WASHINGTON | President Joe Biden on Tuesday unveiled his first slate of judicial nominees, a racially diverse and mostly female field that is a sharp departure from the largely white and male picks during Donald Trump’s administration.
Biden’s list puts three Black women on federal courts of appeals, a pathway to the Supreme Court. The most prominent of the three is U.S. District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, whom Biden says he will nominate to the seat left vacant on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit by Judge Merrick Garland’s departure to become Attorney General.
The D.C. Circuit, in particular, is a place where presidents have recently searched for Supreme Court justices. Three of the high court’s nine members previously served on the D.C. Circuit.
Biden pledged during the campaign to nominate a Black woman to the high court if a vacancy opens during his term.
The White House said the 11 nominees are attorneys who have excelled in a range of legal positions, including as jurists, public defenders, prosecutors and public servants, as well as in the private sector and the military.
“This trailblazing slate of nominees draws from the very best and brightest minds of the American legal profession,” Biden said in a statement. “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.”
The White House said Biden’s choices reflect his strong belief that the federal courts should reflect the “full diversity of the American people” in background and professional experience.
Trump leaned heavily on white men to fill judicial vacancies.
Biden’s group also includes candidates who, if confirmed by the U.S. Senate, would be the first Muslim American federal judge in U.S. history, the first AAPI woman to ever serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and the first woman of color to ever serve as a federal judge for the District of Maryland.
Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said the organization was “gratified” that Biden was taking steps to diversify the federal bench.
“Such diversity will greatly enhance the judiciary and judicial decision-making,” Ifill said in a statement.
The nominees are:
— Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Jackson, who is Black, would fill the vacancy created by Garlend’s move to lead the Justice Department. She has served on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia since 2013. President Barack Obama had considered Jackson for the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016. Biden has promised to nominate a Black woman for the high court if he has the opportunity to do so.
— Tiffany Cunningham, for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Cunningham, who is Black, has been a partner at Perkins Coie LLP in Chicago since 2014. She serves as trial and appellate counsel for large multinational companies, as well as small enterprises, and individuals in complex patent and trade secret disputes.
— Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, for the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Jackson-Akiwumi, who is Black, is a partner at Zuckerman Spaeder, LLP in Washington, where she focuses on complex civil litigation, white-collar criminal defense and investigations. From 2010 to 2020, Jackson-Akiwumi worked as a staff attorney at the Federal Defender Program in the Northern District of Illinois.
— Judge Deborah Boardman, for the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. Boardman is a U.S. magistrate judge for the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, a position she was appointed to in 2019. She was previously a federal public defender.
— Judge Lydia Griggsby, for the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. Griggsby, who is Black, has served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims since 2014. Before that, Griggsby was chief counsel for privacy and information policy and privacy counsel for Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
— Julien Neals, for the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. Neals, who is Black, is county counsel for the acting county administrator for Bergen County, New Jersey. He became county counsel in January 2015 and has served in an acting capacity since June 2016.
— Judge Florence Y. Pan, for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Pan, who is AAPI, has been an associate judge on the Superior Court for the District of Columbia since 2009.
— Judge Zahid N. Quraishi, for the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. Quraishi, who is Muslim and of Pakistani ancestry, is a U.S. magistrate judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, a position he was appointed to in 2019. Before that, he was a partner at Riker Danzig, where he chaired the firm’s white-collar criminal defense and investigations.
— Regina Rodriguez, for the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. Rodriguez has been a partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP in Denver since 2019, handling cases involving complex litigation and government investigations.
— Margaret Strickland, nominee for the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico. Strickland has been a partner at McGraw & Strickland LLC in Las Cruces, New Mexico, since 2011, representing clients in civil rights cases and criminal cases in state and federal courts in New Mexico.
— Judge Rupa Ranga Puttagunta, for Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Puttagunta serves as an administrative judge for the D.C. Rental Housing Commission. Before joining the commission, she was a solo practitioner from 2013 to 2019, representing indigent criminal defendants in trial and on appeal.