By Karen Stokes
When Joe Biden became president, he made a promise to diversify the federal judiciary.
He made a vow to nominate more federal judges whose personal and professional backgrounds differ from judicial nominees historically appointed to the federal bench.
On September 30th, the President and Vice President attended the investiture ceremony for Associate Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.
Jackson’s formal swearing-in for her lifetime appointment as the first Black woman on the Supreme Court came three months after Chief Justice John Roberts conducted her first, official swearing-in.
Also, last week, the Senate confirmed Arianna Freeman to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. She’s the first woman of color ever to serve on that appellate court which means President Biden has had eight Black women circuit court judges confirmed in his first 21 months in office. That is the total number of Black women circuit court judges that have ever been previously appointed by all prior presidents combined.
To date, President Biden has nominated the most demographically diverse set of judicial candidates in history, including the first LGBTQ woman to serve on a court of appeals, the first Muslim American to serve as a federal judge, and the first Black woman to ever serve on the Supreme Court. Twenty-six percent of all Black women currently serving as active judges were nominated by President Biden. Nearly 30 percent of Biden’s nominees have served as public defenders.
President Biden has nominated 13 Black women to be circuit court judges, eight have been confirmed, and more are on the way.
Even though Bill Clinton appointed 15 Black women as federal judges and Barack Obama appointed 26, Biden is on track to surpass both men to provide the most diverse judicial branch in history.
If he continues, by the end of his first term, over 40 Black women will sit in federal judge positions.
The June 2022, ABA report shows that the federal judiciary is still far less diverse than the U.S. population. Across the Supreme Court and federal district and appellate courts, 11% of judges are Black, nearly 8% are Hispanic and nearly 4% are Asian.
Black women still have much ground to make up in terms of judicial representation. While Black women make up over 7% of the population of the United States, the rate of Black women in federal judicial positions is just 4%. The rate goes up to 8% when all women of Color are considered.
Some of President Biden’s notable confirmations:
· Judge Tiffany Cunningham became the first Black judge *ever to serve* on the Federal Circuit.
· Judge Candace Jackson-Akiwumi became the only woman of color actively serving on the Seventh Circuit — and just the second Black woman to serve on that court ever.
· Judge Eunice Lee became the only Black woman actively serving on the Second Circuit — and the second Black woman to serve on that court ever.
· Judge Holly Thomas became the first Black woman to serve on the Ninth Circuit from California — and became just the second active Black woman judge on that court, which has 29 active judges.
Black women confirmed as circuit court judges under President Biden:
D.C. Cir. (last year): now-Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson
Seventh Cir. (IL): Judge Candace Jackson-Akiwumi
Federal Cir. (DC): Judge Tiffany Cunningham
Second Cir. (NY): Judge Eunice Lee
Ninth Cir. (CA): Judge Holly Thomas
Sixth Cir. (MI): Judge Stephanie Davis
D.C. Cir.: Judge Michelle Childs
Third Cir. (PA): Arianna Freeman
The long-term effects of a lack of diversity in federal judicial positions can be felt across national policies, according to Black Wall Street Times.