., firm Hodgson Russ who is up for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York. Sinatra has been at the firm since 2008, having previously served as senior counsel at the Commerce Department.
Before joining the Commerce Department, Sinatra worked at Jones Day.
In addition to the New York judges, Trump also tapped Alabama special deputy attorney Corey Maze for a position on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. Maze previously served as the state’s solicitor general, arguing three cases before the Supreme Court from 2008 to 2011.
While at the Attorney General’s Office, Maze worked on complex litigation, including handling suits arising from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
“Corey Maze is a very talented and experienced lawyer who would be an outstanding addition to the Northern District Court bench,” Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a statement. “He possesses a broad base of legal experience from prosecution of criminal trials and appeals as an Alabama assistant attorney general to arguing cases before the U.S. Supreme Court as former Alabama solicitor general, to successfully representing Alabama in the landmark BP oil spill case.”
Trump also nominated Joshua Wolson, an attorney at the Philadelphia firm Dilworth Paxson, to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Wolson focuses on complex litigation at the firm and has experience with a wide range of cases, from patent suits to constitutional law matters.
Before joining Dilworth Paxson, Wolson worked at the Washington firm Covington Burling.