Former Southern District of New York Judge Katherine Forrest is returning to Cravath, Swaine & Moore after just seven years on the bench.
Her return boost’s the firm’s litigation department following a notable exit. Sandra Goldstein, a former head of litigation, left in the spring for Kirkland & Ellis, following Kirkland’s hiring of two Cravath corporate partners in the last two years.
Forrest spent the first 20 years of her career as a litigator at the firm before heading to the U.S. Department of Justice as deputy assistant attorney general in the antitrust division in 2010. One year later, she was appointed to the federal judiciary by President Barack Obama to fill a seat vacated when Judge Jed Rakoff took senior status.
She unexpectedly announced her departure from the bench in July via an email to colleagues, citing personal reasons.
“It has been an incredible privilege to serve as a member of the federal judiciary and to have served our justice system,” Forrest said in a statement. “I am thrilled to be coming home to begin the next phase of my career at Cravath, where I was trained and will have the opportunity to continue making a difference in the courtroom alongside a tremendous team.”
During her time on the bench, she presided over a number of high-profile cases. Early on, in 2012, she ruled against the Obama administration’s enforcement of indefinite military detention of suspects connected to Al-Qaeda, stating in her opinion that “due process requires more.” Her ruling was ultimately reversed on appeal for lack of standing.
In 2015 she made international headlines for sentencing Ross Ulbricht, known online as “Dread Pirate Roberts” and a key figure behind the illicit online marketplace Silk Road. After he was convicted on a number of conspiracy charges, including for trafficking narcotics, as well as money laundering and computer hacking, Forrest handed down a life sentence for Ulbricht.
In another case watched closely for its international implications, Forrest oversaw the jury trial in favor of the government’s pursuit of the seizure and sale of a skyscraper linked to Iranian interests as compensation to terrorism victims. Prosecutors at the time called it the largest terrorism-related civil forfeiture ever. That case is on appeal before the Second Circuit.
Most recently, Forrest granted a motion to dismiss a trio of lawsuits against online retailers who allegedly wiretapped and spied on users using third-party marketing software that captured substantial information during visits.
In one of the last closely-watched matters handled by the judge, she ordered an alleged agent of Qatar to produce material related to a California federal suit filed by a Trump-connected Republican fundraiser caught up in a number of different scandals connected to the president.
In total, Forrest presided over several thousand cases, including more than 100 trials. She wrote more than 1,000 opinions and sat by designation on the Second Circuit for more than 3 dozen appeals. Prior to stepping down, she also served on the court’s Grievance Committee starting in 2011 and became chair in 2016.
“Katherine brings a depth of experience and perspective from her time at the DOJ and as a federal judge that will be invaluable to clients navigating regulatory challenges, investigations and complex litigation,” Faiza Saeed, Cravath’s presiding partner, said in a statement. “Having practiced with Katherine for nearly two decades at the firm, we are delighted to welcome her back to Cravath.”
Christine Simmons contributed to this story.