His office confirmed that the Manhattan judge who presided in the high-profile case against Ghislaine Maxill, an associate of Jeffrey Epstein’s, will be recommended by the White House for a prestigious federal appels court position by Senator Chuck Schumer.
Alison J. Nathan (49), is a judge who has served ten years on the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York. On Tuesday, she was responsible for jury selection in Ms. Maxwell’s trial. She has been charged with sex traficking and helping Mr. Epstein groom and sexually abuse girls. Ms. Maxwell has pleaded guilty.
In court filings, defense lawyers as well as prosecutors stated that the trial could last six to eight weeks. Opening arguments are scheduled for Nov. 29.
Two legal ethics experts suggested that Judge Nathan could continue to preside over the case even if she is nominated and confirmed by the Senate during her trial. Judges often move up to appeals courts after being involved in trials or other cases.
Despite this, the Maxwell trial with its connection with Mr. Epstein is far from routine.
Asked whether Judge Nathan would stay on the case if nominated for the appellate judgeship, Edward Friedland, a spokesman for the District Court, said in a statement that he could “neither confirm nor deny that she is under consideration.”
“But I have every reason to believe that if she is recommended or nominated she would — as is customary for lower court judges who are nominated to higher courts — continue to do her day job and preside over the trial to its conclusion,” Mr. Friedland said.
Mr. Schumer, the Democratic majority leader and the party’s senior lawmaker in New York State, is recommending Judge Nathan for a seat on the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which is one level below the Supreme Court.
The recommendation means Judge Nathan is almost certain to be nominated by the White House, as presidents, in choosing judges and U.S. attorneys, traditionally defer to their party’s senior lawmaker in each state.
Mr. Schumer, in a statement on Tuesday, said Judge Nathan’s “experience, legal brilliance, love of the rule of law and perspective would be invaluable in ensuring the federal judiciary fulfills its obligation to ensure equal justice for all.”
Mr. Schumer’s office also noted that Judge Nathan would be the second openly gay woman to serve on the Second Circuit.
President Barack Obama appointed Judge Nathan to the District Court in 2011. She earlier served as a special counsel to the solicitor general of New York State, in the state attorney general’s office. Prior to that she was an associate White House counsel, and special assistant to Mr. Obama.
Judge Nathan is a graduate of Cornell Law School and served as a law clerk to Justice John Paul Stevens in the Supreme Court’s 2001-2 term.
According to legal experts, it is not uncommon for a federal appeals judge to continue hearing cases in a trial court even after confirmation.
At least two former judges on the District Court in Manhattan — Denny Chin and Richard J. Sullivan — continued to handle cases in the lower court after they were appointed to the Second Circuit.
Rebecca Roiphe, a professor at New York Law School, said the only theoretical issue she could foresee would be if Judge Nathan were confirmed quickly and her new duties pulled her away “from a very time-consuming trial.”
“But I think that’s unlikely given the timeline here,” Professor Roiphe said.
Stephen Gillers, a professor at New York University School of Law, said one hypothetical question was whether Ms. Maxwell’s lawyers might seek to have the judge recuse herself because the Biden administration would be in a position to derail her promotion if she did not favor the government in the trial.
But he said in his view, based on hundreds of cases involving judicial recusal, a promotion like Judge Nathan’s would not provide a basis for such a request.
“This does not even come close to the sort of interest that leads to recusal,” he said.
Judge Nathan is known for her independence, and in at least two cases she issued blistering criticism of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan after it was accused of failing to turn over potentially favorable evidence to the defense before trial.
Source: NY Times