This week, the Senate has begun to approve President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees this week, marking the start of a deliberate push to make an impact on the federal courts and counter the conservative court-packing done during the Donald Trump administration.
First up was New Jersey District Court Judge Julien Xavier Neals, who was confirmed in a 66-33 vote on Tuesday, followed on Tuesday by Regina Rodriguez to the same position in Colorado.
The two were advanced in committee in May, along with three other Biden nominees, including Ketanji Brown Jackson for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, a powerful position.
Chuck Schumer, Senate Majority Leader, said the nominees were “the first of many jurists that the Democratic-led Senate will consider to restore the balance to the federal judiciary.”
He added that they will “swiftly and consistently” process Biden’s picks, in hopes of “bringing balance, experience and diversity back to the judiciary.”
Conservative aggressively reshaped the judicial system during Trump’s tenure when he appointed 234 judges to the federal bench and three justices on to what it is now the most conservative Supreme Court since the 1970s.
Schumer noted that many of Trump’s appointees were “woefully inexperienced and far outside the judicial mainstream.”
A Senate vote on Jackson in the Senate is expected this summer, and she is a likely candidate for a Supreme Court seat should come open during Biden’s tenure.
NBC News reports further:
Schumer also recommended two young voting rights lawyers for judgeships in Myrna Perez of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University for the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals and Dale Ho of the American Civil Liberties Union for the Southern District of New York.
Neals and Rodriguez were nominated for judgeships during the Obama administration but did not come up for votes in the Senate, which was then run by Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the current minority leader.
The 60-vote threshold in the Senate has been abolished for judicial confirmations under precedents set by both parties so that nominees can advance with a simple majority.
More from NBC:
There are 71 vacancies in district courts and nine openings in appeals courts, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. The numbers are set to rise with additional retirements.
The judicial battle could further heat up if a Supreme Court justice retires. Some progressive activists, including Demand Justice, are pushing Justice Stephen Breyer, 82, an appointee of former President Bill Clinton, to retire while Democrats control the Senate so they can confirm a liberal successor.
Breyer has given no indication that he plans to step aside, however.
President Biden announced his first slate of judicial nominees a couple of months ago, first signaling a sharp contrast to those of his predecessor Donald Trump’s judicial appointments.
Biden’s list of 11 lawyers and judges, including three nominees to federal appeals courts, include more diversity than Trump’s entire slate saw.
While he was President, Trump reshaped the judiciary, appointing three justices to the Supreme Court and almost as many federal appellate judges in his four years as his predecessor, Barack Obama, did in eight.
In his first slate of appointees, Biden can’t quite match what Trump did, as Vox points out, but it does give insight into how he will approach the judicial system. Biden’s nominees are diverse racially and predominantly female, and all three of his appellate nominees are women of color.
Last year, as a candidate, Biden promised to appoint an African American woman to the Supreme Court, and this is likely the beginning of fulfilling that promise.
If Biden’s nominees are confirmed, he will have almost doubled the number of Black women judges on the circuit courts, and in addition to his three circuit nominees, Biden named eight nominees to federal district courts, including Zahid N. Quraishi, a New Jersey judge who if confirmed, will be the first Muslim federal judge in American history.
Nine of the 11 nominees on Biden’s list are women, and most of them are people of color, clearly signaling that Biden intends to make racial and gender diversity a priority in his approach to judicial appointments.
Biden’s list, while diverse, likely won’t rile up conservative Republicans the same way Trump’s nominees did Democrats, as Vox explains:
“Biden did not name a prominent voting rights attorney to the federal bench. Or a union lawyer. Or a lawyer for Planned Parenthood. Or some other lawyer who is likely to agitate Republicans in the same way that a judge like Barrett concerns Democrats.”
That doesn’t mean that such nominations won’t be forthcoming. For the moment, however, Biden appears to be trying to diversify the bench without kicking any political hornets’ nests in the process.”
Joe Biden via Flickr / The White House http://www.usa.gov/copyright.shtml
This coming after a move that signals the agency is continuing to move as far as possible away from the Trump administration, almost every member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) has been fired by Biden Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, according to Fox News.