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Biden makes historic strides in diversifying federal judiciary

Ketanji Brown Jackson became the first African American woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

President Joe Biden has set a historic precedent by appointing more non-White and female judges to the federal judiciary than any other president in U.S. history, a significant achievement in his first three and a half years in office. According to a published analysis of self-reported data from the Federal Judicial Center, only 13% of Biden’s Senate-confirmed judicial appointments are White men.

“I’m particularly proud that these judges reflect the diversity that is our country’s strength, Biden said in February following the confirmation of his 175th judge.

As of mid-May, Biden remains the only president to have appointed more women than men to the federal bench, with over 60% of his judges being female. This surpasses the previous record set by former President Barack Obama, who appointed 138 female judges during his eight-year presidency. Biden is on track to surpass this figure as he nears the end of his first term.

The Senate is set to confirm more of Biden’s judicial nominees this week, including Seth Aframe of New Hampshire, who will serve as a Circuit Court Judge on the First Circuit. “This is a big deal,” White House Deputy Communications Director Herbie Ziskend said. “These highly qualified individuals have diverse professional backgrounds. They’ve been labor lawyers, civil rights lawyers, public defenders, served in the U.S. military, and more.” Ziskend noted that over 60% of women and 60% of individuals of color have been included in Biden’s appointments. “These men and women will rule on issues critical to fundamental freedoms: reproductive healthcare, the freedom to cast ballots, whether workers have the freedom to unionize, whether children have the freedom to breathe clean air and drink clean water.”

Aframe’s confirmation will mark the 198th judge confirmed under Biden. “This week, the Senate will confirm more of President Biden’s outstanding judicial nominees for lifetime appointments to the federal bench, and we will hit a major milestone along the way,” Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) stated. “Later, the Senate will vote on the confirmation of Aframe.”

Schumer praised Aframe as an exceptional addition to the First Circuit, highlighting his unanimous “well-qualified” rating by the American Bar Association and extensive experience in the U.S. Attorney’s office in New Hampshire.

“I expect that the Senate will reach the significant milestone of 200 judges under Senate Democrats and President Biden,” Schumer said. “That is a figure we can all be proud of and shows how intensely focused we are on filling the bench with jurists who will make our democracy stronger and uphold the rule of law.”

Despite being locked out of a Supreme Court majority, Biden, with the support of the Democratic-majority Senate, has made substantial changes to the federal courts by emphasizing diversity. The absence of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) due to his corruption trial and the opposition from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), who has pledged to support only nominees with bipartisan backing, poses challenges for Schumer in advancing more controversial judges.

Notably, Biden’s appointments have generally garnered bipartisan support. Many have received voice votes, and some have the support of moderate Republicans like Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who backed a procedural vote on Aframe’s nomination.

The racial and ethnic breakdown of Biden’s judicial appointments reveals a diverse slate: 36% White, 27% Black, 16% Hispanic, 14% Asian, five percent multi-racial, one percent Native American, and one percent Middle Eastern.

In contrast, 65% of Trump’s judicial appointments were White men. Biden has appointed 125 non-White judges compared to Trump’s 37 and Obama’s 120.

As Biden aims to match Trump’s record of 237 federal judicial appointments, including three Supreme Court justices, his administration will require significant Senate cooperation in the coming months. The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in 2022 was a prime example of the conservative influence that Trump’s administration and a Republican-controlled Senate had on the judiciary.

Reflecting on the importance of judicial diversity, Schumer said: “We are intensely focused on filling the bench with jurists who will make our democracy stronger and uphold the rule of law.”

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