Judge Loren AliKhan
Nominee for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
On May 3rd, 2023, President Biden nominated Judge Loren AliKhan to the United States District Court for the District of D.C. to the seat vacated by Judge John R. Fisher. Judge AliKahn has a background in litigation, both at a private firm and as Solicitor General for the District of Columbia, as well as judicial experience in the District of Columbia. When confirmed on December 5, 2023, she became the first South Asian woman to serve on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and the only active AAPI woman on the court.
Judge Loren AliKhan was born in Baltimore County, Maryland, in 1983. She earned her B.A. from Bard College at Simon’s Rock in 2003 and her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, where she graduated magna cum laude in 2006.
After law school, Judge AliKhan clerked for the Hon. Louis H. Pollack on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the Hon. Thomas L. Ambro on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. After her clerkships, she spent a year in the United States Department of Justice, Office of the Solicitor General, as a Bristow Fellow. In that role, she drafted briefs, prepared recommendations relating to government appeals, and assisted senior attorneys with their briefs and oral arguments. In 2009, she was selected by the American Inns of Court Foundation as a Temple Bar Scholar.
In 2010, she joined O’Melveny & Myers LLP as an associate in Washington, D.C., where she represented Fortune 500 companies in contract and statutory interpretation, class certification, antitrust, patent infringement, and products liability cases in both state and federal trial and appellate courts. Her pro bono work at the firm included representing a criminal defendant who appealed his sentence of 17 years’ incarceration for possession of marijuana and a weapons offense. Judge Alikhan successfully demonstrated that the trial judge misapplied the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, double-counting certain offenses. As a result, the defendant’s sentence was reduced by two years.
Judge AliKhan also represented a teacher who sued her former employer, Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church, for firing her after she was diagnosed and treated for narcolepsy. The school argued that it was entitled to a “ministerial exception” under the First Amendment, which gives religious institutions the right to control certain employment issues. In a unanimous decision, Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC, the Supreme Court of the United States held that the teacher functioned as a minister and that the ministerial exception protected her employer from the lawsuit.
Judge AliKhan left private practice and joined the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Office of the Solicitor General, in 2013 as the Deputy Solicitor General. In 2018, Judge AliKhan was promoted to Solicitor General. She served in that role until her elevation to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals in 2022, handling a total of nearly 3,000 appeals in the D.C. Court of Appeals, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and the Supreme Court. As Solicitor General, she was responsible for much of the District of Columbia’s litigation regarding administrative law, constitutional law, consumer protection, criminal law, employment discrimination, tax law, and torts.
Notable cases include successfully representing the District of Columbia in a tax dispute with Accenture Sub, Inc., which was seeking a $6 million tax refund from D.C. Also, as Solicitor General, Judge AliKhan joined 16 states in a challenge to a lawsuit filed by Texas that aimed to undermine the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In California v. Texas, Texas claimed that the Act’s minimum essential coverage requirement was unconstitutional and that, because it could not be severed from the ACA, the entire program was unconstitutional. In a 7-2 opinion, the Supreme Court found that Texas lacked standing to challenge the law.
In 2021, Judge AliKhan was nominated to serve as an Associate Judge of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals by President Biden. She was confirmed by the United States Senate in 2022. As an Associate Judge, she hears appeals from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and more than 50 local administrative agencies. Since 2022, she has heard approximately 100 criminal and civil appeals and issued roughly 200 decisions.
The following cases are representative of Judge AliKhan’s judicial career:
The case Corcoran Gallery of Art v. Petty, 2023 WL 2605592 (Mar. 23, 2023), began when a trust requested the District of Columbia enforce a California probate court’s judgment ordering the Corcoran Gallery to return artwork to the trust. The Corcoran opposed the trust’s request, arguing that the original judgment was invalid because California did not have jurisdiction. When the trust filed its claim in D.C., the Corcoran was appealing the California judgment due to lack of jurisdiction. After the Corcoran lost its appeal, the D.C. Superior Court affirmed California’s jurisdiction over the case and ordered the gallery to return the artwork. On appeal, Judge AliKahn and other judges on the D.C. Court of Appeals affirmed the Superior Court decision, giving full faith and credit to the California judgment.
Judge AliKhan authored the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals opinion in Decuir v. United States. In that case, a defendant was charged with multiple offenses including murder, possession of a firearm, and robbery. At his first trial, the jury convicted him of multiple offenses, but could not reach a verdict on the murder charges and a weapons offense. As a result, a second trial was held to determine the remaining two charges. When that trial resulted in a mistrial, the jury of a third trial convicted the defendant of the remaining two charges. The defendant then appealed all of his convictions. Judge AliKhan found that the inclusion of testimony from the second trial at the defendant’s third trial violated the Confrontation Clause of the Constitution because the government did not adequately demonstrate that the witness was unavailable to testify. The court upheld only the convictions from the first trial and remanded the two remaining convictions.
In Smith v. United States, 288 A.3d 766 (D.C. 2023), Judge AliKhan authored an opinion affirming a lower court’s decision in a sexual abuse case. After the defendant was convicted of first-degree sexual assault, he claimed that potential jurors were dismissed due to their race and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. He requested that the D.C. Court of Appeals overturn his conviction and award him a new trial. The D.C. Court of Appeals found that the government provided race-neutral reasons for striking potential jurors and that the defendant’s counsel had acted reasonably in his representation. As a result, the defendant’s appeal and requests were denied.
In Trump v. Carroll, 2023 WL 2920882 (Apr. 13, 2023) (en banc), author E. Jean Carroll sued former President Donald J. Trump for defamation and battery pursuant to her allegation that he sexually assaulted her in 1996. After the Department of Justice claimed the former president acted in his official capacity when he made the defamatory comments, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit certified a related question of D.C. law to the D.C. Court of Appeals. The D.C. Court of Appeals held that D.C. follows the scope-of-employment test when determining agency. However, the court did not apply the test to the facts of the case because it found such fact-intensive questions were more appropriately left to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The case ultimately went to trial in that jurisdiction, and in May 2023 a jury found former President Trump liable for sexually abusing and defaming E. Jean Carroll. The former president was ordered to pay $5 million in damages.
Attorney Misconduct and Ethics Violations
Judge AliKhan, serving on a panel, determined that a disbarred attorney had not satisfied the criteria for reinstatement to the D.C. Bar in In re Joseph. The petitioner was disbarred in 2011 after misrepresenting his residency in applications to practice in California. Additionally, he represented himself in “vexatious” litigation, including two lawsuits against the California Bar after failing to pass the California Bar Exam. He falsely presented himself as eligible to practice law in California and Ohio. The court declined to reinstate him to the D.C. Bar because of these actions and because the petitioner did not demonstrate remorse or acknowledge his wrongdoing.
In the case of In re Dana A. Paul, the D.C. Office of Disciplinary Counsel investigated the petitioner for violating multiple D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct after he disclosed client confidences in a disciplinary complaint that he filed against his former client. The Office of Disciplinary Counsel recommended a 90-day suspension, which the petitioner challenged, claiming that his disclosures were necessary to defend against an earlier disciplinary action filed by the client. Judge AliKhan, writing for the court, found that the petitioner was not immune, but that he should only receive a 30-day suspension rather than a 90-day suspension.
Judge AliKhan served on a panel that affirmed a decision by the D.C. Board of Elections per curiam in McDuffie v. D.C. Board of Elections. The case arose after the D.C. Board of Elections determined that a candidate for Attorney General for the District of Columbia who had been serving as a Councilmember since 2012 was not eligible because he did not meet the required statutory criteria. The candidate alleged that he was eligible to run under a provision of D.C. Code concerning lawyers “actively engaged for at least 5 of the last 10 years” as an attorney employed in the District of Columbia by the District of Columbia. The court affirmed the Board of Elections in reading the Code as requiring “employment in a position for which membership in a bar is a condition.” As a result, the candidate, Kenyan McDuffie, suspended his campaign.
Professional Activities and Accolades
The National Association of Attorneys General awarded Judge AliKhan the Senior Staff of the Year in 2020. She received the South Asian Bar Association of Washington, D.C.’s Public Sector Trailblazer Award in 2019. Judge AliKhan is a member of the Board of Trustees for the American Inns of Court Foundation and of the Edward Coke Appellate Inn of Court. She is also a member of the American Law Institute, the Lawyers Club of Washington, the South Asian Bar Association of Washington, D.C., and the Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia.