- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 7, 2016

A D.C. lawyer nominated by President Obama to serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia could become the first American Muslim to serve as a federal judge, according to advocates.

Mr. Obama nominated Abid Riaz Qureshi for the federal bench late Tuesday, saying, “I am confident he will serve the American people with integrity and a steadfast commitment to justice.”

Mr. Qureshi is a partner at the law firm Latham and Watkins, specializing in cases involving the False Claims Act, health care fraud and securities violations. He also serves as the global chairman of the firm’s pro bono committee.

The president’s nomination does not mention Mr. Qureshi’s religion. But Muslim Advocates, a national legal organization that Mr. Qureshi has worked with on civil rights cases, noted that he would be the first American Muslim to serve on the federal judiciary if confirmed by the Senate.

“A judiciary that reflects the rich diversity of our nation helps ensure the fair and just administration of the law, and it is vital for American Muslims to be included,” said Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates. “Mr. Qureshi’s profound commitment to the rule of law and justice for people of all backgrounds makes him an exceptional nominee.”

Ms. Khera said that while American Muslims have served as judges at the state level, a Muslim judge has never been appointed to the federal or appellate courts.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump raised questions about impartiality and the religion and ethnicity of judges in the campaign debate earlier this year. First, he accused an American judge of Mexican heritage of being unable to fairly oversee a fraud lawsuit against one of his companies because of the candidate’s desire to build a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border. He later said he thought it was “absolutely” possible that he could be treated unfairly by a Muslim judge on account of his calls for a temporary ban on Muslims from entering the United States.

Given the stalemate on the Senate confirmation of judicial nominees, the likelihood of Mr. Qureshi’s nomination appears slim.

The American Bar Association this week criticized the Senate for its failure to vote on 20 pending nominees to the D.C. circuit.

“These nominees have waited a long time for an up-or-down vote: twelve were nominated over 300 days ago and six others were nominated over 200 days ago,” ABA President Linda A. Klein said in a letter to Senate leaders. “Failure of the Senate to vote on pending nominees before adjournment also will waste taxpayer dollars and government resources: once the 115th Congress convenes, the President and the Senate will have to begin the entire process again to fill the same vacancies that could be filled today.”

Ms. Klein noted that over the course of this Congress, the number of judicial vacancies has grown from 45 to 89, and is expected to increase by five additional vacancies by the end of the year as a result of retirements.

• Andrea Noble can be reached at anoble@washingtontimes.com.

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