Federal Judge Nominee’s Partners Contribute to Nominating Senator’s Committee
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The pending appointment of Jennifer Dorsey for a federal judgeship position in Nevada is raising eyebrows, as Dorsey’s law firm partners were recently discovered to have made significant campaign contributions to Senator Harry Reid’s political action committee. Reid both recommended Dorsey and vetted her for the position.

According to a report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Dorsey first expressed her desire for the federal judge position to Reid in March, 2012. Shortly after that initial discussion, Dorsey donated $2,500 to Reid’s campaign fund. Reid returned this initial donation, due to the appearance of a conflict of interest.


Upon the retirement of U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks in June, Reid recommended Dorsey for the vacant position. In September, she was nominated for the judgeship by President Barack Obama based on Reid’s recommendation, and Dorsey’s confirmation is still pending.

In the spring of 2013, Reid led the vetting of Dorsey, which is required before she can be appointed to the federal position.  On May 1, Dorsey’s senior partner at Kemp, Jones, & Coulthard, Will Kemp contributed $100,000 to Senate Majority PAC, a political action committee founded by and closely associated with Reid. On May 14, another of the firm’s senior partners, Randall Jones, contributed another $50,000 to the same committee.

Both of these contributions, as well as Dorsey’s initial contribution, are being viewed as a conflict of interest in Dorsey’s appointment and vetting. According the Review-Journal, Reid has declined to comment on the contributions from Dorsey’s partners at her firm, but his spokesperson Kristen Orthman emphasized that Dorsey’s initial contribution was quickly returned to avoid the appearance of conflict.

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Regardless of her partners’ contributions to Reid’s committee, Dorsey’s approval seems to be on track. Reid introduced her to the approval committee by describing her “sterling reputation among her peers,” and explained that his recommendation of Dorsey for the position is in line with his objectives to have more women serving in federal court.

Nevada’s second senator, Dean Heller, has declined to comment on Dorsey’s approval process, saying the he would like the process to move forward before indicating how he would vote. Heller clashed with Reid previously regarding Reid’s recommendation of Clark County District Judge Elissa Cadish for a federal judgeship. Cadish was ultimately blocked by Heller over her opinions on gun rights.

Image Credit: Kemp, Jones & Coulthard, LLP website


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