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Law alumna Orelia Merchant (L'98) wins confirmation to the federal bench

May 03, 2023 12:00 PM
Alina Hernandez ahernandez4@tulane.edu



The U.S. Senate has confirmed Tulane Law alumna Orelia Merchant (L'98) to a lifetime appointment on the federal bench, filling an open seat in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

Merchant was confirmed Wednesday and is on one of the most diverse rosters of judicial picks by the Biden administration. The Senate confirmed her by a 51-48 vote.

Merchant is currently New York’s chief deputy attorney general for state counsel, and previously worked in the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York. In her current role, she is a member of the New York State Attorney General’s executive leadership team, overseeing seven bureaus statewide that handle litigation involving the state, including its agencies and officials. She supervises 8,000 active cases statewide, and manages 450 employees, including 250 attorneys, in both prosecution and defense of state actors and actions.

From 2002 to 2019, Merchant served in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York as an Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney with direct oversight of the Office’s Civil and Administrative Divisions, providing counsel on matters before the office. In that position, she had oversight of the Office’s Civil and Administrative Divisions, where she managed a diverse, demanding, and complex caseload. She has prosecuted asset forfeiture, environmental, health care fraud, and mortgage fraud cases, and defended employment discrimination, medical malpractice, bankruptcy, immigration, personal injury, prisoner litigation, constitutional challenges, and federal program litigation cases. Merchant received a Director’s Award for Superior Performance as an AUSA – Civil from the Executive Office for United States Attorneys in 2016.

She formerly worked for the Environmental Protection Agency as Assistant Regional Counsel in Chicago, Ill. and served as a Special Asst. U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Louisiana. 

Merchant received her JD from Tulane Law, where she worked in the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic and was among a group of students who took on the cause of Black residents in Convent, La., who suffered health impacts from chemical plants in their community. She received her master's from the College of William and Mary in marine science, and her bachelor's degree from Dillard University in physics and mathematics. 

More on Merchant's nomination here.

More on her career can be found here.