President Biden nominates first Muslim judge

WASHINGTON (AFP): President Joe Biden nominated several Black women, an Asian American and the first Muslim ever to federal judgeships Tuesday in a push for diversity in the US court system. Breaking with predecessor Donald Trump’s four-year effort to staff federal courts with largely white male conservatives, Biden unveiled his first 11 picks for judges, with only two of them men, neither of them white.

At the top of his list was nominating Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who is African-American, to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which is known to handle major cases.

If confirmed by the Senate, Jackson, 50, would replace Merrick Garland — who is now Biden’s attorney general — and be in a good position to become a candidate for the Supreme Court if a vacancy opens up. No Black woman has yet served on the nine-justice high court. “Ketanji Jackson Brown is one of the best judges in the nation. Brilliant and with deep values.

That she is now joining our second highest court is fitting and awesome,” tweeted Neal Katyal, a former acting US solicitor general at the Department of Justice. Biden nominated two other African-American women to federal appeals court vacancies.

Among those chosen for federal district courts, two more were African Americans (one of them male), two were Asian Americans, one was of Hispanic origin and two were white women. Zahid Quraishi, 45, would become the first ever Muslim to serve as a federal district judge if approved by the Senate.

Quraishi is of Pakistani ancestry and currently serves as a magistrate judge in New Jersey. “Judge Quraishi has defended and served our country with distinction in numerous roles — and will make history if confirmed as the first Muslim American federal judge,” said New Jersey senator Cory Booker.

The nominations as a whole “represent the broad diversity of background, experience, and perspective that makes our nation strong,” Biden said in a statement.

The group is also diverse in its origins, including nominees with experience as public defenders, who provide free legal counsel to people who cannot afford it but face civil or criminal charges.

Under the US Constitution, the president nominates people to serve on the Supreme Court and other federal courts for life, and the Senate votes on whether to confirm them.

Trump managed to win the appointment of more than 200 conservative judges during his term, working closely with then-Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell on an issue that has been dear to US conservatives for decades.

This includes three Supreme Court justices named by Trump.