These Public Defenders-Turned-Federal Judges Constitute Some of Joe Biden's Finest Work

·2-min read
Photo credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI - Getty Images
Photo credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI - Getty Images

One of the incontrovertible ways that this president is obviating the wretched actions of the previous president* is on the federal bench. On Wednesday, the current president nominated seven more candidates for federal judgeships and, in doing so, he drew as stark a distinction between himself and his predecessor* as it is possible to draw. From Reuters:

Biden's eight newest nominees included three for seats on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals: Lucy Koh, Gabriel Sanchez and Holly Thomas. And for the first time, Biden named three nominees for California's understaffed district courts. "These first six judicial nominees to the federal courts in California highlight the strength and diversity of our great state," U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein, a Democrat from California, said in a statement. The nominations, the eighth set by Biden since the Democrat entered the White House, brought the total number of nominees by Biden to 43. He has sought to diversify the bench both in terms of the personal and professional backgrounds of judges.

As admirable as the diversity of this list is, equally important is the fact that the president actively is working to fill vacancies on various overworked federal courts, most notably at the federal district court level. There are 18 vacancies currently in the district courts in California and the president has nominated candidates to fill three of them. To cite just one example, the president clearly has set his sights on diluting the lasting influences of the last administration* on the 9th Circuit, wherein 10 nominees from the previous administration have wrenched that traditionally progressive court abruptly to starboard. Also, the president has lived up to his commitment to appoint judges with varied legal experience. He has appointed three judges who have worked in that most noble—and most underpaid—shop on the block, the public defenders office.

One of them is Eunice Lee, a former federal public defender whom the Senate confirmed in August to a seat on the 2nd Circuit in New York. During the hearings into her nomination, Lee told the Senate Judiciary Committee:

“For the entirety of my legal career, my clients in both state and federal court have been poor and working-class people convicted of felony offenses. In state court, my cases included many theft, drug-related, and violent offenses. My federal practice likewise has included many theft and gun-related offenses.”

Public defenders represent the nitty-gritty of the law at its most granular level. That we will have some of them on the bench is a demonstration that this administration acknowledges the existence of their heretofore invisible clients.

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