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Biden Announces Three New Nominees for Lifetime Federal Judgeships — What We Know About Them


President Joe Biden addresses a joint session of Congress, with Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on the dais behind him, on Wednesday, April 28, 2021.

The day after addressing a joint session of Congress and a Senate hearing for his first slate of federal judicial nominees, President Joe Biden continued to emphasize ethnic and legal diversity on the bench in his second wave of candidates on Thursday.

Those nominees are David Estudillo, who is currently the Presiding Judge of the Grant County Superior Court in Ephrata, Washington; Tana Lin, a member of the Complex Litigation Group of the Seattle, Washington-based firm Keller Rohrback LLP; and Christine O’Hearn, who focuses on complex litigation with the New Jersey-based firm Brown & Connery LLP.

Estudillo and Lin have been nominated for the Western District of Washington, and Biden tapped O’Hearn for the District of New Jersey.

In his campaign video for the Grant County Superior Court bench some five years ago, Estudillo cast his judicial journey in the United States as the “story of the American dream.”

The son of immigrants who arrived in the United States as farmworkers, Estudillo’s parents saved up to own a grocery store, where their son worked to pay his way through law school. He began the first decade of his career as a solo practitioner at his self-named law firm and focused on immigration law and general civil litigation between 2005 and 2015.

Four years after receiving her J.D. from New York University in 1991, Lin cut her teeth in serving the public—first in the Public Defender Service for the District o Columbia and then with the U.S. Department of Justice Employment Litigation Section for the remainder of the decade.

From 1999 to 2001, Lin served as a senior trial attorney at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Chicago District Office.

Lin’s tenure as public defender continues a running trend for Biden’s nominees.

The president’s first two judicial nominees, U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson and Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, are both Black women with histories as public defenders. Republican nominees were keen to question both on Wednesday whether they had experience defending accused terrorists at Guantánamo Bay. Only Judge Jackson, seeking a promotion to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, did, once.

Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) emphasized that the federal bench could use more judges who have experienced every corner of the legal system.

“You both have an extraordinary background in having served in the federal public defender’s office representing… people who often struggle in our system of justice,” Durbin told Judge Jackson and Ms. Jackson-Akiwumi on Wednesday. “I think we know that we are engaged in a national conversation about justice, long overdue.”

Judge Jackson also spoke about the importance of diversity on the bench.

“It’s sort of like the Oliver Wendell Holmes quote that the life of the law is not logic it’s experience,” Jackson wrote. “And so I’ve experienced life in perhaps a different way than some of my colleagues because of who I am.”

That conversation is likely to come up again during Lin’s confirmation hearing.

As a partner at Brown & Connery LLP, O’Hearn focused on complex labor and employment litigation. She became an adjunct professor at the Rutgers University School of Law, Camden, between 2006 and 2007. Biden reportedly nominated her on the recommendation of Garden State Democratic Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker.

“Ms. O’Hearn has spent much of her career advocating for women in the workplace and defending the rights of workers against employee discrimination, harassment and a hostile work environment,” Menendez wrote in a statement. “She is well-versed in labor and employment law, is smart, thorough, and detail oriented, and I believe she will serve the people of New Jersey well through her administration of fair and impartial justice.”

Booker shared his fellow New Jersey senator’s fulsome praise of O’Hearn.

“Christine O’Hearn is a talented, experienced, and distinguished litigator who will serve honorably as a federal judge,” Booker wrote. “Throughout her career, Ms. O’Hearn has demonstrated a deep commitment to justice and an appreciation for the impact that our courts have on the people of our state.”

The New Jersey Globe reported that O’Hearn would be the 10th female judge in that district if confirmed.

(Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty)

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."