WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden announced Tuesday his plans to nominate 11 candidates to the federal judiciary, the most any recent president has put forth in his first 100 days. The slate of candidates reflects a range of diversity in both personal and professional backgrounds.
“This trailblazing slate of nominees draws from the very best and brightest minds of the American legal profession,” Biden said in announcing the slate.
“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,” he continued.
Among the nominees are jurists who have experience on military and family courts, professionals with backgrounds as public defenders and prosecutors, a county administrator and an intellectual property lawyer.
The group also includes three Black women nominated to serve on the powerful Circuit Courts, the first Muslim American to be nominated to a federal court and the first Asian Pacific American woman to serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
An especially notable nomination is Biden’s intent to place U.S. District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The D.C. Circuit Court is widely seen as one of the most influential courts in the country and has long been viewed as a steppingstone for Supreme Court nominees.
Biden has promised to name a Black woman to the Supreme Court, a commitment that put renewed scrutiny on the lack of diversity on the federal bench. The president’s first round of announcements signals an interest in diversifying the court system across multiple dimensions.
The move comes after years of concern among liberals that the legal system had shifted too far to the right under the tenure of former President Donald Trump. With unified control of Congress and the White House, Democrats and progressive legal organizations are pressuring the White House to prioritize changes to the courts.
There are 68 vacancies on the federal judicial system, including seven appellate court vacancies and 61 district court vacancies. That count is less than the open Supreme Court seat, 86 district court seats and 17 circuit court seats that Trump was able to fill when entering office, but more than the 44 district court vacancies and 13 Circuit Court vacancies inherited by former President Barack Obama.
Below are some of the nominees Biden has put forth to serve as jurists on the federal district and circuit courts.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson
Judge Kentaji Brown Jackson was nominated by Obama in 2013 to preside over the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. She has served as a public defender in Washington and clerked for Justice Stephen Breyer after attending Harvard Law School. There is widespread speculation that Jackson may replace her former mentor and boss as the first Black woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Cunningham is a partner at the Chicago law firm Perkins Coie LLP with a long legal career as a patent lawyer. Cunningham, who is Black, has been nominated to oversee the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
Jackson-Akiwumi is a partner at the Washington law firm Zuckerman Spaeder, where she specialized in complex civil litigation, white-collar criminal defense and investigations. Jackson-Akiwumi worked for a decade as a staff attorney at the Federal Defender Program in the Northern District of Illinois.
Jackson-Akiwumi would replace Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals based in Chicago and serve as the only Black woman on the court.
Judge Deborah Boardman
Boardman serves as a U.S. Magistrate Judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, which she was appointed to in 2019. Prior, she served as a public defender for a decade and worked as an associate at the law firm Hogan Lovells, then known as Hogan & Hartson, in Washington.
Judge Zahid N. Quraishi
Quraishi has served as a United States Magistrate Judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey since 2019. Prior, he was a partner at New Jersey law firm Riker Danzig where he led white-collar criminal investigations. Biden has nominated Quraishi to serve as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. If confirmed, Quraishi would become the first Muslim American to serve as a federal judge.
Rodriguez is a partner at the Denver law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr where she leads practices handling complex litigation and government investigations. Rodriguez also worked as a federal investigator within the Department of Justice. Rodriguez has been nominated to serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.