U.S. Solicitor General’s Office at the U.S. Department of Justice. Credit: Mike Scarcella / ALM

The White House announced on Thursday President Donald Trump’s intent to nominate assistant to the U.S. solicitor general Rachel Kovner to a federal trial judgeship in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

Kovner, who has argued 11 cases before the high court since 2013, has been rumored as a possible judicial nominee since last year. Before joining the U.S. Solicitor General’s Office, she was an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York who handled trial and appellate work. In 2011, she was part of a team that won guilty verdicts against lawyers involved in an illegal tax shelter scheme.

She clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia in 2007 and 2008 and earlier for Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

“Rachel is a phenomenally talented lawyer who will make a terrific judge,” said Latham & Watkins partner Roman Martinez, who worked with her at the SG’s Office. “She was a wonderful colleague of mine with a powerful intellect, superb common sense, and a deep sense of fairness. President Trump has hit a home run with this nomination.”

Among the cases Kovner argued and won was the important 2017 forum-shopping case titled Bristol-Myers Squibb v. Superior Court of California. The high court tightened jurisdictional rules that determine where corporate defendants can be sued.

Kovner’s nomination may herald a new wave of departures from the SG’s Office, which recently posted an invitation for applicants for “up to five” positions in the ranks of assistants to the solicitor general. There are currently fewer than 20 assistants on staff, a small number of whom are women. The SG’s Office has often been a stepping stone for female appellate advocates heading into private practice.

A former Bristow fellow in the Solicitor General’s Office and a former Temple Bar scholar with the American Inns of Court, Kovner used to be a frequent subject for the Above the Law blog, which once called her the “Empress of Palo Alto” for having the highest grade point average in the history of Stanford Law School. Above the Law has also made much of the fact that her father is Bruce Kovner, a wealthy hedge fund founder and philanthropist who lives in Florida.


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