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JNC Recommends Candidates for DC Superior Court Vacancies

Monday, November 22, 2021

The District of Columbia Judicial Nomination Commission (“Commission”) has recommended to the President the names of the nine attorneys listed below for his consideration in selecting a nominee to fill the judicial vacancies on the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (“Superior Court”) created by the anticipated retirements of the Honorable José M. López and the Honorable Judith A. Smith, and the resignation of the Honorable Florence Y. Pan. The President has sixty (60) days to select a nominee to fill each vacancy.

The Commission recommends the following candidates to fill Judge López’s vacancy:

Laura E. Crane, Esq., has served as an Assistant United States Attorney (“AUSA”) at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia (“District”) since 2014. Currently, she serves as a Deputy Chief in the Violent Crimes and Narcotics Trafficking Section, supervising AUSAs handling the investigation and prosecution of complex federal cases targeting violence and narcotics trafficking in the District. Before becoming a supervisor, Ms. Crane prosecuted violent crime matters in Superior Court. She has received the FBI Washington Field Office Service Award, the U.S. Attorney’s Office Impact Award (2017), the U.S. Attorney’s Office Award for Exceptional Service (2018), and the U.S. Attorney’s Office Team Award (2021).

Before joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Ms. Crane was a senior associate at WilmerHale in D.C. and a litigation associate at Cravath, Swaine, and Moore LLP, in New York, where she received an award in recognition of her outstanding pro bono service from the Legal Aid Society. Ms. Crane also worked in the Disability Rights Section of the Civil Rights Division, where she enforced compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) integration mandate.

Ms. Crane received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Spanish, magna cum laude, from Duke University and her Juris Doctor, summa cum laude, from the Washington University School of Law. Following law school, she clerked for the Honorable James E. Boasberg on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

Hon. Claudia A. Crichlow has served as an Administrative Law Judge for the District’s Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) since 2007. At OAH, Judge Crichlow presides over contested cases involving approximately 30 District government agencies, boards, and commissions. The cases cover various subject matters, including environmental law, tax law, building code regulations, and professional and vocational licensing. In 2015, Judge Crichlow was selected as Principal Administrative Law Judge for the Licensing and Enforcement Division, where in addition to carrying a full caseload, she is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Licensing and Enforcement Division. Before joining OAH, Judge Crichlow served as a staff attorney for the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia (PDS). During her years at PDS, Judge Crichlow served in several supervisory and managerial positions.

Judge Crichlow is an active member of the legal community. She is currently a member of the District’s Association of Administrative Law Judiciary, the American Bar Association, and the Washington Bar Association. She has participated in several programs designed to educate D.C. Bar members about the legal practice before OAH and encourage attorneys to provide pro-bono representation to pro se litigants. Judge Crichlow is also a teaching faculty member at the Howard University School of Law and Harvard Criminal Justice Institute.

Judge Crichlow received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Hunter College of the City University of New York and her Juris Doctor from the Georgetown University Law Center.

Ray D. McKenzie, Esq., is co-founder of WTAII PLLC, a boutique law firm specializing in white-collar defense and compliance. Before WTAII, Mr. McKenzie was an AUSA for the District of Maryland in Greenbelt, Maryland, where he prosecuted violent crimes, drug offenses, fraud, and human trafficking cases. Mr. McKenzie served the U.S. Attorney’s Office as Project EXILE coordinator, Civil Rights Coordinator, and Asset Forfeiture Coordinator. In 2018, he received the U.S. Attorney’s Award for Excellence in the Prosecution of Fraud. He is on the adjunct faculty of Georgetown University Law Center and Virginia Union University.

Before becoming an AUSA, Mr. McKenzie was a litigation associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, and Flom. He worked on internal investigations and government enforcement actions involving the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the False Claims Act, and the Securities Exchange Act. Mr. McKenzie represented domestic violence victims at Superior Court and filed amicus briefs and petitions for writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court. Before his legal practice, Mr. McKenzie served as a public school teacher in Hanover County and Alexandria, Virginia.

Mr. McKenzie earned his Bachelor of Arts degree, Master of Teaching degree, and Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia. He earned his Master of Divinity from the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology. Following law school, Mr. McKenzie clerked for the Honorable James R. Spencer on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

The Commission recommends the following candidates to fill Judge Smith’s vacancy:

Nelly J. Montenegro, Esq., is the Deputy Director of the Superior Court Domestic Violence Division (Division). In this role, she oversees operations to ensure accessibility and efficiency in the Division. She also led the Division’s transition to remote operations and supported the operational implementation of new rules and laws, including the Extreme Risk Protection and Anti-Stalking Order case types. Previously, Ms. Montenegro served as an Attorney Negotiator in the Division and negotiated thousands of cases involving domestic violence and family law, using trauma-informed negotiation strategies. She has also served on several court-wide committees, including the Mental Health Committee, Training & Onboarding Committee, and city-wide committees such as the Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board.

Before joining the Superior Court, Ms. Montenegro was a National Training and Policy Attorney at the American Bar Association’s Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence. She led multi-day, national litigation training institutes designed to assist legal-service attorneys with the skills to engage in trauma-informed, client-centered litigation by using an accessibility lens to ensure diverse populations can access high-quality legal services. Ms. Montenegro also served as a Staff Attorney at Ayuda, a District-based nonprofit organization, where she practiced domestic violence, family, and immigration law.

Ms. Montenegro received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and Political Science and a minor in Latinx Studies from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. She received her Juris Doctor, cum laude, from the University of Illinois College of Law. Ms. Montenegro is an active member of the Hispanic Bar Association of the District of Columbia.

Hon. Judith E. Pipe is a Magistrate Judge on the Superior Court. Since her appointment in January of 2020, Judge Pipe has served in the Domestic Violence Division and Criminal Division, presiding over criminal and civil matters.

Before her appointment, Judge Pipe was an attorney in the Trial Division at PDS. As a staff attorney for twelve years, she represented hundreds of individuals charged with offenses ranging from misdemeanors to homicides. Judge Pipe was sole or chief counsel in dozens of jury and bench trials in Superior Court. As a supervisor in the Trial Division, she directly supervised and trained multiple PDS attorneys and conducted various trainings for the defense community. During a period of restructuring, Judge Pipe served on the Drug Court Committee for Superior Court. In this role, she helped redesign the program into a nationally-recognized Drug Court program.

Judge Pipe graduated cum laude from American University with a major in Criminal Justice and Psychology and obtained her Juris Doctor, magna cum laude, from the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law.

Tara K. Ramchandani, Esq., is a Partner at Relman Colfax, a civil rights firm in the District. Her litigation focuses on ensuring equal opportunity in the provision of housing, public accommodations, and other services. For example, in Saint-Jean, et al. v. Emigrant Mortgage Co., et al., Ms. Ramchandani represented African American and Latino plaintiffs against a New York bank that targeted them for predatory, equity-stripping loans based on their race. In 2016, a jury found Emigrant liable for discrimination under federal and state law. In Fair Housing Rights Center in Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Morgan Properties Management Company, she secured the first federal court ruling in the nation to hold that a landlord can violate civil rights laws by refusing to consider the reasonable accommodation requests of disabled tenants seeking to change their rent due dates to align with the receipt of their monthly disability benefits.

Ms. Ramchandani served as a Wasserstein Public Interest Fellow at Harvard Law School in 2016 and has been selected as a Super Lawyers Rising Star in civil rights from 2014 to 2020. She has been an adjunct professor at Michigan Law School and regularly makes presentations regarding civil rights issues across the country.

Ms. Ramchandani received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Brown University and her Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School. Following law school, she clerked for the Hon. Algenon L. Marbley on the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.

The Commission recommends the following candidates to fill Judge Pan’s vacancy:

Veronica M. Sanchez, Esq., is a Senior AUSA who has served for the past eleven years at the United States Attorney’s Office in the District. Currently, she is the Chief of the Major Crimes Section in the Superior Court. In this role, she oversees attorneys responsible for investigating and prosecuting felony violent crimes in Superior Court, including economic crimes.

Before serving as Chief of the Major Crimes Section, Ms. Sanchez investigated and prosecuted cases ranging from simple assault to homicides in the Superior Court. She also served as a Senior AUSA in the Fraud Section focused on handling financial fraud matters in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Ms. Sanchez has also been awarded several United States Attorney’s Office Awards for Special Achievement throughout her tenure. Before joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Ms. Sanchez was a Trial Attorney with the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, where she worked on mergers in the Telecommunications and Media fields.

Ms. Sanchez received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Duke University and her Juris Doctor from the University of California School of Law. Following law school, Ms. Sanchez clerked for the Honorable Edward C. Reed on the United States District Court for the District of Nevada. She also clerked for the Honorable Melvin T. Brunetti on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Hon. Charles L. Thomas, Jr. has served as the first Administrative Law Judge for the District of Columbia assigned to the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) since August 2019. He currently presides over matters involving probable cause, detainee discipline, Interstate Compact on Placement of Children (ICPC), District of Columbia Government’s employee grievances, terminations, and residency claims, the Education Licensure Commission, and the Compulsory School Attendance Act. He also presides over administrative hearings relating to the revocation of juvenile parole rights, with the intent and aim of providing a fair process for youth while balancing the need to ensure effective community violence prevention.

Before his appointment, Judge Thomas served as a Hearing Officer for DYRS. In that role, he developed a comprehensive strategy to protect and expand the rights of individuals facing revocation of their liberty interests and freedoms in the District. Prior to his career at DYRS, Judge Thomas worked for the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services as a Policy Advisor providing technical assistance and recommendations on city-wide violence prevention, critical community responses, summer activity and funding planning, community-based grants, truancy, and various other matters. Judge Thomas began his career as a law clerk then as an assistant general counsel with the District’s Child and Family Services Agency, where he spent approximately eight years.

Judge Thomas received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of South Carolina and his Juris Doctor from Western Michigan University Law School.

Hon. Raquel Trabal serves as a Magistrate Judge on the Superior Court. She presides over the Parentage and Support Calendar.

Before her appointment, Judge Trabal served as an Attorney Negotiator in the Domestic Violence Division of the Superior Court for seven years. In that role, she negotiated Civil Protection Orders in high-conflict domestic violence matters. She was selected as a subject matter expert to assist in developing concrete systems and mechanisms to implement the new Extreme Risk Protection Order law, also known as Red Flag laws. She has presented specialized training on the role of trauma-informed practices and technology in domestic violence matters.

Judge Trabal also served as an Assistant Attorney General in the Child Support Policy and Training Sections of the Office of the Attorney General for the District. As a staff attorney for Legal Aid of Western Michigan, she represented clients primarily through the Reentry Law Project. That program assisted individuals with a civil consequence arising out of a criminal conviction. She represented clients in child support, social security benefits, identification card issues, and sex offender registry matters. In addition, she represented Spanish-speaking domestic violence victims in divorce, custody, and visitation matters.

Judge Trabal received her Bachelor of Arts degree in East Asian Studies and Law & Society from Oberlin College in 1999. After graduating from Oberlin, she taught English in Japan. In 2006, she received her Juris Doctor from Thomas M. Cooley Law School, where she served as Associate Editor for the Law Journal and President of the Hispanic Law Society.

Please direct any questions to the Commission’s Executive Director at (202) 879-0478 or [email protected].

Members of the District of Columbia Judicial Nomination Commission

Honorable Emmet G. Sullivan, Chair
United States District Court for the District of Columbia
United States Courthouse
333 Constitution Avenue, NW
Chambers 4935-Annex
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 354-3260
[email protected]

Mr. William Lucy
1831 Sudbury Lane, NW
Washington, DC 20012
(301) 520-0576
[email protected]

John J. McAvoy, Esq.
3110 Brandywine St, NW
Washington DC 20008
(202) 966-8544
[email protected]

Addy R. Schmitt, Esq.
Miller & Chevalier, Chtd.
900 16th Street, NW
Black Lives Matter Plaza
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 626-5837
[email protected]

Benjamin F. Wilson, Esq.
Beveridge & Diamond, PC
1900 N. Street, N.W., Suite 100
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 789-6023
[email protected]

The Honorable Marie C. Johns
PPC-Leftwich
1400 K Street, N.W., Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20005-2403
(202) 434-9124
[email protected]

Vincent H. Cohen, Jr., Esq.
Dechert LLP
1900 K Street N.W.
Washington, DC 20006-1110
(202) 261-3432
[email protected]