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Through his first seven years in office, President Obama has dramatically improved the demographic diversity of the federal judiciary. He has already nominated more than twice as many women (164) than did President George W. Bush in his entire eight years (71). Forty-two percent of Obama’s judicial nominees have been women, while the next best president, President Clinton, nominated just 29% women. Obama has also nominated more than twice as many non-white judges than President George W. Bush, and has named 14 LGBT nominees, far more than any other president. Only one openly gay nominee had been confirmed to a lifetime judgeship before President Obama took office. Without question, this historic effort to make the judiciary reflect the diversity of the American people has been essential to creating fair courts.
But a truly diverse judiciary is one that not only reflects the personal demographic diversity of the nation, but is also comprised of judges who have been advocates for clients across the socio-economic spectrum, seeking justice on behalf of everyday Americans. As this report details, the federal judiciary is currently lacking in judges with experience (a) working for public interest organizations; (b) as public defenders or indigent criminal defense attorneys; and (c) representing individual clients—like employees or consumers or personal injury plaintiffs—in private practice. While President Obama has prioritized the issue of professional diversity in the federal courts of late, more work still needs to be done. The gains achieved under the current administration must be furthered by future presidents. A failure to do so would risk losing important voices of justice on the federal bench.