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Biden announces diverse first slate of judicial nominees

(President Joe Biden speaks during an event on COVID-19 vaccinations and the response to the pandemic, in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus, Monday, March 29, 2021, in Washington. AP Photo: Evan Vucci)

By DARLENE SUPERVILLE and JESSICA GRESKO, WASHINGTON (AP):- President Joe Biden on Tuesday unveiled his first slate of judicial nominees, a racially diverse and mostly female field that is a sharp departure from the largely white and male picks during Donald Trump’s administration.

Biden’s group includes candidates who, if confirmed by the U.S. Senate, would be the first Muslim federal judge in U.S. history, the first Asian American Pacific Islander woman to serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and the first woman of color to serve as a federal judge for the District of Maryland.

Three of the picks are Black women who were nominated to the federal courts of appeals, a pathway to the Supreme Court. The most prominent of the three is U.S. District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, whom Biden says he will nominate to the seat left vacant on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit by Judge Merrick Garland’s departure to become Attorney General.

The D.C. Circuit, in particular, is a place where presidents have searched for Supreme Court justices. Three of the high court’s current nine members have served on the D.C. Circuit.

Biden pledged during the campaign to nominate a Black woman to the high court if a vacancy opens during his term.

The White House said the 11 nominees are attorneys who have excelled in a range of legal positions, including as jurists, public defenders, prosecutors and public servants, as well as in the private sector and the military.

“This trailblazing slate of nominees draws from the very best and brightest minds of the American legal profession,” Biden said in a statement. “Each is deeply qualified and prepared to deliver justice faithfully under our Constitution and impartially to the American people — and together they represent the broad diversity of background, experience, and perspective that makes our nation strong.”

The White House said Biden’s choices reflect his strong belief that the federal courts should reflect the “full diversity of the American people” in background and professional experience.

Trump leaned heavily on white men to fill judicial vacancies. More than 75% of Trump’s judicial nominees were men, and 85% were white.

Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said the organization was “gratified” that Biden was taking steps to diversify the federal bench.

“Such diversity will greatly enhance the judiciary and judicial decision-making,” Ifill said in a statement.

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