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Biden announces first slate of diverse judicial nominees

President BidenJoe BidenBiden eyes bigger US role in global vaccination efforts Trump says GOP will take White House in 2024 in prepared speech Kemp: Pulling All-Star game out of Atlanta will hurt business owners of color MORE on Tuesday announced his first slate of federal judicial nominees, a diverse group that includes Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as a nominee for the powerful U.S. appeals court in Washington.

Biden is nominating Jackson, who has served on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia since being nominated by President Obama in 2013, to fill the seat vacated by Attorney General Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandBudget tasks DOJ with turnaround of policing, voting rights, hate crimes Progressive group ramps up pressure on Justice Breyer to retire The Hill's Morning Report - Biden assails 'epidemic' of gun violence amid SC, Texas shootings MORE on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The D.C. Circuit is considered the second most powerful court in the country, given its jurisdiction over the seat of government, and its judges are often at the top of presidents' shortlists for Supreme Court vacancies.

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Three of the nine sitting Supreme Court justices were elevated from the D.C. Circuit, as were the late Justices Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgProgressives give Biden's court reform panel mixed reviews Biden will let Breyer decide when to retire, aide says Biden establishes commission to study expanding Supreme Court MORE and Antonin Scalia.

Biden’s first group of 11 judicial nominees include several women and people of color. He is also nominating Judge Florence Y. Pan, currently an associate judge on the Superior Court for D.C., to serve on the U.S. district court for D.C.; Tiffany Cunningham, a current partner at law firm Perkins Coie, to serve on the U.S. court of appeals of the federal circuit; and Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, a former public defender in Illinois, to serve on the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The group also includes Julien Neals, a county counsel for Bergen County, N.J., whose previous nomination by Obama was derailed by then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHarry Reid reacts to Boehner book excerpt: 'We didn't mince words' Democrats see opportunity in GOP feud with business Biden resists calls to give hard-hit states more vaccines than others MORE (R-Ky.) in 2015. Biden is nominating Neals to serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

“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 nominees will all be subject to confirmation in the 50-50 Senate, where Democrats hold the slightest edge over Republicans with Vice President Harris breaking tie votes. That could make the confirmation process difficult for any of the nominees should they run into opposition from any Democrats.

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Former President TrumpDonald TrumpHarry Reid reacts to Boehner book excerpt: 'We didn't mince words' Man arrested for allegedly threatening to stab undercover Asian officer in NYC Trump says GOP will take White House in 2024 in prepared speech MORE often pointed to his nomination of more than 200 federal judges and three Supreme Court justices as a key accomplishment of his term as president. Many of Trump’s nominees were white and male, and Biden’s announcement on Tuesday drew a sharp contrast with his predecessor and demonstrated his plans to begin to reshape the conservative federal bench.

Biden is also nominating Judge Deborah Boardman, currently serving as a magistrate judge, to serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland; Judge Lydia Griggsby, a federal claims court judge, to serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland; Judge Zahid N. Quraishi, a magistrate judge, to serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey; Regina Rodriguez, a partner at law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and former U.S. attorney, to serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado; Margaret Strickland, a civil rights and criminal lawyer, to serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico; and Judge Rupa Ranga Puttagunta, an administrative judge for the D.C. Rental Housing Commission, to serve on the D.C. superior court.

Amid pressure from progressive groups, the White House had vowed to nominate more former public interest attorneys to the federal bench, including public defenders and civil rights lawyers. And Biden promised on the campaign trail to nominate the first black woman to the Supreme Court.

White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiBiden eyes bigger US role in global vaccination efforts Florida newspaper blasts DeSantis's ban on COVID-19 passports: 'Makes no sense' Libertarian writer Robby Soave details concerns with 'vaccine passports' MORE tweeted that the nominees reflect Biden's "commitment to highest standards for the qualifications, integrity, and fairness — while also representing a paradigm shift in the types of people who can see themselves on the federal bench."

She noted that four of the nominees are former public defenders, four are members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, and that Quraishi, if confirmed, would make history as the first Muslim-American federal judge. 

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The slate announced Tuesday was largely applauded by the progressive judicial groups that had been pushing Democrats to prioritize the judiciary as part of their legislative agenda.

"We commend President Biden for nominating stellar lawyers to serve on our nation’s federal courts," Nan Aron, the president of the group Alliance for Justice, said in a statement. "Today’s nominees embody the demographic and professional diversity and forward-thinking that will ensure justice is served to the American people when they enter a courtroom."

However, one of the nominees, Regina Rodriguez, had already stirred up opposition from progressives when she was recommended to Biden by Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetSenators press for answers in Space Command move decision Biden announces first slate of diverse judicial nominees American Rescue Plan: Ending child poverty — let's make it permanent MORE (D-Colo.). The group Demand Justice launched an ad campaign against Bennet last month, arguing that Rodriguez, a former federal prosecutor and corporate law partner, didn't fit the mold of the kind of judge that the White House said it was seeking.

A spokesperson for Bennet did not immediately respond when asked for comment.

On Tuesday the group appeared to target at Rodriguez's nomination while applauding Biden's effort to elevate judges from diverse backgrounds.

“Ideally all the nominees in this first wave would come from these kinds of underrepresented professional backgrounds," Brian Fallon, the executive director of Demand Justice, said in a statement. "But old habits die hard for some senators who are used to recommending corporate lawyers and prosecutors for federal judgeships. We know Biden's stated preference for civil rights lawyers and labor lawyers for district courts is only as good as the buy-in it generates among home-state senators. This means progressives need to double down on pressuring these senators, and that is what we intend to do in the months ahead."

Updated at 9:44 a.m.