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Who is Judge Maryellen Noreika, the district court judge for Hunter Biden's plea deal?

Analyzing the Hunter Biden plea deal collapse
Breaking down why the Hunter Biden plea deal collapsed 11:07

The real-time dissolution of a tentative plea deal between Hunter Biden and federal prosecutors in a Delaware courtroom Wednesday focused attention on Maryellen Noreika, the federal district court judge overseeing the case. 

Although plea deals must be approved by a judge, it's rare that they fall apart in live court, particularly in such a high-profile case. Hunter Biden's tentative agreement would have entailed pleading guilty to two counts of evading taxes and a diversion agreement requiring him to remain drug-free and crime-free to see a felony gun charge dismissed. 

But Noreika questioned whether it meant the president's son would be immune from prosecution for any other potential crimes, and expressed her discomfort with terms of the deal when an investigation was ongoing. 

"I have concerns about the agreement," Noreika said. "I can't let him plea to something if he thinks he has protection from something and he doesn't." After the two sides tried and failed to renegotiate, Hunter Biden entered a not guilty plea.

So who is U.S. District Court Judge Maryellen Noreika?

Noreika was nominated by then President Donald Trump — a point the Biden White House has been quick to raise — in December 2017. Both of Delaware's Democratic senators supported Noreika's nomination to the court. Sen. Tom Carper described her as a "highly-respected, sought-after" attorney with "a vast knowledge of the law and a thorough understanding of the courts," as evident from her decades-long career in the state's judicial system. Sen. Chris Coons praised Noreika's "impressive trial skills, deep experience in federal practice, and profound respect for the law."

In August 2018, she was confirmed by a voice vote in the Senate. 

Judge Maryellen Noreika
Judge Maryellen Noreika U.S. District Court, District of Delaware

Noreika practiced law in a private firm from 1993 until her confirmation in 2018. She was a patent litigator and partner at the Delaware law firm Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tunnell. According to the firm's website, her practice encompassed several industries — pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, computers, consumer products and telecommunications.

She earned a bachelor's degree from Lehigh University and master's degree from Columbia University, then graduated from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Law in 1993. 

In March, Noreika ruled that a defamation lawsuit Hunter Biden's laptop repairman filed against CNN, Politico and Hunter Biden could proceed through the Delaware courts, but tossed out the repairman's attempt to sue Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff.

Before becoming a judge, Noreika donated to candidates on both sides of the aisle, although she gave to Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas more times than to any other candidate or groups. In 2012, she donated $5,000 toward Republican Mitt Romney's presidential aspirations. In 2009, she donated $1,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and in 2008, she donated to the presidential campaigns of both Hillary Clinton and John McCain. She also donated $1,000 to former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum's presidential campaign. 

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