The United States Law Week

Hedge Fund Lawyer Confirmed as Federal Judge in New York (2)

Dec. 3, 2019, 9:51 AMUpdated: Dec. 4, 2019, 12:34 AM

A hedge fund general counsel was confirmed Dec. 3 to a federal judgeship in New York as the Senate prepares to act on a number of President Donald Trump’s judicial selections in coming days.

Lawmakers voted 86 to 4 to confirm Eric R. Komitee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, which includes Brooklyn.

Komitee became only the second district court nominee in New York confirmed under Trump after Rachel Kovner, also to the Eastern District. A former federal prosecutor and the general counsel for Viking Global Investors, Komitee was one of eight trial court nominees who were primed for floor votes as the Republican-led Senate kicked off another judicial push with 2019 closing fast.

Senate action benefits Trump as he races to surpass 180 total judicial appointments before the end of the year, a goal he set last month. So far, Trump has appointed 160 judges, including Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, in his effort to reshape the federal judiciary with conservatives.

More Votes

The Senate also voted 76 to 16 to invoke cloture, or end debate, on another New York nominee, John L. Sinatra for the Western District of New York. His confirmation vote also is set for Dec. 4 along with four others.

With Komitee’s confirmation, New York has a eleven vacancies, eight of which are considered emergencies. Komitee will fill a seat that was an emergency vacancy and so will Sinatra when he’s confirmed. But pending nominees to district courts in the state have been stuck in limbo while Senate leaders struggle to reach a deal that will move them through.

Other nominees slated for confirmation votes on Dec. 4 are Sarah E. Pitlyk, for the Eastern District of Missouri; Douglas Russell Cole, for the Southern District of Ohio; David B. Barlow, for the District of Utah; and R. Austin Huffaker, for the Middle District of Alabama. Cloture was invoked on their nominations on Dec. 3.

Pitlyk, one of the more controversial Trump nominees, is a former appellate law clerk for now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. She works for the Thomas More Society, the “national public interest law firm dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty.”

She is already down at least one Republican vote after Maine Sen. Susan Collins said last month she wouldn’t vote for her. Collins said Pitlyk’s “strident advocacy” made her question whether she could set her views about abortion aside when weighing cases. But Collins’ opposition vote alone wouldn’t derail Pitlyk’s confirmation.

Pitlyk and her Republican defenders on the Senate Judiciary Committee have said her personal views wouldn’t affect her judicial performance.

The American Bar Association’s judicial ratings panel also found Pitlyk unqualified for a district court appointment due to her lack of requisite courtroom experience. A number of conservatives oppose ABA ratings as biased.

Richard Ernest Myers and Sherri A. Lydon, who are nominated for the Eastern District of North Carolina and the District of South Carolina, respectively, are scheduled for cloture votes Dec. 4. They would receive confirmation votes on Dec. 5 if cloture is invoked.

—With assistance from Nancy Ognanovich

(Updates throughout with cloture votes on four nominees, and more background on Pitlyk.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Madison Alder in Washington at malder@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com; John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com

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