Appointed by Trump, Hunter Biden trial judge spent most of her career in civil law


The judge presiding over Hunter Biden’s federal gun trial in Delaware is a former corporate civil lawyer with a background in biology who was nominated to the bench by the Biden family’s chief political antagonist: former President Donald Trump.

But even while that might raise partisan eyebrows and questions of political pressure in the highly watched case, District Judge Maryellen Noreika was recommended for the bench by the two Democratic senators.

She has a brief history of political donations to both parties — mostly Republicans — and had not worked on criminal cases or presided over a courtroom before getting the nod as a federal judge. The New York Times reported she was registered to vote as a Democrat from 2000-2020 until changing her registration to no party affiliation.

She has presided over a trial that has laid bare some of the president’s son’s darkest moments, including drug addiction. Outside her courtroom, international media strain to get a glimpse of members of the first family as they come and go.

In her Senate confirmation hearing, Noreika said she admires judges who are prepared and “willing to listen and give litigants an opportunity to be heard. … They want to make people feel like they’ve been listened to and been given a fair shot.”

If convicted, Hunter Biden faces up to 25 years in prison, though first-time offenders do not get anywhere near the maximum, and it’s unclear whether the judge would give him time behind bars.

In a written answer to questions about sentencing from now-Vice President Kamala Harris, Noreika said she “would listen to arguments from the parties, including requests for leniency, and consider statements made by victims. If confirmed, I would do my best to impose a sentence that is sufficient, but not greater than necessary.”’

Born in Pittsburgh, the 57-year-old Noreika graduated from Lehigh University in 1988 before earning her master’s degree in biology from Columbia University in 1990. She earned her law degree in 1993 from the University of Pittsburgh with magna cum laude honors.

Noreika spent the next 25 years at the Delaware law firm of Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tunnell, where she earned partner in 2001. According to her Senate confirmation questionnaire, most of her work was in federal civil litigation involving intellectual property. It said she tried “at least 30″ cases to verdict or final decision and most were nonjury trials. She also listed no criminal law experience.

Asked to list “all professional business, fraternal scholarly, civic or charitable” organizations she had belonged to since law school, Noreika answered, “None.”

For pro bono work, Noreika wrote she had spent 15 years as a guardian ad litem for children in Delaware Family Court.

“These cases have involved difficult custody issues, including allegations of sexual and physical abuse, neglect and abandonment,” Noreika wrote. She described “taking children out to lunch and to dinner and fun activities to get them to engage with me and trust me.”

Her position as judge in the Hunter Biden criminal trial put her in the national spotlight and made her a target of speculation over political partisanship.

It was Noreika who torpedoed a plea deal that would have settled the gun case when she raised concerns about the terms of the agreement in 2023.

Noreika has presided over a Biden-related case before: In March 2023, she dismissed part of a defamation lawsuit brought by the owner of a Delaware computer repair shop where Hunter Biden left his laptop in 2019.

Federal campaign finance records show she had donated at least $15,000 to political candidates between 2005-2014, most of it going to Republicans, including current U.S. Sens. Tom Cotton and Mitt Romney. But she also donated to the presidential campaigns of both Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican John McCain in 2008.

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