Howard C. Nielson Jr., a Washington, D.C., lawyer who earned an undergraduate degree at Brigham Young University, has been selected to fill a spot on the federal court bench in Utah.
President Donald Trump on Thursday announced his intent to nominate nine people for judgeships around the nation, including Nielson, who would be based at U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City if confirmed. He would fill a vacancy created when Judge Ted Stewart took senior status in 2014.
Judges with senior status, which is based on length of service and age, are required to manage one-quarter of the caseload of active judges, but some carry heavier loads. Utah now has four full-time federal judges and six senior judges.
In late 2015, President Barack Obama nominated Utah lawyer and former Centerville mayor Ronald Russell for the opening on the bench. The Senate Judiciary Committee signed off on the nomination in May 2016 but a confirmation vote by the full Senate was never taken.
On Thursday, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said in a news release that Trump has made an outstanding choice in nominating Nielson.
“Howard Nielson is a first-rate talent with broad experience and a commitment to the rule of law,” Hatch said. “President Trump promised to make judicial nominations a priority for his administration, and today, he continued delivering on that promise.”
Nielson — who is a partner at Cooper & Kirk in Washington D.C., and also is licensed to practice law in Utah — worked at the U.S. Department of Justice from 2001 to 2005, first as counsel to the Attorney General and later as deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel.
Prior to that, he practiced law from 1999 to 2001 at Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue (now Jones Day) in Washington, D.C., where he worked on a variety of matters, especially in the areas of constitutional and employment law. He also has taught classes on constitutional, national security, and foreign affairs law as a Distinguished Lecturer at BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School.
In addition, Nielson has served as a law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy and to Judge J. Michael Luttig of the 4th U.S. Court of Appeals, which is based in Richmond, Virginia.
Nielson graduated from BYU in 1992 and the University of Chicago Law School in 1997. From 1992 to 1994, he attended the Kobe University Graduate School of Law in Japan.