Stephanie A. Gallagher and Timothy J. Sullivan have been picked to be the next federal magistrate judges in Maryland, according to people familiar with the selections.
The U.S. District Court judges chose Gallagher and Sullivan, both of whom concentrate in high-end criminal defense, on Wednesday, according to one source.
Gallagher would fill the vacancy created by now-U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar’s elevation a month ago. Sullivan would take the place of Charles B. Day, who was renominated for an Article III judgeship by President Barack Obama earlier this month but has not been confirmed.
Chief U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow acknowledged nominations had been made but said Friday she would not announce their identities until they are appointed. They must pass background checks, which can take as long as six months, Chasanow said, and the U.S. Senate must confirm Day before his replacement can be seated.
Chasanow said the nomination process for both jobs proceeded concurrently because Day was nominated to succeed Senior U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte around the same time Bredar was nominated to replace now-Senior U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz.
Asked if she expected any hiccups in the last stage of the magistrate nominees’ vetting process, Chasanow said, “Oh, of course not.”
Gallagher, a former federal prosecutor who then practiced at Levin & Gallagher LLC, declined to confirm her selection when reached Friday morning. Sullivan, the managing partner of Brennan, Sullivan & McKenna LLP who has represented several capital defendants, including sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, did not return a call Friday.
The selections were well-received by their colleagues, noting Gallagher’s and Sullivan’s skill and service.
“They’re good folks and they’re both really well thought of,” said Larry Nathans, a Baltimore criminal defense attorney. Nathans, who once defended a Hells Angels motorcycle member Gallagher was prosecuting and remembers a “spectacular” cross-examination Sullivan performed in one of their shared cases, said the picks were “not surprising.”
A 1997 graduate of Harvard Law School, Gallagher clerked for Motz before her first stint in private practice in Washington, D.C., according to her law firm website profile. Gallagher was then an assistant U.S. attorney for seven years.
U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein, Gallagher’s boss from 2005 when he assumed his post until 2008 when she left to form her current firm, called her “an exceptional lawyer with superb judgment, boundless energy and excellent organizational skills.”
Gallagher’s current law partner and former supervisor at the U.S. Attorney’s office, Steven H. Levin, sent an email to the media Friday afternoon praising her appointment.
“Stephanie has been considered a rising star for years and her star will continue to rise as a Federal Magistrate Judge,” he wrote.
Sullivan graduated from the Georgetown University Law Center in 1987 and practiced at Sullivan & Sullivan from 1988 until 2006, when he joined his current law partners, according to his firm website. He argued United State v. Cotton, a case about enhanced sentencing, before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2002 and has taught at the George Washington University School of Law.
“I think the world of Tim,” said Stanley J. Reed, a principal at Lerch, Early & Brewer Chtd. in Bethesda. He reserved special praise for Sullivan’s “very substantial federal death penalty practice.”
“You put your heart and soul in it, and it’s a credit that he’s been able to maintain a private practice and be able to do that,” Reed said.
Maryland Federal Public Defender James Wyda pointed to Sullivan’s winning the John Adams Award in 2002 as a testament to his service.
“Tim has capably handled every kind of criminal cases there is, from misdemeanor cases in state courts to capital trials in federal court and appellate arguments in the Supreme Court,” Wyda wrote in an e-mail, calling him “one of the leaders” of Maryland’s criminal defense bar.
Magistrate judges handle various preliminary and pretrial matters and can preside over certain kinds of civil and criminal trials. They are appointed to 8-year terms by the U.S. District judges and can be reappointed. Unlike Article III judges, who serve for life, magistrates do not have to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
Chasanow said the court has welcomed the help of visiting magistrate judges to keep up with the caseload during the turnover period.
“While we’re looking forward to having this transition over with, we’re doing all right in the meantime,” Chasanow reported.