No date is set for judicial nominee Rachel Kovner’s confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee for a federal trial judgeship in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
But a newly released questionnaire and financial disclosures about Kovner, currently an assistant to the U.S. solicitor general, flesh out information about how she came to be nominated and her financial status, among other things.
Kovner, 38, has argued 11 cases before the high court since 2013. 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. From 2009 to 2013, she was an assistant U.S. attorney in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
More about Kovner:
Her Career Path Is Rare: It’s not unheard of for lawyers in the Office of the Solicitor General to become federal judges or justices after some intervening job in the public or private sector. (Think Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., Justice Samuel Alito Jr., Robert Bork and Richard Posner, to name a few.) Some SGs have gone directly to the Supreme Court—Justices Thurgood Marshall and Elena Kagan come to mind. But an assistant to the solicitor general going directly to a federal district court judgeship? Several longtime advocates with past experience in the Solicitor General’s Office were asked, and none could recall a path like Kovner’s.
How She Got Picked for the Nomination: “In early March 2017, I discussed with a lawyer in the White House Counsel’s Office the possibility of being considered for one of the judicial vacancies in New York,” Kovner wrote in her Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire. Her wording leaves it uncertain who initiated the discussion, but the idea caught on. She submitted her resume to the White House and had “several” contacts with lawyers in the Counsel’s Office. In November 2017, Kovner connected with Sen. Chuck Schumer’s, D-New York, screening panel for judicial nominations, and on April 24, 2018, she interviewed with Schumer and several aides. On May 15, President Donald Trump submitted her nomination to the Senate.
Dining With Scalia: At a February 2017 Federalist Society event in Florida, Kovner related fond recollections of Scalia: “He was a fantastic boss, a great person to clerk for. … He’d had like a million clerks, and he obviously had a big family and a very rich social life outside of the court. And he would joke about how clerks were totally fungible to him, and one was as good as another. But despite that, he would really go out of his way to take us out to his favorite pizza place in D.C. Or he would go hunting and then have us over for dinner to eat something that he had hunted. Or take us out shooting, one of the things that he enjoyed doing.”
Favorite Supreme Court Cases: Asked for the 10 most significant litigated matters she handled in her career, Kovner in her questionnaire listed six proceedings in New York district courts and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and four cases before the high court. Those were: Heien v. North Carolina, a 2014 Fourth Amendment police traffic stop case; McLane v. EEOC, in 2017, dealing with the enforcement of U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission subpoenas; Bristol-Myers Squibb v. Superior Court of California, a 2017 decision narrowing state court jurisdiction over out-of-state defendants; and National Association of Manufacturers v. Department of Defense, a 2018 Clean Water Act ruling.
Her Assets: Unlike some other recent judicial nominees in New York, Kovner’s financial disclosure form reveals relatively modest assets in securities—$44,694 in several Vanguard Index Funds. Kovner reported owning a residence valued at $1,795,000, and mortgages payable amounting to $1,391,611. When she clerked for Scalia in 2007, Above the Law dubbed Kovner the “Empress of Palo Alto” for having the highest grade point average in the history of Stanford Law School, as well as the fact that her father is Bruce Kovner, a wealthy hedge fund founder and philanthropist who lives in Florida.
Read Kovner’s Senate questionnaire and financial disclosure: