New judges confirmed to federal bench

Jason Boleman//November 8, 2021

New judges confirmed to federal bench

Jason Boleman//November 8, 2021

Three Virginia federal judgeships have been filled recently as the U.S. Senate confirmed more of President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees.

Patricia Tolliver Giles and Michael S. Nachmanoff were confirmed to seats on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, while Toby Heytens was confirmed to a seat on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The trio’s nominations were announced on June 30 by Biden and advanced through the Senate Judiciary Committee in late September.

Eastern District

The first of the three to be confirmed by the full Senate was Giles, who was confirmed on Oct. 26. She garnered broad bipartisan support, with more than 20 Republicans joining the Democratic majority.

Giles has served in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District since 2003, and was most recently managing assistant U.S. attorney. A University of Virginia School of Law graduate, she clerked for retired U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee early in her legal career.

Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor who tracks the judicial nomination process, said Giles impressed Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, during her confirmation hearing with her experience as an assistant U.S. attorney.

“She had an overwhelming total, one of the strongest so far of one of Biden’s appointees,” Tobias said. “She is a really well qualified, experienced mainstream nominee, so I think that was an easy vote for a lot of people.”

Giles will become the second Black woman to serve as a federal judge in Virginia, following U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen.

The U.S. Senate confirmed Nachmanoff’s nomination to the Eastern District bench in a 52-46 vote on Oct. 27. Three Republicans joined the Democratic majority in support of Nachmanoff.

Nachmanoff most recently served as a U.S. Magistrate Judge in the Eastern District, a role he has held since 2015. Prior to that, he spent 13 years in the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the Eastern District, including a stint as chief federal public defender from 2007 to 2015.

Tobias said Nachmanoff’s background as a public defender is less common among judges, and satisfied earlier calls for diversity in the background of judicial appointees.

“He is a very experienced judge and has all that experience from federal public defender work, and he brings more balance to the federal bench,” Tobias said.

A U.Va. Law graduate, Nachmanoff clerked for U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema upon graduating from law school.

“We are pleased that the Senate voted to confirm Ms. Patricia Tolliver Giles and Judge Michael Nachmanoff to be U.S. District Court Judges in the Eastern District of Virginia,” U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine said in press release. “We were proud to recommend both to the President for appointment to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia and are confident they will serve the Commonwealth and the country with distinction.”

Giles and Nachmanoff filled the vacancies created when Judges Liam O’Grady and Anthony Trenga elected to take senior status.


Heytens’ nomination to the Fourth Circuit bench was confirmed late on Nov. 1. Heytens also earned bipartisan support during his confirmation hearings, as four Republicans joined 49 Democrats.

Heytens previously served as Virginia’s solicitor general, a role he took 0n in February 2018. As solicitor general, Heytens secured a unanimous opinion from the Supreme Court of Virginia affirming a lower court’s ruling rejecting challenges to the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue in Richmond.

Upon accepting the solicitor general position, Heytens went on leave from his role as a professor at U.Va. Law, where he had worked since 2006. Heytens is the second U.Va. Law resident faculty member to be appointed to a federal appeals court while serving on the faculty, according to a U.Va. press release. Fourth Circuit Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III, who has served on the court since 1984, is the other.

Earlier in his career, Heytens worked in the Justice Department and for O’Melveny & Myers in Washington, D.C. Upon graduating from U.Va. in 2000, he clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

“He has lots of experience in federal courts and arguing in federal courts, and understands the procedures very well,” Tobias said. “It’s a great addition to the Fourth Circuit.”

Pending vacancies

Three more vacancies, two in the Eastern District and one in the Western District, are expected to be filled in the coming months.

In the Eastern District, Judge John A. Gibney Jr. took senior status on Nov. 1, while Judge Raymond Alvin Jackson will assume senior status on Nov. 23. Judge James Parker Jones in the Western District assumed senior status on Aug. 30.

Warner and Kaine recommended two people for Jones’ former seat in the Western District earlier this year. Juval Scott, the current Federal Public Defender for the Western District, and U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Ballou were recommended to Biden on Aug. 9.

Tobias said that, as of Nov. 3, no nominee for the Western District judgeship has been named by the White House. If Scott is nominated and confirmed, she would become the first Black federal judge in the Western District.

“Both would serve with great distinction and have our highest recommendation,” Warner and Kaine said in an August press release.

As for the Eastern District, Warner and Kaine accepted applications for the upcoming vacancy created by Jackson through Nov. 8. On Nov. 4, Warner and Kaine recommended U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Haynes and assistant U.S. attorney Melissa O’Boyle to fill Gibney’s seat.


Verdicts & Settlements

See All Verdicts & Settlements


See All Viewpoint


How Is My Site?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...