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'Best and Brightest': Biden Announces 'Trailblazing' Slate of Judicial Nominees
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=58893"><span class="small">Martin Pengelly and Richard Luscombe, Guardian UK</span></a>   
Tuesday, 30 March 2021 12:29

Excerpt: "Joe Biden has announced a 'trailblazing' set of federal judicial nominees, 11 picks including three Black women."

Ketanji Brown Jackson was nominated to replace attorney general Merrick Garland on the U.S. appeals court for the District of Columbia circuit. (photo: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post/Getty Images)
Ketanji Brown Jackson was nominated to replace attorney general Merrick Garland on the U.S. appeals court for the District of Columbia circuit. (photo: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

'Best and Brightest': Biden Announces 'Trailblazing' Slate of Judicial Nominees

By Martin Pengelly and Richard Luscombe, Guardian UK

30 March 21

Ketanji Brown Jackson nominated to replace Merrick Garland on US appeals court, as part of president’s 11 diverse selections

oe Biden has announced a “trailblazing” set of federal judicial nominees, 11 picks including three Black women.

Ketanji Brown Jackson, a US district judge, was nominated on Tuesday to replace attorney general Merrick Garland on the influential US appeals court for the District of Columbia circuit.

In 2016, Garland was nominated for the supreme court by Barack Obama but blocked from even receiving a hearing by Republicans determined to fill the vacancy themselves.

It was a hugely dramatic gambit by then Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, as he set out to transform the federal judiciary. With McConnell’s help, Donald Trump was able to do so.

On the campaign trail last year, Biden pledged to name the first Black woman to the supreme court. Jackson, who regularly clashed with the Trump administration, now moves into that spotlight. Many liberals are eyeing retirement for Stephen Breyer, at 82 the oldest member of the court, for whom Jackson once clerked.

When she was sworn in as a district judge, in May 2013, Breyer delivered the oath.

“She sees things from different points of view,” he said, “and she sees somebody else’s point of view and understands it.”

In December, Biden asked senators for a diverse slate of possible judicial picks.

“We are particularly focused on nominating individuals whose legal experiences have been historically underrepresented on the federal bench,” he said, “including those who are public defenders, civil rights and legal aid attorneys and those who represent Americans in every walk of life.”

His first picks, which the Washington Post called “the largest and earliest batch … by a new administration in decades”, also include the first Muslim named to a district court, Zahid Quraishi, a New Jersey judge.

Biden also named Candace Jackson-Akiwumi for the Chicago-based seventh circuit and Tiffany Cunningham for the federal circuit in Washington.

Among other appointments, Florence Pan will if confirmed be the first Asian American woman on the DC district court, while Lydia Griggsby will be the first black woman on the Maryland district court.

Judge Rupa Ranga Puttagunta, a Washington DC local judge of Indian ancestry, is nominated for DC superior court.

Carl Tobias, Williams chair in Law at Richmond University, said the president had delivered on his promise and chosen “an incredible group of people”.

“There is diversity along a number of lines, ethnicity, gender, I assume sexual orientation and experiential diversity in terms of former federal public defenders or criminal defense lawyers as opposed to big, firm, lawyers and federal prosecutors,” he said.

“Biden made promises both on the campaign trail and since being elected that he wants to rebalance the bench, which was unbalanced in terms of ideology with the appellate appointments that Trump made.

“The question is how quickly they can be confirmed and how many more similar nominees he will bring forward. There are seven vacancies now on the appeals courts, 61 on the district court, and I think he’s committed to bringing forward many more very similar nominees.”

In a statement to the Post, Biden said: “This trailblazing slate of nominees draws from the very best and brightest minds of the American legal profession.

“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.”

Alliance for Justice, a liberal advocacy group, praised Biden’s choices.

“Today’s nominees embody the demographic and professional diversity and forward-thinking that will ensure justice is served to the American people when they enter a courtroom,” the group’s president, Nan Aron, said in a statement.

Referring to recent battles over picks for cabinet posts and other administration positions, she added: “We have already seen Senate Republicans’ willingness to maliciously smear Biden’s nominees, particularly targeting those who are not white men. We will not abide their callous attacks. Today’s nominees, and the many more outstanding jurists to come, will be confirmed.”

Nomination hearings could begin in April. Biden and the Democratic Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, have work to do.

McConnell and Trump placed three justices on the supreme court, giving it a 6-3 conservative majority. But the extensive reshaping of the judiciary below the highest court could be their most lasting legacy.

Observers have noted, for example, that though punitive voting rights restrictions being passed in Republican-led states are being challenged in court, the judiciary that will hear such cases is heavily staffed with conservatives.

McConnell was proud of his ruthlessness, telling Fox News there was one reason so many vacancies were left for Trump to fill.

“I’ll tell you why,” he said, in December 2019. “I was in charge of what we did the last two years of the Obama administration.”

Last April, he told an interviewer his “motto for the year is leave no vacancy behind”.

Biden, Tobias said, will have paid attention.

“I think Obama had one person on 17 March, but then it was very slow the first year, and Biden was vice-president. He and his people have learned from that, that you have to move very expeditiously,” he said.

“I expect to see other similar packages sooner rather than later and [Biden is] watching the 2022 election because [Democrats] can lose the Senate.”

Trump’s success contributed to his strength at the polls. In 2019, Josh Blackman, a professor at the South Texas College of Law, told the Guardian: “Not all conservatives are happy with a lot of things Trump has done, but on judges he’s killing it. It’s an across-the-board success that we’ve seen in this area.”

Tobias, and others, saw Biden’s picks on Tuesday as the first steps in redressing the balance. your social media marketing partner