Among the nearly a dozen nominees for the federal bench that President Biden announced Tuesday is a Black female judge who is also on the short list for an eventual Supreme Court nomination.
U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who Biden will seek to put on the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C., topped the list of judicial nominations unveiled by the White House. Tuesday’s announcement included Biden’s selections for 10 other vacancies and the list marks the first tranche of judicial nominees of Biden’s presidency.
On the campaign trial, Biden vowed to bring more diversity to the federal judiciary — a vow that included a promise to put a Black woman on the U.S. Supreme Court. (There currently are no vacancies on the high court, but progressives are calling on Justice Stephen Breyer to retire at the end of this term, so Biden can choose his replacement while Democrats control the Senate.)
Brown Jackson is one of the judges that have been floated for a potential Supreme Court spot. For now, she has been selected by Biden to fill the D.C. federal appellate court seat left open by Judge Merrick Garland, who recently was confirmed as Attorney General.
Eight women were on the list announced Tuesday. The vast majority of nominees were people of color. Progressive legal advocates have also called on Biden to bring professional diversity to the federal bench, which is dominated with former prosecutors and big law alum.
Multiple judges on Biden’s list have experience has public defenders.
The nominations are Biden’s first dent in the federal judiciary after former President Donald Trump went on a four-year judge nominating spree, stacking the judiciary largely with young, ultra conservative judges and lawyers — some rated simply as “not qualified” by the American Bar Association — whose impact will be felt for generations.
In addition to three Supreme Court justices, Trump and then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) successfully confirmed more than 220 federal judges in lower courts. At the appellate level, Trump had around the same number of nominees confirmed in four years as former President Barack Obama did in eight.
McConnell bragged in 2019 about the vacancies left over from Obama’s years in office, which gave Trump an open field to make appointments.
“I’ll tell you why,” McConnell told Fox News’ Sean Hannity, asked about the Obama vacancies. “I was in charge of what we did the last two years of the Obama administration.”
In addition to their conservative slant and generally young age, Trump appointees were also disproportionately white men.
Vanita Gupta, now Biden’s nominee to become associate attorney general, panned Trump’s first wave of judicial nominees in BuzzFeed News near the end of Trump’s first year in office.
“Trump’s nominees don’t just lack the necessary legal experience and work ethic, though both of these should be deal breakers,” Gupta wrote. “Many also lack the essential qualities of fairness and impartiality.”
Here is the full list of Biden nominees:
- Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson: Nominee for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
- Tiffany Cunningham: Nominee for the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
- Candace Jackson-Akiwumi: Nominee for the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
- Judge Deborah Boardman: Nominee for the United States District Court for the District of Maryland
- Judge Lydia Griggsby: Nominee for the United States District Court for the District of Maryland
- Julien Neals: Nominee for the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey
- Judge Zahid N. Quraishi: Nominee for the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey
- Regina Rodriguez: Nominee for the United States District Court for the District of Colorado
- Margaret Strickland: Nominee for the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico
- Judge Rupa Ranga Puttagunta: Nominee for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia