President Donald Trump nominates Cuyahoga County judge for federal bench

CLEVELAND, Ohio — President Donald Trump on Wednesday nominated a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court judge to fill a slot on the federal bench in Cleveland.

Judge J. Philip Calabrese, 48, was nominated to fill the seat of federal Judge Christopher Boyko, who took senior status in January. The Shaker Heights Republican enjoys the support of Ohio Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman, as the pair relied on the recommendations of a bipartisan commission that conferred on candidates.

The support of both Ohio senators from opposite sides of the aisle substantially increases the chances of Calabrese earning the approval of the U.S. Senate. However, whether Calabrese is ultimately confirmed this year remains to be seen, as his appointment is now at the whims of senators during a presidential election year.

“I am pleased the president has nominated Judge Philip Calabrese to be the next federal judge in the Northern District,” Portman said in a news release. “Judge Calabrese has been a dedicated public servant on the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas. I know if confirmed, he will serve in this role admirably.”

Calabrese said in the news release that “it is an honor” to be nominated for the federal bench, which is a lifetime appointment. He said he was proud to have the support of both senators, as well as the president.

He referred a reporter to the statement when contacted Wednesday evening.

A former civil litigation attorney and partner at the Porter, Wright, Morris & Arthur law firm, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine appointed Calabrese in June to the county court bench to replace Judge Pamela Barker, whom Trump also appointed to the federal court. The seat is up for election in November, and Calabrese had registered to run to retain it.

He is the former president of the Federal Bar Association’s Northern District of Ohio chapter and graduated from Harvard Law School. He also works as an adjunct professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

Trump, like all presidents before him, has the opportunity to transform the federal courts in Ohio and nationally, and has seized the opportunity by appointing large numbers of judges for district and appeals courts across the country. He has also appointed two U.S. Supreme Court justices.

Federal judges often work hard to maintain their judicial independence, but the federal courts have been ground zero for partisan issues such as abortion and voting rights.

In Cleveland, federal judges have heard the majority of the local high-profile cases alleging police misconduct. They have also presided over some of the most serious criminal prosecutions, such as most of the cases involving defendants implicated in the Cuyahoga County corruption scandal.

Trump on Wednesday also nominated U.S. Magistrate Judge James Knepp of Toledo to become a federal district judge there. Knepp has been a magistrate judge since 2010 and is nominated to replace Judge Jack Zouhary, who took senior status in July.

He also nominated U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Newman, whose courtroom is in Dayton, to fill a federal judge position in the state’s southern district vacated by U.S. District Judge Michael Barrett taking senior status.

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