President Biden has made federal judges a priority. His record reflects this: NPR

President Biden and Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson celebrate his confirmation to the United States Supreme Court.

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Biden and Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson celebrate his confirmation to the United States Supreme Court.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Senate confirmed 97 federal judges during President Biden’s first two years in office, setting records for the number of jurists and their diversity.

Ultimately, the federal courts may be one of Biden’s most profound legacies, since judges often have the final say on what the law means and how it plays out in people’s lives.

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain has said the judiciary is a “top priority” for the president, and there’s a simple reason for that.

“When he talks about rights and freedoms, he knows that ultimately those rights and freedoms are decided by federal judges, so the makeup of the federal justice system is tied to everything we do,” said Clain.

White House attorney Paige Herwig said the effort was a “radical change” aimed at making the courts look like the rest of America.

“We have confirmed 74 women as federal judges so far during this administration,” Herwig said. “That’s actually more than has been confirmed during President Trump’s four-year tenure or President George W. Bush’s eight-year administration.”

This total includes Dana Douglas, the first woman of color to serve on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and Doris Pryor, the first black woman to serve on the Indiana 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. In total, Biden has nominated and helped secure confirmation of 11 black women to serve on appeals courts, more than all other presidents combined.

“Our federal justice system will finally begin to reflect the diversity of this country and the diversity of experiences that black women in particular can bring to the bench,” said Janai Nelson, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Biden’s first move on the judges was to promote Ketanji Brown Jackson to the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. Judge Jackson is now Judge Jackson. Last year, she became the first black woman on the Supreme Court. She is also the first judge to have worked as a public defender.

The area of ​​professional diversity has been another focus of Biden’s judging machine: choosing attorneys experienced in representing individual clients.

“These are public defenders who represent people accused of crimes; they are civil rights lawyers; they are lawyers who represent people who may have been discriminated against or harmed by defective products,” said Christopher Kang of the Demand Justice group, which advocates for court reform and progressive judges.

Kang said Biden has already changed the face of federal justice in ways that could persist for decades, since federal judges can serve for life.

This imprint “is the one that may be the most enduring of his entire legacy as president,” added Nelson, of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

In 2023, the Senate will remain under the control of Democrats, who mostly voted in lockstep to back Biden’s justices. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a recent statement that they are just getting started.

Biden is unlikely to be able to shift the balance of power in every federal appeals court across the country in the next two years. It all depends on the weather and the retirements of the current judges.

And when it comes to the nation’s highest court, former President Donald Trump has cemented a conservative supermajority on the Supreme Court, which has previously frustrated Biden’s agenda on reproductive rights, climate change and child safety measures. fire arms.


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