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JNC Recommends Candidates for D.C. Superior Court Vacancies

Friday, March 24, 2023

(Washington, DC) – The District of Columbia Judicial Nomination Commission (“Commission”) has recommended to the President the names of the six attorneys listed below for his consideration in selecting nominees to fill the judicial vacancies on the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (“Superior Court”) created by the retirements of the Honorable William W. Nooter and the Honorable John M. Campbell. The President has sixty (60) days to select a nominee to fill each vacancy.

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

Hon. Claudia A. Crichlow has served as an Administrative Law Judge for the District of Columbia 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 such areas as 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 has also been a faculty member at the Howard University School of Law and Harvard Criminal Justice Institute trial advocacy program. 

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.

Kevann A. Gardner, Esq., is an experienced trial attorney who has represented indigent clients in felony and misdemeanor cases for over ten years. He currently handles serious felonies, including homicides and sexual assault cases as a supervising attorney in the Trial Division of PDS. He also specializes in analyzing forensic information as the senior member of PDS’ Forensic Practice Group.   

Mr. Gardner began working at PDS in 2005 as a criminal defense investigator. He previously served as a law clerk, staff attorney, hiring committee member, and client intake representative. He also worked as a public defender at the Legal Aid Society in the Bronx, New York, handling misdemeanor and felony cases. He has lectured on trial techniques in trial advocacy programs at Harvard Law School and the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law (“Cardozo School of Law”). 

Mr. Gardner earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Oakwood University and his Juris Doctor from the Cardozo School of Law. While in law school, Mr. Gardner worked for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the New York State Assembly Subcommittee on Election Day Operations and Voter Disenfranchisement, and for the Honorable Cheryl E. Chambers in the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court.

Kenechukwu O. Okocha, Esq., is a Senior Assistant United States Attorney (“AUSA”) who has served for the past twelve years at the United States Attorney’s Office in the District of Columbia. Currently, he is a Deputy Chief for the Sex Offense and Domestic Violence (“SODV”) Section, where he supervises and trains attorneys prosecuting sexual abuse and domestic violence offenses. Before becoming a supervisor, Mr. Okocha was a Senior Sexual Offense AUSA, investigating and trying cases in both the Superior Court and the United States District Court. He was awarded multiple Special Achievement Awards for his work.

Mr. Okocha is a founding member of the D.C. Chapter of the National Black Prosecutors Association, and has served on its executive board for two years. He also is a member of the District of Columbia’s Children’s Justice Task Force and chairs SODV’s Equitable Prosecution Working Group, which has spurred restorative justice initiatives and expansion of language access for crime victims. 

Mr. Okocha received undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also obtained certification in prosecution leadership from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. Following law school, he worked for the Greenlining Institute, a civil rights organization advocating for historically underrepresented groups, and currently serves on its Board of Directors. Mr. Okocha also previously served as an Assistant District Attorney in Wisconsin, handling cases ranging from misdemeanor domestic violence offenses to homicides.

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

Special Master Katherine E. Oler has served on the United States Court of Federal Claims since 2017. She presides over cases brought pursuant to the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act.

Before assuming her current position, Special Master Oler served as an active duty Judge Advocate General (“JAG”) in the United States Air Force. Her work as a JAG took her to various locations in the United States and the Middle East and assignments in Panama, Germany, and Korea. She primarily worked as a criminal litigator, holding positions as a first-chair felony prosecutor, a defense attorney, and a trial judge. Her final position on active duty was as the Air Force’s Chief Prosecutor and Chief Government Appellate Counsel. Special Master Oler served in the Air Force for 21 years, retiring as a colonel.

Special Master Oler received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Wellesley College and her Juris Doctor from the Boston University School of Law. She graduated from the Army’s 51st Military Judges Course, where she was named the top graduate.

Hon. Judith E. Pipe is a Magistrate Judge on the Superior Court. Since her appointment in January 2020, Judge Pipe has served in the Domestic Violence and Criminal Divisions, 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 the Superior Court. As a supervisor in the Trial Division, she directly supervised and trained multiple PDS attorneys and conducted trainings for the defense bar. During a period of restructuring, Judge Pipe served on the Superior Court’s Drug Court Committee, and helped redesign the program into a nationally-recognized Drug Court.  

Judge Pipe graduated cum laude from American University and obtained her Juris Doctor, magna cum laude, from the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law.

Charles J. Willoughby, Jr., Esq., has served as an AUSA in the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia since 2014. He was recently promoted to Deputy Chief of the Major Crimes Section of the Superior Court Division. During the transition, he continues to serve as the Deputy Chief of the Case Initiation Unit of the General Crimes Section, supervising AUSAs handling the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes and other felony matters in the Superior Court. Before taking on his current role, Mr. Willoughbly was Deputy Chief in the Misdemeanor Unit of the General Crimes Section. Before becoming a supervisory, he was a line AUSA prosecuting various criminal matters, including cybercrimes and homicides in the District of Columbia. He was the inaugural recipient of the AUSA Association’s Patricia J. Smoot Award (2021) for demonstrating great leadership, a commitment to inclusiveness, and passion for the mission of the Office. 

Before joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Mr. Willoughby served as an Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Division of the Virgin Islands Department of Justice, where he managed and prosecuted cases involving drugs, weapons, domestic violence, homicide, and other violent crimes. He also practiced criminal and civil law at a firm in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. 

Mr. Willoughby is a native of the District of Columbia. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Morehouse College and Belmont University and his Juris Doctor degree from the Howard University School of Law.

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

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

Benjamin F. Wilson, Esq.
7825 Orchid Street, N.W.
Washington, DC  20012
(202) 657-2534
[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]

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

Yaida O. Ford, Esq.
Ford Law Pros P.C.
1001 L Street, SE
Washington, DC, 20003
(202) 792-4946
[email protected]  

The Honorable Linda W. Cropp
4001 18th Street, NW
Washington, DC  20011
(202) 726-0505
[email protected]

The Honorable Tanya S. Chutkan
United States District Court   
for the District of Columbia
United States Courthouse
333 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC  20001 
(202) 354-3390
[email protected]