President Biden’s big push on federal judges

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Judicial appointments have been a steady bright spot in the sky since President Joe Biden took office on January 20, 2021. Together with a Senate under Democratic control, Biden has maintained a pipeline of fresh faces bringing a high level of quality and diversity to the federal bench. As 2022 ends, it’s heartening to reflect on the remarkable progress as well as what lies ahead.

To date, Biden has nominated 142 federal judges. Of these, 97 judges with lifetime tenure have been confirmed, including Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, 28 circuit court judges, and 68 district court judges. This figure surpasses President Barack Obama’s and Donald Trump’s confirmed judges, at 62 and 85, respectively, at the same point in their presidencies.

One reason for the quick pace of progress is the procedural rule changes that Republicans put in place that stopped allowing senators to object to nominees in their states with “blue slips” and shortened post-cloture debate time over nominees from 30 hours to only two. Although the Democrats will no longer control the House of Representatives, holding the Senate is what matters for confirming judicial nominations. Plus, gaining an additional seat (creating a 51-49 majority) means contested nominees won’t have trouble clearing certain procedural hurdles with a deadlocked committee.

With each new judicial nomination announcement, the White House has pointed out how the nominees will help the federal bench better reflect America’s diversity. Since Biden’s inauguration, three out of every four judges confirmed by the Senate have been women and two-thirds were people of color. In addition, a record 11 former public defenders have been named to the circuit courts.

   

As Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted on Thursday, “Historic—This Senate Democratic Majority confirmed 97 diverse, well-qualified federal judicial nominees. And we will keep going!” Indeed, they will, because that’s what happens when we all stand up to defeatism and make sure to vote. Through our small contributions, we collectively change the world.

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