Carl Nichols, a Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr regulatory and government litigation partner and former Justice Clarence Thomas clerk, was confirmed Wednesday to Washington, D.C.’s federal trial court.
Nichols, who has represented clients in trial and appellate courts on a broad range of issues, has been a partner at Wilmer since 2010. The U.S. Senate approved his bid to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on a 55-43 vote.
In his elevation to the bench, Nichols brings significant litigation experience, including a long stint as a top Justice Department lawyer under the George W. Bush administration. From 2008 to 2009, he was a principal deputy associate attorney general, a position that put him in supervision of the agency’s more than dozen litigation components.
Previously, from 2005 to 2008, he was a deputy assistant attorney general for the Civil Division, overseeing its federal programs branch, which represents the federal government in civil litigation.
Nichols was the lead lawyer in one key dispute involving a congressional subpoena issued to former White House counsel Harriet Miers and ex-White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten. The House Judiciary Committee had sought Miers’ testimony and records in connection with the forced resignation of U.S. attorneys in December 2006.
Nichols clerked for Thomas during the 1997-1998 term, following a clerkship for now-Senior Judge Laurence Silberman on the D.C. Circuit the term before. During his confirmation hearing last August, Nichols described the jurists as “close friends and mentors.”
“I’m extremely grateful for having been able to work for both of them,” Nichols said.
Nichols also previously worked at the firm Boies Schiller Flexner. He was an associate from 1998 to 2001 and a partner from 2002 to 2005.
At Wilmer Hale, Nichols reported earning nearly $2.5 million in partnership income for 2017, and nearly $2.4 million for 2016, according to a financial disclosure he filed as part of the confirmation process. The law firm in 2017 posted profits per partner eclipsing $2 million for the first time in 2017, according to NLJ reporting.
Nichols joins three other Trump appointees on Washington’s federal trial court: Judges Dabney Friedrich, Trevor McFadden and Timothy Kelly were all nominated by Trump.
The president had previously nominated Federal Election Commission member Matthew Spencer Petersen to Nichols’ seat. Petersen withdrew his nomination in December 2017 after struggling to answer basic legal questions during his confirmation hearing.
Lawmakers confirmed three other district judges Wednesday evening. The Senate approved Howard Nielson to the federal trial court in the District of Utah; Stephen Clark Sr. to the Eastern District of Missouri; and Kenneth Bell to the Western District of North Carolina.