- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 30, 2021

President Biden announced his first slate of judicial nominees on Tuesday, naming picks for 11 appellate court, district court and superior court positions, including Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson for the powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that is traditionally seen as a stepping stone to the Supreme Court.

The White House said Mr. Biden intends to prioritize the federal bench, which stands as perhaps the most significant legacy of former President Donald Trump and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who helped shepherd more than 200 of Mr. Trump’s judicial nominees to confirmation when he was majority leader.

The White House touted the diversity of Mr. Biden’s nominees, among whom are nine women, four members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community and four picks who have served as public defenders, including Judge Jackson.

“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,” Mr. Biden said.

Unlike Mr. Trump, Mr. Biden never released a list of potential Supreme Court picks during the campaign, but liberal interest groups floated Judge Jackson’s name, as well as names of other preferred candidates, including Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.



“Now it’s a matter of trying to appease those groups who helped get him where he is today,” said Carrie Severino, president of the Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative advocacy group focused on the judiciary. “I think it’s going to be a balancing act for him to try to figure out how to appease all of those various dark money interests that helped to put him in office.”

The selection of Judge Jackson to fill the high-profile post is an early indicator of the thinking of the president, who committed to naming a Black woman to the Supreme Court if a vacancy opens up during his time in office.

Judge Jackson, who sits on the U.S. District Court for D.C., would fill the vacancy left by Attorney General Merrick Garland, whose nomination for the Supreme Court was blocked by Senate Republicans in 2016.

Court-watchers are eyeing the potential retirement plans of Justice Stephen G. Breyer, a Clinton nominee who generally sides with the court’s liberal faction on what is now a 6-3 conservative majority.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer said the chamber will work quickly to confirm the picks.

“We will have hearings and confirm judges to fill the growing number of vacancies on the federal bench and significantly mitigate the influence of Donald Trump’s unqualified, right-wing judges,” said Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat.

Demand Justice, a liberal advocacy group that focuses on the judiciary, praised the picks and suggested another promotion could be in Judge Jackson’s future.

“She and the other public defenders and civil rights lawyers in this group are exactly the kind of judges we need to rebalance our courts,” said Brian Fallon, the group’s executive director.

The other nominees are:

⦁ Tiffany Cunningham, a partner at Perkins Coie in Chicago, for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

⦁ Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, a partner at Zuckerman Spaeder in D.C., for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

⦁ Judge Deborah Boardman, a United States magistrate judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, for the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland

⦁ Judge Lydia Griggsby, a judge on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, for the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland

⦁ Julien Neals, county counsel and acting county administrator for Bergen County, New Jersey, for the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey

⦁ Judge Florence Y. Pan, an associate judge on the Superior Court for the District of Columbia, for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

⦁ Judge Zahid N. Quraishi, a United States magistrate judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, for the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey

⦁ Regina Rodriguez, a partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr in Denver, for the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado

⦁ Margaret Strickland, a partner at McGraw & Strickland in Las Cruces, New Mexico, for the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico

⦁ Judge Rupa Ranga Puttagunta, an administrative judge for the D.C. Rental Housing Commission, for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia

A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, Judge Jackson is a former vice chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission and a former clerk for Justice Breyer.

Judge Jackson has issued rulings in high-profile cases during the Trump administration, including the legal battle over a House subpoena of former White House counsel Don McGahn.

In November 2019, she ruled that Mr. McGahn could be compelled to testify in the House’s impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump.

“Compulsory appearance by dint of a subpoena is a legal construct, not a political one, and per the Constitution, no one is above the law,” Judge Jackson wrote.

That case has been appealed and is still pending.

“I’m very concerned about her extremist record, her record of being repeatedly reversed by the D.C. circuit — including some of the most liberal judges on the D.C. circuit,” Ms. Severino said.

Judge Jackson granted an injunction blocking a Trump administration fast-track deportation policy, only to have it reversed on appeal and have the case sent back.

Mike Davis, the founder of the conservative Article III Project, said Mr. Trump’s most consequential accomplishment during his time in office was the transformation of the federal judiciary.

“And so there’s not a lot left for Biden to fill,” said Mr. Davis, who helped Justice Neil M. Gorsuch and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, two of Mr. Trump’s picks, win confirmation to the Supreme Court. “President Biden will be able to make a bit of an impact, especially if Republican-appointed judges step down during his presidency.”

Democrats have effective control of the 50-50 Senate thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote, and so Mr. Biden’s quest to reshape the federal courts could run through his party’s more moderate members, such as Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

“Republicans don’t control the White House. We don’t control the Senate,” Mr. Davis said. “So this is going to come down to if Joe Manchin or Kyrsten Sinema or one of these other gettable Democrats think that Biden’s pushed too far on a nominee.”

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