The group responsible for vetting applicants to Washington's local courts is recommending a magistrate judge, a solo practitioner and a federal prosecutor to fill a vacancy on the District of Columbia Superior Court.
The District of Columbia Judicial Nomination Commission released a list (PDF) yesterday of three attorneys it is recommending to fill the seat vacated by now-retired Judge Linda Davis. Davis, who retired June 30, is seeking appointment as a senior judge.
The commission selected Superior Court Magistrate Judge Noel Johnson, solo practitioner Michael O'Keefe and Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Okun.
Johnson joined the court as a magistrate judge in 2002. Since then, he's served exclusively in Family Court. From 1987 until his appointment, he worked in the city's Office of the Attorney General as a trial attorney, section chief of the child support section and senior counsel for child support. Johnson, through a court spokeswoman, declined to comment.
O'Keefe is a longtime local solo practitioner specializing in criminal defense and family law. He's handled more than 2,000 cases in Superior Court and litigated more than 200 trials. Before going into private practice – first at O'Connor & Hannan and then as a solo practitioner – O'Keefe was a legislative aide to former U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.).
"I'm humbled to be selected with these other two accomplished lawyers," he said.
Okun has been a federal prosecutor in Washington for 16 years and chief of the special proceedings division for the past 12 years. Before joining the U.S. attorney's office, he was a trial attorney in the office of consumer litigation and the fraud section of the U.S. Department of Justice. After law school he clerked for District of Columbia Court of Appeals Senior Judge Frank Schwelb, who was on the Superior Court bench at the time. Okun could not be reached for comment.
The White House will have 60 days to pick a nominee, who will go before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs for confirmation proceedings.
Under the law creating Washington's unique local judicial selection process, the president can choose any attorney recommended by the commission for a pending vacancy to fill any open seat. However, the White House typically chooses one of the three attorneys recommended for a particular vacancy.