Biden to release his first wave of judicial nominees

The White House is expected to release its first slate of judicial nominees as early as Tuesday, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

President Joe Biden plans to tap 11 nominees for the federal bench, including three Black women, sources said. At least two of those women will be named to the appeals courts, according to allies of his administration briefed on the selections.

The list of nominees will offer the first glimpse of Biden’s plans to shape the federal judiciary after promising during the 2020 campaign to appoint a Black woman to the Supreme Court should he get the chance. The appointments will also provide a test for Senate Democrats who must lead the often-contentious judicial confirmation process in a chamber divided 50-50, with little room for political error.

Biden, a former chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, begins his presidency with 68 judicial vacancies — seven appellate court vacancies and 61 district court vacancies. That number of vacancies is fewer than what former President Donald Trump inherited upon entering the White House. Trump had an open Supreme Court seat, 86 district court seats and 17 circuit court seats to fill.

After Senate Republicans confirmed more than 200 judges during Trump’s presidency—a confirmation juggernaut that GOP leaders took pride in—Democrats and progressive groups are vowing to exert their own influence on the federal bench.

One name already floated as a prospective Biden Supreme Court pick, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, was on the Biden administration’s list for potential nominations to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals as recently as last week, according to one source. Jackson is currently a federal district judge in the District of Columbia.

Biden’s expected announcement of 11 picks comes amid a growing belief among Democrats that President Barack Obama was too sluggish in addressing the courts. Obama announced his first judicial pick on March 17, 2009, followed by two additional picks on April 2 of that year.

Trump faced an comparatively unusual situation as he came into office: a vacant Supreme Court seat, held open by Senate Republicans who refused to act on Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Trump tapped Judge Neil Gorsuch for that slot on February 1, 2017. Trump’s first pick for a lower court came for an appeals court on March 21.

The White House did not respond to requests for comment.

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