As President Joe Biden continues to make strides in nominating federal judges, his administration is closing in on matching, and possibly surpassing, the number of lower court appointments made by former President Donald Trump. The Senate Judiciary Committee recently advanced another round of judicial nominees, further cementing Biden’s focus on shaping the judiciary.
Biden has achieved the confirmation of 144 federal judges, including his Supreme Court nominee, Ketanji Brown Jackson. This figure is on par with where Trump stood during the fall of 2019, marking the third year of his presidency. Trump ultimately appointed over 230 lower court judges and three Supreme Court justices during his tenure.
Curt Levey, president of the Committee for Justice, noted that while Biden is catching up, he lags behind Trump’s appointments to the circuit court judges, which hold significant influence. Levey suggested, “There is a good chance that Biden will be edging Trump out on lower court judges.”
President Biden recently announced his 38th round of judicial nominations, reflecting his administration’s determination to shape the lower courts. This push comes as Senate Democrats aim to make an impact on the judiciary, given that Republican appointees hold a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court.
Among the judicial nominees who advanced in committee on September 28 was Richard Federico, a public defender nominated for the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. During his confirmation hearing, Senator Josh Hawley questioned Federico about his defense of a man convicted in a child pornography case, challenging the moral judgments made as a defense attorney.
Federico’s nomination raised some controversy, with Hawley seeking clarity on whether the recommended sentence aligned with justice for the victims. Federico’s responses emphasized the court’s role in determining sentences.
Additionally, the Judiciary advanced Joshua Kolar’s nomination to the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. Kolar, a federal magistrate judge in Indiana, enjoyed bipartisan support, including from Senator Todd Young.
While numerous district court judges await confirmation, some nominees have drawn Republican scrutiny. California Superior Court Judge Eumi Lee faced questioning from Senator John Kennedy about her 2010 law review article on gender and prisons. Kennedy probed whether Lee believed male prisoners could claim transgender identity to be assigned to female prisons, referencing her earlier article.
Levey expressed concerns about the Biden administration’s selection criteria for judges, highlighting a focus on diversity and backgrounds in liberal activism over other qualifications. He noted the appointment of activists from organizations like the ACLU, NAACP, and the Brennan Center, distinguishing Biden’s approach from previous Democratic presidents.
As the Senate considers these nominations, the impact of President Biden’s judicial appointments on the lower courts remains a central focus of his administration’s agenda.