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New Chief Judge on D.C. District Court Will Oversee Trump Cases

We hate to write items like this, but you gotta do what you gotta do. In theory, it shouldn't matter which judge handles which case. After all, all judges are supposed to simply apply the law, so the judge shouldn't matter. But as Yogi Berra once helpfully pointed out: "In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not." For the past 7 years, Beryl Howell has been the chief judge of the D.C. district court. Her term is now up. On Friday she was replaced by James Boasberg, the one-time roommate of Brett Kavanaugh during law school at Yale. Boasberg will now oversee any sealed cases involving Donald Trump that come before the court. However, although Boasberg and Kavanaugh were roomies, Boasberg was appointed to the district court by Barack Obama, so they are not exactly clones.

Howell went out with a bang, not a whimper. Late Friday she took the unusual step of handing over notes she got from Donald Trump's current actual (as opposed to television) attorney, Evan Corcoran, to special prosecutor Jack Smith. Usually a judge stays his or her opinion to let the relevant party appeal. Howell didn't do that and Smith now has the notes. No doubt his secretary worked overtime Friday to scan them all into Smith's document database.

Boasberg is no green newbie. He presided over the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in 2020 and 2021. If the DoJ were to indict Trump, the trial would be in the D.C. district court, but Boasberg would not necessarily get the case, although as chief judge, he could probably take it if he wanted it. That aside, the chief judge has a lot of authority in DoJ cases relating to subpoenas, warrants, executive privilege, evidence, and more. He will be a serious player for the next 7 years.

Boasberg's initials are JEB and he is known as "Jeb," without the exclamation mark some other Jebs use. He was born in San Francisco but grew up in D.C. when his father got a job in Lyndon Johnson's administration working on the war on poverty. His B.A. and J.D. are both from Yale. In between the two, he picked up a masters from Oxford. After getting his law degree, he clerked on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco. Later, he was briefly in private practice, and then worked in the office of the U.S. Attorney for D.C. for 5½ years. In Sept. 2002, George W. Bush appointed him to the Superior Court of D.C. In 2010, Obama promoted him to the District Court. In 2014, Chief Justice John Roberts appointed him to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. As we noted above, a newbie he is not. Nevertheless, this will be his toughest job ever. (V)

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