Latinos don’t see themselves fully reflected in Biden’s judicial picks

Two-thirds of President Biden’s nominees for federal court were black; 70% are women and 8% identify as LGBTQ.

His first choice for the Supreme Court, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, is the first black woman to serve there.

But when it comes to Latinos, Biden’s track record in expanding the diversity of the U.S. justice system lags far behind the size and growth of the community, advocacy groups say.

“He’s been appointing black people at an unprecedented rate, and he’s been a very good advocate for Asian Americans,” said Thomas A. Saenz, president of the Los Angeles-based MALDEF, or Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “He did very well for everyone except Latinos.”

MALDEF has criticized the White House for what it describes as a “harsh message of exclusion” and “sordid treatment of the Latino community in Biden’s nominations for judges.”

As Biden nears the middle of his four-year term, he has submitted 134 federal court nominations, 75 of which have been confirmed by the Senate.

Across all federal courts, 42 of his 134 nominees are Black, 29 Latino, 23 Asian American, and three Native American.

Among his 36 U.S. Court of Appeals nominations are 15 Black, 10 White, six Asian Americans and five Latino.

Progressives have praised Biden’s court nominees not only for their racial and ethnic diversity, but also for their “professional diversity.” This includes lawyers who have served as public defenders and consumer advocates. They include two of the nation’s leading pro-suffrage advocates and a leading abortion rights advocate.

However, Saenz argues that the president does not significantly increase Latino representation in federal courts and leaves the major appellate courts without Latino judges at all.

MALDEF had asked the White House to nominate a Latino for the 7th Circuit Court in Chicago, the 10th Circuit Court in Denver and the 5th Circuit Court, which includes Texas. These large appellate courts oversee regions with significant Latino populations, but they currently lack a single Latino judge, and in some cases have never had one, Saenz said.

The DC Circuit Court of Appeals, considered the stepping stone to the Supreme Court, has never had a Latino judge. Saenz publicly complained in May after the White House made a third nomination for that dish without choosing a Latino.

“President Biden just doesn’t seem to care,” his statement concluded.

A month later, the President announced another list of candidates, including Bradley Garcia, a Justice Department attorney and former employee of Attorney General Elena Kagan, for a seat in the DC Circuit Court.

“Part of the problem is that White House staffers don’t have prominent Latino voices,” Saenz said. “But it’s also the President himself. He has a higher level of comfort and familiarity with the Black community and Asian Americans than with the Latino community.”

The White House declined to comment specifically on MALDEF’s criticism but defended Biden’s record.

“The President has paved the way by promoting exceptionally qualified judge candidates who are committed to the Constitution and the rule of law and who represent the personal and professional diversity of our nation in an unparalleled way,” Andrew Bates, Deputy White House Press Secretary, said in a statement .

Biden’s record for federal district judges is stronger when it comes to Latinos. Of Biden’s 95 nominees, 23 of them, or about one in four, are Latino.

But Saenz noted last year that the White House selected just one Latino among its top six nominees for the Central District of California, which includes Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. selected region where Latinos are likely to form a majority in the years to come.

Analysts who follow the federal courts closely say Biden deserves praise for the diversity of his nominations and his speed in confirming them.

“Biden was quick out of the box, and it’s the most diverse group of nominees ever,” said Russell Wheeler, a Brookings Institution fellow who tracks court nominations.

With 75 new justices confirmed during the August break of his sophomore year, Biden is ahead of Presidents Trump and Obama, who had 50 and 40 concurrent confirmations respectively in their sophomore year.

But Biden and the Democrats could struggle to keep up with Trump’s record, especially if they lose control of the Senate after the midterm elections. During his four-year tenure, Trump appointed 232 justices and three Supreme Court justices.

Rakim Brooks, president of the liberal Alliance for Justice, praised Biden’s track record to date among judge candidates.

He “realized that the courts didn’t reflect the country,” he said. Most of the judges are white men who work as corporate attorneys or prosecutors, he said.

Biden’s White House has been looking for well-qualified attorneys to represent unions, consumers, defendants and civil rights plaintiffs.

Brooks said Senate Democrats would need to apply persistent pressure to confirm several dozen of Biden’s candidates before the midterm elections and then hope they could retain control of the Senate.

During Obama’s last two years in office, Republican Senate Chairman Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocked most of his court nominees, including Judge Merrick Garland, from Obama’s election to a Supreme Court vacancy.

If Republicans gain control of the Senate this fall, Brooks said, Biden’s attempt to reshape the federal courts “will grind to a halt.”

https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2022-08-30/latinos-dont-see-themselves-fully-reflected-in-bidens-judicial-picks Latinos don’t see themselves fully reflected in Biden’s judicial picks

Alley Einstein

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