A federal magistrate judge in Richmond and an assistant U.S. attorney in Norfolk have been recommended by U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine to fill a federal judge seat in Richmond.
In a letter to President Joe Biden on Thursday, the senators recommended U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Hanes, who has served as a federal magistrate judge in the Eastern District of Virginia since 2020, and Melissa O’Boyle, who has been an assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District since 2007.
The vacancy was created when Judge John A. Gibney Jr. assumed senior status, or semi-retirement, on Monday.
“[W]e believe either of these individuals would win confirmation from the Senate and serve capably on the bench,” wrote the senators. The White House will now nominate one individual for the vacancy to be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee and later by the full Senate.
Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law, said Hanes is a former federal public defender and gained experience as a litigation specialist for plaintiffs in consumer protection cases prior to becoming a magistrate judge.
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“She’s terrific and I think she’d be a great district judge,” he said.
Tobias said O’Boyle is also highly qualified and has handled some high-profile cases in Norfolk. Kaine’s and Warner’s offices said O’Boyle prosecuted the public corruption case against Norfolk Vice Mayor Anthony Burfoot, the 2013 bank fraud case against former Bank of the Commonwealth President Edward Woodward, the 2010 public corruption case against former Norfolk Police homicide detective Robert Glenn Ford and the 2009 Ponzi scheme case against Troy Titus.
Given the possibility of losing the majority of the U.S. Senate next year, Tobias said he believes the White House will quickly pick and nominate a candidate. “I think Biden is going to want to fill every vacancy he possibly can,” he said.