Katherine Polk Failla Appointed to the Southern District of New York
By Stephen Ratner and Stephen Holinstat
On June 25, 2012, President Barack Obama, on the recommendation of Senator Charles Schumer, nominated Katherine Polk Failla to serve as a U.S. District Court Judge for the Southern District of New York. On March 4, 2013, the Senate confirmed Judge Failla and on March 5, 2013, President Barack Obama appointed Judge Failla to her judicial post. Judge Failla succeeded Judge Denise Cote, who assumed senior status on December 15, 2011.
Born in 1969 in Edison, New Jersey, Judge Failla received her B.A. summa cum laude in 1990 from the College of William and Mary and her J.D. cum laude in 1993 from Harvard Law School. While in law school, she served as co-editor-in-chief and articles editor of the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy and was a member of the Harvard Women’s Law Association. From 1993 to 1994, Judge Failla clerked for the Honorable Joseph E. Irenas of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.
Judge Failla entered private practice in 1994, joining the New York office of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP. As an associate at Morgan Lewis, Judge Failla focused her practice on commercial litigation and securities and enforcement matters. From 1995 through 1999, she defended Merrill Lynch and several of its related entities in a series of civil litigations and regulatory proceedings stemming from the 1994 bankruptcy filing by Orange County, California. While at Morgan Lewis, Judge Failla also devoted substantial time to pro bono matters, including the representation of clients in immigration and family court proceedings.
In 2000, Judge Failla became an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York, during which time she participated in numerous programs focusing on issues of criminal law and attorney ethics. In 2004, Judge Failla was promoted to Deputy Chief of the Criminal Appeals Unit. In 2008, Judge Failla was promoted again to Chief of the Criminal Appeals Unit, a position in which she served until her appointment to the bench. Among Judge Failla’s significant cases while working in the Criminal Appeals Unit were: United States v. Odeh, et al. (prosecution of Mohammed Odeh and many others for the 1998 United States embassy bombings); United States v. Sattar, Stewart, Yousry (prosecution of Lynne Stewart and others for passing information to and from convicted terrorist Omar Abdel-Rahman); United States v. Stein, et al. (KPMG tax shelter fraud case); United States v. Coplan, et al. (tax shelters promoted by Ernst & Young LLP); and United States v. Rigas (prosecution of John Rigas for the Adelphia Communications Corporation fraud case).
Recommending then-Assistant U.S. Attorney Failla for appointment to the bench, Senator Schumer stated that she “will make a fantastic judge on the Southern District court. With her stellar legal credentials, and many years of experience both in private practice and currently as Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, she is amply qualified for the position and I’m very pleased to recommend her to President Obama.” In his statement accompanying the nomination of Judge Failla, President Obama remarked that she would “serve the American people with integrity and a steadfast commitment to justice.” Judge Failla’s induction ceremony was attended by, among many others, Judge Irenas and Preetinder Singh “Preet” Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Judge Irenas noted that Judge Failla is “extraordinarily bright, hard-working, and talented.” He remarked that her appointment to the bench is “a tribute to the system and well deserved” and that it “encourages faith in the judicial selection process.”