City Chief of Staff Travis McDonough slated for federal judge nomination

photo Travis McDonough

All that stands in the way of Chattanooga city Chief of Staff Travis R. McDonough and a federal judgeship is a background check and the U.S. Senate, but neither should provide much resistance.

Multiple sources with knowledge of the recent evaluations confirmed Tuesday that McDonough will be President Barack Obama's nominee for the seat here currently held by U.S. District Judge Curtis L. Collier.

Collier is taking senior status, a type of semi-retirement, in October.

McDonough declined to comment about the pending nomination when asked Tuesday night after the Chattanooga City Council meeting.

The nomination process is often held close to the vest until the official announcement. That is expected to come from the White House in September.

McDonough will then face Senate confirmation hearings. Though the vetting process likely began with U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper it was followed up with a nod to U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, sources say.

With those behind-the-scenes approvals and a low-profile federal district such as East Tennessee, McDonough will likely see little resistance from the Senate.

McDonough beat out at least four other hopefuls vying for the spot -- Celeste Creswell and Leah Gerbitz, both of the Miller and Martin law firm, Lee Davis and U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan K. Lee.

There are five active district judges in the Eastern District of Tennessee, which stretches from Johnson County in the northeast corner of the state to Lincoln County in the middle of the state. The district holds 41 Tennessee counties and a population estimated at more than 2.4 million people.

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke named McDonough to his "transition team" staff shortly after being elected in March 2013. McDonough became Berke's chief of staff and advisor shortly afterward.

In 1997, McDonough joined the local law firm Miller and Martin, practicing mostly civil law, with victories defending a city councilman, a bio-fuel company and Tyson Foods.

He earned his law degree from Vanderbilt University and passed the bar in 1997. Prior to law school he graduated from the University of the South summa cum laude in 1994 and was a Harry S. Truman scholar in 1993. He is from Jasper, Tenn.

Contact staff writer Todd South at or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @tsouthCTFP.

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