Biden announces 11 judicial nominees to federal bench, including progressive SCOTUS frontrunner



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President Biden announced his first slate of presidential candidates on Tuesday morning, which includes three judges from powerful federal appeals courts, sparking more speculation about possible future Supreme Court candidates.

Biden’s list of 11 nominees is headlined by Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who would replace Attorney General Merrick Garland on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The DC Circuit is considered the second highest court in the country and a powerhouse for the Supreme Court of the United States.

Previous DC Circuit judges who were elevated to the Supreme Court include Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John Roberts, as well as the late Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia.

DC District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is President Biden’s candidate to replace Attorney General Garland in the DC Circuit Court.
(https://www.dcd.uscourts.gov/content/district-judge-ketanji-brown-jackson)

Jackson, by the nature of that appointment, would likely climb to the top of any Democratic president’s shortlist for a Supreme Court nomination if upheld. Biden pledged during the campaign to appoint a black woman to the Supreme Court.

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Jackson, a Harvard law graduate, is currently a judge in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

“This groundbreaking list of nominees is inspired by the best and brightest minds in the American legal profession,” Biden said Tuesday. “Each is deeply qualified and ready to deliver justice faithfully under our Constitution and impartially to the American people – and together they represent the great diversity of background, experience and perspective that makes our nation strong.”

Biden also announced that Chicago-based Perkins Coie LLP partner Tiffany Cunningham is a candidate for the Federal Tour. She was previously a clerk on the Federal Circuit after graduating from Harvard Law School.

Washington, DC-based Zuckerman Spaeder’s partner Candace Jackson-Akiwumi is Biden’s latest circuit court nomination for this tour. She’s a public defender in the Northern District of Illinois, which means she’s employed by the government to defend people who haven’t been able to afford their own lawyers.

Jackson-Akiwumi is a former Northern Illinois District and Fourth Circuit clerk. She went to Princeton for undergraduate and Yale for her law degree.

President Joe Biden, center, switches from Marine One aboard Air Force One, with his son Hunter Biden, left, as he carries his son Beau, Friday, March 26, 2021, at Andrews Air Force Base. (AP Photo / Alex Brandon)

Names will go to the Senate where they will be directed to the equally divided Senate Judiciary Committee for hearings and votes. The committee even has representation from each party due to a deal made between Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., After the 2020 election resulted in a 50-50 Senate.

But candidates can still come to the room if they only get party line votes in committee. If Republicans uniformly oppose any of the nominees in the floor votes, Vice President Harris will be forced to break the tie.

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Biden took office after four prolific years of judicial appointments from former President Donald Trump, which were guided through the Senate by McConnell, who prioritized life appointments. Trump and McConnell have teamed up to confirm 54 circuit court judges with 234 federal judges in total. Trump has also successfully appointed three Supreme Court justices, more than any president since Ronald Reagan.

It remains to be seen whether Schumer and Biden will give the same bonus to judicial appointments, especially with Biden’s ambitious legislative agenda and narrow margin in the Senate.

The other Biden nominees announced Tuesday are Judge Deborah Boardman for the District of Maryland; Justice Lydia Griggsby for the District of Maryland; Julien Neals for the New Jersey district; Florence Y. Pan for the DC District Court; Judge Zahid N. Quraishi for the District of New Jersey; Regina Rodriguez for the District of Colorado; Margaret Strickland for the New Mexico District; and Judge Rupa Ranga Puttagunta for the DC Superior Court.

Biden’s list is varied, which ticks a box of progressives who have pushed the president to diversify federal courts. And the group’s most high-profile nomination – Jackson – was on the progressive justice group Demand Justice’s 2019 list of suggested Supreme Court nominations for Democratic presidential candidates.

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