WASHINGTON, D.C., December 22, 2021 – Today, Alliance for Justice issued a new report entitled A Fairer Court: How President Biden and Congress Raised the Bar in 2021. The report documents the historic progress made by President Biden, Chairman Durbin and Senate Democrats in reshaping the federal judiciary during the president’s first year in office. With its final votes, the Senate completed the confirmation of 40 of President Biden’s judicial nominees – the most lower court judges any modern president has confirmed in his first year in office since Ronald Reagan, who also confirmed 40 judges.
As AFJ’s new report documents, no previous administration can compare to the Biden administration in terms of the quantity, quality, and diversity of judicial nominees. This follows four years in which President Trump filled the lower courts with nominees who were predominantly white, male, and straight, and had staunchly conservative records opposing civil rights and legal protections crucial to millions of Americans.
As the report notes, President Biden’s nominees are extraordinary in their quality as well as their quantity. By nominating excellent jurists with legal expertise in areas such as civil rights law, labor law, voting rights, and criminal defense for the indigent, President Biden has left an indelible mark. These new judges will bring much needed diversity in professional perspective and lived experience to the federal bench. This emphasis on selecting nominees from outside of the more traditional pathways toward a federal judgeship – experience in corporate law firms or as former prosecutors – is something AFJ has long called for and supported.
Of President Biden’s 71 total nominees to the district and circuit courts:
- Nearly 75% have been women;
- Nearly 65% have been people of color;
- Almost half have been women of color;
- 7% have been openly LGBTQ+;
- 30% had experience as public defenders;
- 20% had experience as civil rights advocates;
- 14% had experience as plaintiff-side lawyers.
Additionally, many nominations signified milestones for their respective courts, including: the first Muslim-American federal judge; the first openly LGBTQ+ woman to serve on any federal circuit court; the first Black woman to serve on the Ninth Circuit from California; the first Korean-American woman to serve as a federal appellate judge; and the first Latinx district court judge in Ohio.
All of these figures and more are catalogued in AFJ’s new report looking back on this historic year.
Alliance for Justice President Rakim H.D. Brooks issued the following statement:
“What an incredible year this has been for judicial nominations and confirmations. For far too long, our courts have consisted primarily of white men with experience advocating for rich and powerful corporations. And trust in our Supreme Court is rightfully deteriorating as the Court takes aim at constitutional rights and protections that matter to millions of Americans. In response, President Biden and Senate Democrats are rebalancing our courts by appointing lower court judges who resemble America both professionally and demographically, and who understand the experiences of the people they serve.
“2021 was just the beginning. There are more than 100 current judicial vacancies, and we look forward to seeing even more qualified and diverse judges nominated and confirmed. This fight is not just for today, it is for the generations of Americans to come who will be deeply impacted by the rulings of these exceptional judges. President Biden has clearly staked out a vision for our nation’s courts: a judiciary that is more able to live up to the promise of equal justice for all. This commitment to repairing our judiciary will be an enduring part of his presidential legacy. To continue this historic progress, we must now look to fill every seat by the end of 2022. I have every confidence that the President, Chairman Durbin and Senate Democrats will.”