Biden announces more diverse judicial nominees, including George W. Bush-nominated judge

President Biden on Wednesday announced his third wave of judicial nominees, maintaining an emphasis on diversity as he looks to remake the federal bench.

Biden is nominating Gustavo A. Gelpí, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit, based in Boston. Gelpí has served on the court in Puerto Rico since being nominated by President George W. Bush in 2006. If confirmed, he would be the second judge from Puerto Rico to sit on the 1st Circuit.

Gelpí earned praise from two House Democrats who issued statements supporting his nomination on Wednesday. Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.) noted that his nomination follows the death of Juan Torruella, the first Puerto Rican to serve on the 1st Circuit, last October.

“A proud son of Puerto Rico, Judge Gelpí has led a distinguished legal career, and is widely regarded by several political factions in Puerto Rico as a fair and impartial jurist,” Velazquez said. “When Judge Torruella passed away last year, we lost a giant of the legal system, a beloved and trailblazing figure. I hope Judge Gelpí continues his legacy as he makes history in his own right as just the second Hispanic judge to serve on the First Circuit.”

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) in his own statement commended Gelpí’s criticism of a group of Supreme Court decisions known as the Insular Cases from the early 20th century that limited constitutional protections of those living in U.S. territories like Puerto Rico.

“Judge Gelpí has been a leader in correctly interpreting relevant federal law consistent with the Constitution, which has gone a long way toward ending these injustices,” said Grijalva.

Biden is also nominating two public defenders for appellate court positions: Eunice Lee, an assistant federal public defender in New York, for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit and Veronica Rossman, senior counsel to the Office of Federal Public Defender for the Districts of Colorado and Wyoming, to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

Additionally, Biden is nominating Lauren King, an attorney at Seattle-based law firm Foster Garvey, to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. If confirmed, King would be the third active Native American federal judge serving in the U.S. and the first Native American federal judge in the history of Washington state.

Biden’s third group of nominees also includes Angel Kelley, an associate judge on the Massachusetts state court, whom he has selected to serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, and Karen Williams, currently a magistrate judge for the U.S. District Court in the District of New Jersey, whom he is nominating for a permanent position on that court.

Like Biden’s earlier nominees, his latest selections put an emphasis on diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds and include several women. A number of Biden’s nominees have also been public defenders, a nod to progressives.

“These individuals embody President Biden’s commitment to ensure that his judicial nominees represent not only the excellence but the diversity of our nation with respect to both personal and professional backgrounds,” the White House said.

Christopher Kang, chief counsel to the progressive group Demand Justice, praised Biden’s model for judicial nominees as “exactly the kind of bold action needed to rebalance a court system dominated by former prosecutors and corporate lawyers.”

“President Biden has made clear that the days of public defenders being systematically passed over for top jobs on the federal bench are over. No president has nominated more circuit judges with experience in public defense,” Kang said.

Biden is trying to counter the mark made by former President Trump on the federal bench, who during his four years saw more than 200 of his judicial nominees confirmed, including three Supreme Court justices. Trump’s nominees were overwhelmingly white and male, and many were young, meaning his impact on the courts will be felt for decades.

–Updated at 10:41 a.m.

Tags Biden judicial nominees Donald Trump Federal Courts Joe Biden Nydia Velazquez
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