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Thomas Vanaskie

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Thomas Vanaskie
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Current Court Information:
United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
Title:   Judge
Station:   Philadelphia, PA
Appointed by:   Barack Obama
Approval vote:   77-20
Active:   4/21/2010-Present
Preceded by:   Franklin Van Antwerpen
Succeeded by:   Matthew Brann
Past post:   Middle District of Pennsylvania
Past chief:   1999-2006
Past term:   1994-2010
Personal History
Born:   1953
Hometown:   Shamokin, PA
Undergraduate:   Lycoming College, 1975
Law School:   Dickinson School of Law, 1978

Thomas Ignatius Vanaskie is a federal judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. He was nominated to the court by President Obama and was confirmed by the Senate on April 21, 2010.[1]


Vanaskie graduated from Lycoming College with his bachelor's degree in 1975 and from Dickinson School of Law with his J.D. in 1978.[1]

Professional career

Judicial career

Third Circuit

Nomination Tracker
 Candidate:Thomas Vanaskie
 Court:Third Circuit
 Progress:Confirmed 258 days after nomination.
ApprovedANominated:August 6, 2009
ApprovedAABA Rating:Unanimously Well Qualified
ApprovedAHearing:November 4, 2009
ApprovedAReported:December 3, 2009 
ApprovedAConfirmed:April 21, 2010
 Vote: 77-20

Vanaskie was nominated on August 6, 2009, to serve on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit by President President Obama.[2] On April 21, 2010, the Senate voted 77-20 to confirm him to the court.[3]

Judiciary Committee hearing

Vanaskie had a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on November 4, 2009. He reiterated his opinion that judges should abide by the philosophy of judicial restraint.[4] The committee voted 16-3 in support of his nomination.[5] The Senate voted 77-20 to confirm his nomination on April 21, 2010.[3]

On May 10, 2010, Judge Vanaskie was sworn in by Chief Judge Theodore McKee in front of fellow judges, family members, attorneys, and elected officials. After being sworn in, the judge proclaimed that, "the American dream is alive and well and present in this courtroom today." Vanaskie is only the second person from the Middle District of Pennsylvania to be confirmed to the Third Circuit. His duty station is based out of the Middle District of Pennsylvania, and he will travel to Philadelphia to hear arguments when the court is in session.[6]

Vanaskie's Public Questionnaire Available Here
Questions for the Record available here

Middle District of Pennsylvania

Vanaskie was nominated to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania by President Bill Clinton on November 17, 1993, to a new seat created by 104 Stat. 5089.[1] The judge was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on February 10, 1994, and received commission on February 11, 1994. He served as the chief judge of the court from 1999 to 2006.[1] Vanaskie left the Middle District of Pennsylvania after being elevated to the Third Circuit.

Notable cases

Computer hacker's conviction and sentence vacated for lack of proper venue (2014)

     United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (U.S. v. Auernheimer, 13-1816)

On April 11, 2014, a three-judge panel of the Third Circuit, composed of Judges Vanaskie, Joseph Greenaway, and Michael Chagares, vacated a hacker's conviction and prison sentence on charges relating to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA).[7]

In the underlying case, in June 2010, Andrew “weev” Auernheimer and co-conspirator Daniel Spiller discovered a security flaw on AT&T's network server that allowed them to obtain the email addresses of 114,000 iPad users. Auernheimer emailed the details of their find to several media outlets, and shared the full list of emails generated with a writer from Gawker, a news and gossip website. While Auernheimer resided in Arkansas and the servers affected were located in Texas and Georgia, he was prosecuted in New Jersey federal court, which Auernheimer argued was an improper venue under the circumstances. The District of New Jersey rationalized this course of action by saying that the email addresses of 4,500 New Jersey residents appeared on Auernheimer's list.[7]

In 2012, a jury convicted Auernheimer of identity fraud and conspiracy to access a computer without authorization, and in March 2013, he was sentenced by Judge Susan Wigenton to forty-one months in prison. On appeal to the Third Circuit, the three-judge panel found that Auernheimer's conviction must be vacated because of improper venue. Writing for the court in a precedential decision, Judge Chagares noted that New Jersey was "not the site of either essential conduct element" of the CFAA -- Auernheimer neither accessed nor obtained the unauthorized information in the state at any time.[7] Chagares continued, writing:

[E]ven assuming that defective venue could be amenable to harmless error review, the venue error here clearly affected Auernheimer’s substantial rights. ... The venue error in this case is not harmless because there was no evidence that any of the essential conduct elements occurred in New Jersey. If Auernheimer’s jury had been properly instructed on venue, it could not have returned a guilty verdict; the verdict rendered in this trial would have been different.[7][8]

Auernheimer was released after having spent thirteen months in prison.[7]

Carl Lewis and NJ Senator candidate residency requirements (2011)

     United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (Frederick Carlton Lewis, v. Kim Guadagno, Secretary of State, et al., 11-cv-3401)

Judge Vanaskie was a member of a special panel of judges, along with judges Anthony Scirica and Thomas Ambro, that determined whether or not Olympic runner and New Jersey Senate candidate Carl Lewis would be allowed to remain on the ballot after being removed by Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno over a residency dispute. Guadagno removed Lewis from the ballot saying that he failed to satisfy the four-year residency requirement.[9] Initially, a decision in Lewis's favor was made, and the court ordered his name be put back on the ballot. Judge Scirica dissented from that decision. The defendants appealed, and ultimately Judged Vanaskie, Scirica, Ambro ruled that Lewis's name may be left off the ballot because he did not show that the State officials had treated him unequally with regards to the residency requirement.[10]

See also

External links


Federal judicial offices
Preceded by:
NA - new seat
Middle District of Pennsylvania
Succeeded by:
Matthew Brann
Preceded by:
Franklin Van Antwerpen
Third Circuit Court of Appeals
Succeeded by: