A Tale of Two Nominees

February 14, 2011
Guest Post

By Jeremy Bressman, a second year student at Harvard Law School. Jeremy's interests include civil procedure, sentencing law, and federal courts. This guest blog was originally posted on the blog of the Harvard Law & Policy Review, the official journal of the American Constitution Society.

A few weeks ago, President Obama nominated Paul Oetken for a seat on the Southern District of New York. Oetken is eminently qualified for the position: After graduating from Yale Law ('91), he clerked on three courts, including the Supreme Court for Justice Blackmun, spent time at two major law firms, and worked in both the Office of Legal Counsel and the White House Counsel's Office. Perhaps most importantly, if appointed, Oetken would become the first openly gay man to sit on the federal bench. (A nominee to the Federal Circuit, Edward Dumont, is also openly gay; a judge on the Southern District, Deborah Batts, is currently the only openly gay female on the federal bench.)

A few days later, the President nominated Arvo Mikkanen to a seat on the Northern District of Oklahoma. Like Oetken, Mikkanen certainly has the qualifications to be a federal judge: a Dartmouth College and Yale Law ('86) grad, Mikkanen himself clerked for two judges, has worked in both private practice and as an Assistant US Attorney, and is a former judge on numerous American Indian courts. If appointed, Mikkanen would become only the third Native American to ever sit on the federal bench. One of those judges, Frank Howell Seay of the Eastern District of Oklahoma, didn't even learn of his Native American heritage until he was in his 50s.

See the rest of Bressman's post here.