School of Law professor nominated to U.S. District Court judgeship

October 06, 2023

Professor Sarah Russell

Quinnipiac law professor Sarah French Russell has been nominated to serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut by President Joe Biden this week.

In a White House briefing issued October 4, Russell was described as one who is “…extraordinarily qualified, experienced, and devoted to the rule of law and our Constitution.”

Quinnipiac School of Law Dean Jennifer Brown said the nomination signals the sterling reputation Russell has developed in the profession.

"The nomination is an extremely well-deserved honor that recognizes Professor Russell’s wisdom, expertise and compassion," Brown said. "We who have worked with her on committees, in the classroom, and in the community have seen firsthand the patience and precision she brings to all of her work. These same qualities will soon serve the people of Connecticut and our nation as Professor Russell becomes Judge Russell."

Russell is also director of the Quinnipiac School of Law Civil Justice Clinic. She serves on the Connecticut Sentencing Commission and as Counsel to the Federal Grievance Committee for the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut.

Prior to joining Quinnipiac in 2011, Russell was director of the Arthur Liman Public Interest Program at Yale Law School and taught in Yale’s Criminal Defense, Prison Legal Services, and Supreme Court clinics. Russell also worked at the Federal Public Defender’s Office in New Haven. Russell clerked for Chief Judge Michael B. Mukasey in the Southern District of New York and for Judge Chester J. Straub on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

During her years at Quinnipiac, Russell has made many impactful contributions to the School of Law and its community, said Brown.

“It’s important to recognize the wonderful teacher that she is, and the wonderful mentor that she has been to so many students. These people are now alumni who are reaching back to us, and to Sarah, to express their gratitude to her for the way she helped them become the lawyers that they are,” said Brown.

In addition to her strengths as a teacher, Russell has been an inspirational “institutional citizen,” said Brown.

“She has been a voice of rigor and reason when we have been looking at our curriculum or when we have been hiring new faculty and staff. That is a sort of unselfish service that I think too often goes unremarked and is really going to be a part of what makes her a great judge,” said Brown.

Russell’s confirmation process will include consideration and approval by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and a full vote in the U.S. Senate. In a joint statement issued October 4, Connecticut U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy applauded Russell’s nomination.

“Sarah Russell has been a relentless champion of justice — making legal rights real for countless people needing an advocate, and giving voice to the voiceless and most vulnerable,” said Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “In both the courtroom and classroom, she has led by example. Throughout her stellar career — as a teacher, public defender, and clinic head — upholding the rule of law has been her life’s work. She has earned esteem from opposing litigants as well as allies, including prosecutors, judges and defense attorneys. On the Judiciary Committee, I’ll push for her swift confirmation.”

Murphy stated he was glad to see President Biden nominate Russell.

“Sarah is not only an experienced litigator, but also an expert in her field as a leading researcher on sentencing policy and juvenile justice. I am confident the District of Connecticut will be well served by her deep commitment to fair and equal justice, and I look forward to her confirmation vote,” said Murphy.

Brown noted that, in recent memory, Russell is the second full-time faculty member from Quinnipiac School of Law to be nominated for an appointment to the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut.

Brown follows Judge Jeffrey Alker Meyer, who has served on the court since February 2014. Meyer was a Quinnipiac School of Law professor from 2006 to 2014.

“Sarah is now part of the developing tradition,” said Brown. “I believe that it shows both the intellectual acumen of our faculty, and the practical nature of our program, that our faculty would be deemed ready to take on the challenges of the courtroom as judges.”

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