President Biden will announce 11 judicial nominees on Tuesday, including three Black women for federal appellate court vacancies and the first Muslim American to serve on a district court, The Washington Post reports. The highest-profile nomination is U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson for the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, often viewed as a step toward the U.S. Supreme Court.
Biden has pledged to nominate judges from diverse personal and professional backgrounds and said he would appoint a Black woman to the Supreme Court.
Jackson, who would fill the vacancy left by Attorney General Merrick Garland, clerked for Justice Stephen Breyer, the oldest justice on the Supreme Court, the Post notes. She was a public defender and member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission before being appointed to the federal bench, and she dabbled in drama and improv comedy at Harvard, "where she was once paired with classmate Matt Damon," the Post reports.
"This trailblazing slate of nominees draws from the very best and brightest minds of the American legal profession," Biden told the Post. "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."
Other nominees on Biden's list include New Jersey magistrate Judge Zahid Quarishi, who would be the first Muslim American on a district court; former public defender Candace Jackson-Akiwumi for the Chicago-based 7th Circuit Court of Appeals; and intellectual property lawyer Tiffany Cunningham for the Federal Circuit appellate court. Jackson-Akiwumi would be the only Black judge on the 7th Circuit appellate court and Cunningham would be the first Black judge on the Federal Circuit.
Biden, a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, starts out with 68 judicial vacancies — seven on the appellate courts and 61 district court seats, Politico notes. When former President Donald Trump took office, he had a Supreme Court seat held open for him by Senate Republicans, 86 district court vacancies, and 17 circuit court spots.
Over Trump's four years, Senate Republicans confirmed more than 200 judges, including three Supreme Court justices. Despite this early jump at judicial nominations, Biden is "not going to accomplish as much as President Trump did and everybody understands that," William & Mary law professor Neal Devins tells The Wall Street Journal.