President Joe Biden yesterday nominated a slate of judges, including a controversial selection in Jennifer Rearden, who was first nominated for the federal bench by former President Donald Trump.
Rearden, a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP with the firm’s litigation and crisis management practices group, was nominated by Biden to serve as a United States district judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Trump had originally nominated her for the seat in February 2020, but her nomination expired at the end of the 116th Congress without action from the Senate.
In her nomination questionnaire, Rearden explains that she has mainly represented corporations, and commentators on the left have raised concerns about some of the cases she has taken up. In her list of 10 important litigation matters she included in the questionnaire, Rearden highlighted a case where she represented New York real estate company LeFrak against allegations that they had discriminated against tenants living with HIV/AIDS. Rearden got the complaint dismissed in that case. In a section highlighting her pro bono work, Rearden helped a charter school organization overturn a New York Department of Labor ruling that charter schools were subject to “prevailing wage” requirements.
Rearden’s corporate clients have included Home Depot, Uber, Lehman Brothers, Barclays Capital, and Patriarch Partners. Her firm represented Chevron in its lawsuit against environmental and human rights attorney Steven Donziger, and The Intercept reports that Rearden worked on the case.
But it’s not just her case history that may be surprising for a Biden nominee. Rearden has long been a donor to Republican politicians in the tri-state area.
In December 2015, Rearden donated the legal maximum of $2,700 to then-New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as he sought the Republican nomination for President. Earlier that year, she donated $1,000 to former House Republican Dan Donovan, who represented the 11th District of New York that includes Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn. Rearden has also donated $2,300 to former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, during his 2008 run for president, and $500 to Dick Zimmer, a former Republican Senate candidate in New Jersey.
Rearden has also donated to some Democrats, and she has donated more to New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand than any other politicians. Rearden has donated more than $38,000 combined to Gillibrand’s Senate campaigns, 2020 presidential campaign, and leadership PAC, and in her questionnaire she states that she has co-hosted several fundraisers for the senator at Gibson Dunn’s New York office.
Describing her path towards being selected for a federal judgeship, Rearden highlighted the importance of Gillibrand in that process. “In May 2016, I expressed an interest in serving as a U.S. District judge for the Southern District of New York to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. From that time through November 2019, I periodically had contact with Senator Gillibrand and her office.”