Two federal judges in Cleveland will take senior standing, giving President Biden seats to fill on the Northern Ohio bench; a 3rd jurist is contemplating an identical transfer


CLEVELAND, Ohio – President Biden will appoint at least two federal judges in Cleveland over the coming months and fill the seats of senior lawyers who will become senior judges next week.

U.S. District Judge Patricia Gaughan, chief judge for the Northern District of Ohio, said Thursday that Judge James Gwin Biden’s office has informed him that he will assume senior status starting Monday.

Earlier this week, Judge Dan Polster notified the President’s staff and he will also move to the higher status

A third judge, Solomon Oliver, said Thursday: “I am seriously considering this and will announce my final decision in the next few days.”

Gwin and Polster’s decisions allow Biden to fill the positions with his appointees while the judges continue to hear senior status cases. If the judges had decided last year, then President Trump would have had the opportunity to occupy the seats.

Gwin said he sent his letter to Biden’s office on January 20, the day of the inauguration. He and Polster are joining a growing number of federal judges across the country who have tried to retire or become senior judges.

“This will improve the bank,” said Gaughan. “We will have more judicial officers to deal with the issues in court. With senior status, we don’t lose the experience or historical perspective that they bring to the bank. “

In a broader sense, the topic is even more important, legal experts said. The steps come at a time when Biden plans to explore federal justice.

“This is huge and is happening across the country,” said J. Dean Carro, Professor Emeritus of Law at Akron University. “I suspect the numbers will continue to rise.

The judges waited to see who would win the election and who would control the Senate. It would be reasonable to assume that they wanted to make sure that their legacy was preserved. “

As high-ranking judges, Polster and Gwin can take fewer cases. However, both told Gaughan that they will not seek a reduced workload.

Polster said he will continue to oversee the statewide opioid litigation, which includes more than 2,500 federal lawsuits from cities, counties, and tribal countries involving pharmaceutical companies that have manufactured and distributed pain relievers.

Gwin, 66, was nominated by then President Clinton in 1997. He had served in a private practice in Canton and served as a judge on the Common Pleas in Stark County. Clinton also selected Polster (69) that same year.

Clinton named Oliver, 73, in 1994. From 2010 to 2017, he served as the chief judge for the district.

In addition to Oliver, Gaughan and Judge John Adams are the other judges eligible for senior status in the Northern District of Ohio. The district has 15 judges.

Gaughan, as the chief judge, said she would not assume a higher status. Her term as chief judge ends in 2023. Adams said he “has no intention of moving to higher status in the near future”.

Four more in the district – Donald Nugent, James Carr, Jack Zouhary and Christopher Boyko – are already senior judges.

Federal justice relies on the “rule of 80,” which means that a judge must be 65 and have 15 years of legal experience in order to retire or advance to higher status.

Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman, the two U.S. Senators from Ohio, are expected to be submitting nominations for the replacement of Gwin and Polster in the coming months. The nominees could be selected by the summer.