President Joe Biden nominated a diverse panel of six federal district and county court judges, including three appellate courts with experience as defense attorneys.
The nominations announced on Wednesday are in line with Biden’s promise to select judges who would diversify federal courts across gender, race and ethnicity, and work experience. Five of the six intended picks are women and at least five are people of color.
If confirmed, the list includes the second Hispanic judge serving on the US Court of Appeals on the First Circuit, Gustavo A. Gelpí; the second black woman to serve on the second circuit, Eunice C. Lee; and Washington State’s first Native American federal judge, Lauren J. King.
The inclusion of three circuit court picks with a background as a defender was welcomed by progressives who pushed for a variety of bench experiences. According to an August 2020 study by the Center for American Progress, only 1% of circuit court judges have spent most of their careers as defense attorneys or on legal aid.
Gelpí, Chief Justice of the District of Puerto Rico and appointed representative of George W. Bush, was an early career assistant defender. Lee is currently the Assistant Attorney at Law with the New York Federal Defenders. And Biden’s candidate for the tenth circuit, Veronica S. Rossman, is currently the senior counsel to the Federal Defense Attorney’s Office for the Colorado and Wyoming Districts.
“President Biden has made it clear that the days when defense lawyers were systematically passed over for top jobs at the Bundesbank are over,” said Christopher Kang, chief attorney for the progressive group Demand Justice.
The other two picks are Angel Kelley, who is nominated for the District of Massachusetts, and Karen M. Williams, who is nominated for the District of New Jersey. Kelley would be the second black and second Asian judge in Massachusetts federal court. Williams would be the first Black Trial Court judge to sit in the Camden Courthouse, New Jersey District.
The nominees bring Biden’s total list of proposed candidates for lifelong federal judge appointments to 19 plus one candidate for the DC Superior Court. There are currently 105 lifelong federal court posts, 14 of which are in county courts and 89 in district courts. The nominations were sent to the Senate on Wednesday, where they await the judicial committee’s decision.
Nominations are on the move
The announcement came before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s second hearing for Biden’s candidates for justice.
The committee heard testimony from two of Biden’s candidates for the Maryland district, Deborah L. Boardman, a district judge, and Lydia Kay Griggsby, a US federal court judge. Both candidates received questions from a few senators and little setback.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to consider the nominations of five of Biden’s nominees for the first time on Thursday, including Biden’s DC Circuit nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson. It is common for candidates to be held for a week the first time they are considered at a premium for Senate Justice.