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Despite a strong record on judicial diversity, Mr. Obama clearly is not immune from criticism from supporters who contend that he should have chosen more minority candidates and shouldn’t have played ball with Republicans.

How great a role politics played in the selections isn’t entirely clear, but the president has work to do with Senate Republicans on the issue of judicial nominations. GOP lawmakers remain angry with both the administration and Senate Democrats over the so-called “nuclear option,” a recently invoked legislative tool that allows prospective judges and other presidential nominees to clear the chamber with just 50 votes.

Moving forward, Mr. Tobias said the uproar could fade away, or it could remain at the forefront if civil-rights leaders such as Mr. Lewis don’t think their voices have been heard loudly enough.

“It would be quite a spectacle if John Lewis shows up at the [Senate] hearings to protest these nominees,” Mr. Tobias said.