Mar 30, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden to nominate groundbreaking first slate of federal judges

A photo of Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Photo: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Biden on Tuesday announced plans to nominate 11 judges to the federal courts, including D.C. District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to replace former D.C. Circuit Court Judge Merrick Garland, who is now U.S. attorney general.

Why it matters: The nominees include three Black women and, if confirmed, could result in the first Muslim federal judge in the country's history, the first AAPI woman to serve on the D.C. District Court, and the first woman of color as a federal judge in Maryland, according to the White House.

  • The selections "reflect the president’s deeply held conviction that the federal bench should reflect the full diversity of the American people," the White House wrote in a news release.

Between the lines: The nomination of Jackson will likely spur discussion about a potential nomination for the Supreme Court.

  • Biden has said he will nominate the country's first Black female justice, and the D.C. Circuit Court to which Jackson is nominated is often viewed as a stepping stone for the highest court.
  • Jackson was once a clerk for Justice Stephen Breyer, the oldest justice on the Supreme Court.

Other nominees:

  • Zahid N. Quraishi, a magistrate judge and nominee for the New Jersey District Court, would be the first Muslim American to serve on the federal bench.
  • Tiffany Cunningham, a patent litigator in Chicago, was nominated to the Federal Circuit Appeals Court. She would be the first Black woman to serve on that court.
  • Florence Y. Pan, a D.C. Superior Court judge, is nominated to replace Jackson on the D.C. District Court. She would be the first Asian American woman on the court.
  • Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, who has served as a federal public defender for the last decade, is a nominee for the Seventh Circuit Appeals Court. She would be the only Black woman on that court's bench.

Other nominations include:

  • Magistrate Judge Deborah Boardman and Federal Claims Court Judge Lydia Griggsby for the Maryland District Court.
  • Julien Neals, a county counsel and acting county administrator in New Jersey, to serve on New Jersey's District Court.
  • Civil rights and criminal lawyer Margaret Strickland for the New Mexico District Court.
  • Former federal prosecutor Regina Rodriguez for the Colorado District Court.

What he's saying: “This trailblazing slate of nominees draws from the very best and brightest minds of the American legal profession," Biden said in a statement.

  • "Each is deeply qualified and prepared to deliver justice faithfully under our Constitution and impartially to the American people — and together they represent the broad diversity of background, experience, and perspective that makes our nation strong."

The White House noted in its news release that "none of the last four administrations had nominated more than two candidates by this point in their presidency."

Editor's note: This story was corrected to reflect that Florence Y. Pan is a judge on the D.C. Superior Court, not the Federal Claims Court.

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