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VA Solicitor General Nominated to Serve as Federal Judge

person smiling
Toby Heytens photo Jesús Pino, courtesy University of Virginia School of Law.

President Joe Biden nominated Virginia’s top trial lawyer to the federal bench last week. Solicitor General Toby Heytens has argued numerous high-profile cases – most recently defending Governor Ralph Northam’s decision to remove the Robert E. Lee monument in Richmond.  

Biden nominated Heytens to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The Richmond-based court hears appeals from federal district courts in Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. The Fourth Circuit has 15 judges with lifetime appointments. Heytens would replace Judge Barbara Milano Keenan who will take senior status in August.  

Heytens, who clerked for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the early 2000s, is a law professor at the University of Virginia and has been on leave since 2018 to serve as Virginia Solicitor General.   

Biden announced a slate of eight new candidates for the federal bench last week. He also nominated Assistant U.S. Attorney Patricia Tolliver Giles, who would be the second woman of color to serve on the federal bench in Virginia. 

Heytens has won two cases for the Commonwealth at the United States Supreme Court. In Virginia House of Delegates v. Bethune-Hill, the court ruled that the House and its speaker lacked standing to appeal a 2018 court ruling that 11 of Virginia’s voting districts were racially gerrymandered and unconstitutional. And in Virginia Uranium, Inc. v. Warren, the court upheld Virginia’s uranium ban.  

Heyten’s colleague, Rich Schragger, is a law professor at UVA. He called Heytens a supremely qualified, excellent lawyer.  

“Toby is just incredibly smart and enjoys making legal arguments,” Schragger said. “He’s passionate about law and about getting things right.” 

Schragger said he also has a great sense of humor.  

“There’s a podcast about him discussing with the dean of the law school the legal issues of Game of Thrones,” Schragger said. 

Senator Mark Warner (D) recommended Heytens to Biden. He said he believes Heytens will be “easily confirmed” by the Senate.