Last week, President Biden announced a total of 16 new nominations to the federal courts. As Alliance for Justice and other progressive court advocates have been pushing to increase the momentum around judicial confirmations, it is encouraging to see the list of named nominees grow so much longer. A few of these nominees stand out for the important professional and demographic they will add to the bench.
For example, Matthew L. Garcia will be an excellent addition to our courts when he is confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico. Garcia built his legal career fighting for civil rights as a solo practitioner and at small law firms. His perspective is sorely needed given how many current judges have only worked at large firms protecting the wealthy and powerful. It is also refreshing to see a Latino nominee, as Latinx judges are unfortunately quite underrepresented on our courts, even in states like New Mexico with significant Latinx populations.
Another standout nominee is Justice Adrienne C. Nelson, who currently sits on the Oregon State Supreme Court and has been nominated to the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. Justice Nelson will further grow the ranks of former public defenders serving on our federal courts to help dilute the overwhelming number of former prosecutors. When she was first appointed as a state trial court judge in 2006, she was only the second Black woman judge ever in Oregon. Now with 16 years of judicial experience under her belt, she stands to make history again as the first Black woman to serve on the District Court for Oregon.
Justice Nelson previously joined AFJ for a conversation about the importance of Black women serving on our courts. “People who came from different demographics, particularly lower socioeconomic status, felt that they could be more open in my courtroom for whatever reason,” she shared. The public took an interest in her role as a judge, with some jokingly suggesting that she was “popular.” She countered, “It’s not because I’m popular. It’s because I’m visible, and I tell people that courts belong to everyone.”
Garcia and Nelson’s nominations, announced Thursday, join several other notable nominees AFJ highlighted in a press release hailing the first two slates that the White House announced earlier in the week. That includes nominees like Cindy K. Chung, who would be the first Asian American judge to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and Judges Mia Roberts-Perez and Kai Scott, who would both bring public defender experience and important demographic diversity to the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
It is not only essential that the White House continue nominating high-quality future judges at a steady pace, but an imperative that they are quickly confirmed as well. As AFJ’s judicial vacancy tracker notes, there are still over 100 vacancies across the nation’s federal courts, and there are now dozens of nominees who have been named but are still awaiting final confirmation. When nominees are so clearly qualified and have the support of 50 senators, we must get them from hearing to final floor vote promptly rather than waiting for months., This is especially true given the uncertainty of the midterm elections and the possibility that these nominees won’t have the necessary votes in the new year.
Zack Ford is the press secretary at Alliance for Justice.