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Judicial Nominations: Accomplishments and the Work That Lies Ahead

Summary: 
Before the Senate adjourned, it confirmed 12 federal district court nominees, for a total of 307 lifetime-appointed federal judges confirmed during President Obama’s first six years.

Before the Senate adjourned last night, it confirmed 12 federal district court nominees, for a total of 307 lifetime-appointed federal judges confirmed during President Obama’s first six years. These confirmations include two Supreme Court Justices, 53 circuit court judges, 250 district court judges, and two Court of International Trade judges. Over the past two years, the Senate has confirmed 134 judges—44% of President Obama’s judicial confirmations, and the most in a two-year Congress since 1979-1980. We’re proud of all of our nominees and grateful to the Senate for its action.

President Obama will continue to consult with Senators—Democrats and Republicans—to identify lawyers with the necessary intellect, integrity, temperament, and commitment to equal justice under law to serve as lifetime-appointed judges. He also will continue his unprecedented commitment to expanding the gender, racial, sexual orientation, and experiential diversity of the men and women who enforce our laws and deliver justice.

President Obama’s judges have broken barriers across the nation, including four who were confirmed last night:

  • Loretta Biggs, confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, is the first African American female judge to serve on her court.
  • Elizabeth Dillon, confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, is the first female judge to serve on her court.
  • Amit Mehta, confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, is the first Asian American Pacific Islander judge to serve on his court.
  • Robert Pitman, confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, is the first openly gay lifetime appointed federal judge in Texas.

These "firsts," while important, are emblematic of the President’s overall commitment to ensuring that the federal judiciary reflects the nation it serves:

  • President Obama already has appointed 129 female federal judges—16% more than any other President in history.
  • President Obama already has appointed 109 minority federal judges—18% more than any other President in history.
  • President Obama already has appointed 11 openly gay or lesbian federal judges, compared to only one in history prior to 2009.
  • Finally, President Obama is committed to a federal judiciary that includes the range of experience in the legal profession, and he has appointed more circuit court judges with experience as public defenders than all presidents in history in combined.

We know there is more work to be done. When President Obama took office, there were 55 vacancies in the federal judiciary. With the Senate’s recent confirmations, we have reached a milestone—fewer vacancies than when we began. Today, there are only 42 judicial vacancies, for a decrease of 25%. But by way of comparison, at this point in their administrations, President George W. Bush had decreased vacancies by almost 40%, and President Clinton had cut them in half. Furthermore, Chief Justice John Roberts and the Judicial Conference of the United States have recommended that Congress create 90 new permanent and temporary judgeships to address increasing caseloads across the country. Finally, President Obama’s judges have waited, on average, almost two-and-a-half times longer to be confirmed after being reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee than President Bush’s judges did at this point his administration—even though the vast majority of our judges are confirmed with overwhelming bipartisan support.  

A fully functioning judiciary is critical to the administration of justice, and a judiciary that better resembles our nation instills even greater confidence in our justice system.

View our infographic: "Creating a Judicial Pool That Resembles the Nation It Serves"