President Joe Biden has released his first slate of federal judicial nominations, 11 in total, including three Black women for federal circuit court vacancies and a man who could become the first Muslim-American federal judge.
In a statement on Wednesday, Biden hailed the “broad diversity of background experience and perspective” of the nominees, which the White House said reflects “the President’s deeply-held conviction that the federal bench should reflect the full diversity of the American people”.
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“This trailblazing slate of nominees draws from the very best and brightest minds of the American legal profession,” Biden said.
The nominees, nine of whom are women, must be confirmed by the United States Senate and are Biden’s first response to the swift ideological reshaping of the federal judiciary under former President Donald Trump, aided in part by the blocking of President Barack Obama’s nominees at the end of his presidency by the then Republican-controlled Senate.
Trump appointed 226 federal judges during his four-year presidency, at a faster rate than most of his predecessors. Former Presidents Obama and George W Bush, for instance, appointed 320 and 322 federal judges during their eight-year terms, respectively, according to the Pew Research Center.
Notably, Trump appointed 54 judges to the US’s 13 powerful federal appeals courts in four years, nearly the same number Obama appointed in eight. Of his overall appointees, just 16 percent were not white, as opposed to 36 percent under Obama, 18 percent under Bush and 25 percent under former President Bill Clinton, according to Pew.
Supreme Court promise
Biden’s nominees include three Black women to influential appeals court judgeships: Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson for the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit; Tiffany Cunningham for the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit; and Candace Jackson-Akiwumi for the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
Biden has also promised to nominate a Black woman to the US Supreme Court, the highest court in the country, if there is a vacancy during his presidency. Trump filled three seats on the nine-judge bench with conservatives nominees during his presidency, the most of any president since Ronald Reagan, who left office in 1989.
Nominee Jackson, who if confirmed would take the place of recently confirmed Attorney General Merrick Garland, is considered a top contender for the Supreme Court. She has been a federal district court judge since 2013 and was on Obama’s shortlist for the nomination in 2016.
Biden’s nominees also include Zahid N Quraishi, a New Jersey magistrate judge, who would be the nation’s first Muslim American to serve on a federal district court, and Judge Florence Pan, who would be the first Asian-American judge to serve on the US District Court for the District of Columbia, the White House said in a statement.