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First Slate of Biden Judicial Nominees is Diversity Personified

March 30, 2021 by Dan McCue
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden’s first slate of judicial nominees is a marked departure from the mostly white and mostly male picks of the Trump years.

In all, Biden named 11 individuals he’d like to see on the bench, 10 to serve either as Federal  Circuit or District Court judges, and one to serve as a Superior Court Judge for the District of Columbia.

If confirmed, the groundbreaking nominees include the first Muslim American federal judge in U.S. history, the first Asian American Pacific Islander  to ever serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of D.C., and the first woman of color to ever serve as a federal judge for the District of Maryland.

The most prominent of the three is U.S. District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, whom Biden has nominated to fill the vacant seat in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit created by Judge Merrick Garland’s departure to become Attorney General.

The D.C. Circuit, in particular, is a place where presidents have searched for Supreme Court justices. 

Three of the high court’s current nine members have served on the D.C. Circuit. Biden pledged during the campaign to nominate a Black woman to the high court if a vacancy opened during his term.

Three of the picks are Black women who were nominated to the federal courts of appeals, a pathway to the Supreme Court. 

“This trailblazing slate of nominees draws from the very best and brightest minds of the American legal profession,” Biden said in a statement. “Each is deeply qualified and prepared to deliver justice faithfully under our Constitution and impartially to the American people — and together they represent the broad diversity of background, experience, and perspective that makes our nation strong.”

The White House said the 11 nominees are attorneys who have excelled in a range of legal positions, including as jurists, public defenders, prosecutors and public servants, as well as in the private sector and the military. 

The White House said Biden’s choices reflect his strong belief that the federal courts should reflect the “full diversity of the American people” in background and professional experience. 

Trump leaned heavily on White men to fill judicial vacancies. More than 75% of Trump’s judicial nominees were men, and 85% were White.

The nominees are:

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson: for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has served on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia since 2013. Prior to joining the federal bench, Judge Jackson served as a vice chair of the United States Sentencing Commission beginning in 2010.

Jackson began her legal career as a law clerk for Judge Patti Saris in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts from 1996 to 1997 and then for Judge Bruce Selya on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit from 1997 to 1998. She was an associate at Miller, Cassidy, Larroca & Lewin LLP from 1998 to 1999. She clerked for Justice Stephen Breyer of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1999 to 2000. Jackson was an associate at Goodwin Proctor LLP in Boston, Mass., from 2000 to 2002 and an associate at Feinberg Rozen, LLP (formerly The Feinberg Group, LLP) in Washington, D.C. from 2002 to 2003. 

From 2003 to 2005, Jackson served as an assistant special counsel for the United States Sentencing Commission, and from 2005 to 2007, Jackson served as an assistant federal public defender in Washington, D.C. From 2007 to 2010, Jackson was a counsel at Morrison & Foerster LLP where her practice focused on criminal and civil appellate litigation in both state and federal courts, as well as cases in the Supreme Court.

Jackson received her J.D., cum laude, from Harvard Law School in 1996. She received an A.B., magna cum laude, from Harvard College in 1992.

Tiffany Cunningham: for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

Tiffany P. Cunningham has been a partner at Perkins Coie LLP in Chicago, Ill., since 2014. She is a member of the Patent Litigation practice and serves on the 17-member Executive Committee of the firm. Cunningham serves as trial and appellate counsel for large multinational companies, as well as small enterprises, and individuals in complex patent and trade secret disputes. 

Cunningham is a registered patent attorney before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. From 2002 to 2014, she worked in the Chicago office of Kirkland & Ellis LLP as an associate until she was elevated to partner in 2007. Cunningham began her legal career as a law clerk to Judge Timothy B. Dyk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit from 2001 to 2002. Cunningham received her J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2001 and her S.B. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1998.

Candace Jackson-Akiwumi: for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Candace Jackson-Akiwumi is a partner at Zuckerman Spaeder, LLP in Washington, D.C., where she focuses on complex civil litigation, white collar criminal defense, and investigations. From 2010 to 2020, Jackson-Akiwumi worked as a staff attorney at the Federal Defender Program in the Northern District of Illinois. Jackson-Akiwumi represented more than 400 indigent clients accused of federal crimes at every stage of the process, from investigation to trial, sentencing, and appeal. 

Jackson-Akiwumi began her legal career as a law clerk to Judge David H. Coar on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois from 2005 to 2006, and then for Judge Roger Gregory on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit from 2006 to 2007. Jackson-Akiwumi was a litigation associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP in Chicago, Ill., from 2007 to 2010.

Jackson-Akiwumi received her A.B., with honors, from Princeton University in 2000, and her J.D. from Yale Law School in 2005.

Judge Deborah Boardman: for the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland

Deborah Boardman is a United States Magistrate Judge for the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, a position she was appointed to in 2019.

From 2008 to 2019, Boardman served at the Federal Public Defender’s Office for the District of Maryland, including four years as the first assistant Federal Public Defender. From 2001 to 2008, Boardman worked as an associate at Hogan & Hartson (now Hogan Lovells) in Washington, D.C., where she was selected to serve as the senior associate in the firm’s pro bono department. Boardman began her career as a law clerk for Judge James C. Cacheris of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia from 2000 to 2001.

Boardman, who was born and raised in Maryland, received her J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law in 2000. After graduating with her B.A., summa cum laude from Villanova University in 1996, Boardman was a Fulbright Scholar in Amman, Jordan.

Judge Lydia Griggsby: for the U. S. District Court for the District of Maryland

Judge Lydia Griggsby has served as a Judge on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims since 2014. Prior to her appointment, Griggsby was chief counsel for Privacy and Information Policy and Privacy Counsel for Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, from 2005 to 2014. Prior to that, she was a counsel on the Senate Select Committee on Ethics from 2004 to 2005. 

Griggsby served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, practicing in the Civil Division, for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Columbia from 1998 to 2004. She was a trial attorney in the Commercial Litigation Branch in the Civil Division of the U.S. Department of Justice from 1995 to 1998. Griggsby began her legal career as an associate with DLA Piper in Baltimore, Md., from 1993 to 1995.

Griggsby received her J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center in 1993 and her B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1990. She was born in Baltimore and lives in Silver Spring, Md.

Julien Neals: for the U. S. District Court for the District of New Jersey

Julien Neals is county counsel and acting county administrator for Bergen County, N.J. He became county counsel in January 2015 and has served as acting county administrator since June 2016. Neals served in various positions in the Newark, N.J., city government between 2006 and 2014, including as business administrator from 2010 to 2014, corporation counsel from 2008 to 2010, and chief judge of the Municipal Court from 2006 to 2008. He was a partner at the Secaucus, N.J., law firm of Chasan Leyner & Lamparello from 1992 to 2006 and from 2014 to 2015. Neals began his legal career as a clerk for Judge Seymour Margulies on the New Jersey Superior Court. 

A native of Newark, Mr. Neals received his J.D. from Emory University School of Law in 1991 and his B.A. from Morehouse College in 1986.

Judge Florence Y. Pan: for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

Judge Florence Y. Pan has served as an associate judge on the Superior Court for the District of Columbia since 2009. Prior to joining the court, from 1999 to 2009, she served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, where she also served as deputy chief of the Appellate Division from 2007 to 2009. From 1998 to 1999, she worked at the United States Department of Treasury, first as a senior advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Financial Markets in 1998 and then as a senior advisor to the Undersecretary for Domestic Finance in 1999. 

Pan worked for the U.S. Department of Justice from 1995 to 1998, during which time she was a Bristow Fellow in the Office of the Solicitor General from 1995 to 1996 and an attorney in the Appellate Section of the Criminal Division from 1996 to 1998. From 1994 to 1995, she served as a law clerk for Judge Ralph K. Winter, Jr., of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Pan began her legal career as a law clerk for Judge Michael B. Mukasey of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York from 1993 to 1994. She received her J.D. with distinction from Stanford Law School in 1993 and her B.A. and B.S., summa cum laude, from the University of Pennsylvania in 1988.

Judge Zahid N. Quraishi: for the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey

Zahid Quraishi is a United States magistrate judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, a position he was appointed to in 2019.

Prior to his appointment, Quraishi was a partner at Riker Danzig where he chaired the firm’s White Collar Criminal Defense and Investigations Group and served as his firm’s first chief diversity officer. Before joining Riker Danzig, Quraishi served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey from 2008 to 2013. Prior to joining the U.S. Attorney’s office, Quraishi served as an assistant chief counsel at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He also served as a military prosecutor and achieved the rank of captain in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps, deploying to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004 and 2006. Earlier in his career, Quraishi worked in private practice and clerked for Judge Edwin H. Stern, of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, from 2000 to 2001.

Quraishi received his J.D. in 2000 from Rutgers Law School – Newark and his B.A. in 1997 from John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Regina Rodriguez: for the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado

Regina Rodriguez has been a partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP in Denver, Colo., since 2019. She is the co-chair of the Trial Practice and handles cases involving complex litigation and government investigations. From 2016 to 2019, she was a partner in the Denver, Colo., office of Hogan Lovells US LLP. From 2002 to 2016, Rodriguez worked in the Denver office of Faegre & Benson LLP (now Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP) as a special counsel until she was elevated to partner in 2005. 

She served as an assistant U.S. attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado from 1995 to 2002, during which time she served as the deputy chief of the Civil Division from 1998 to 1999 and as chief of the Civil Division from 1999 to 2002. In addition, from 1997 to 1998, Ms. Rodriguez served four months as deputy senior counsel for Alternative Dispute Resolution in the U.S. Department of Justice. She began her legal career as an associate in the Denver law firm of Cooper & Kelly, P.C. (now defunct) from 1988 to 1995. Rodriguez received her J.D. from the University of Colorado School of Law in 1988 and her B.S., with honors, from the University of Iowa in 1985.

Margaret Strickland: for the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico

Margaret Strickland has been a named partner at McGraw & Strickland LLC in Las Cruces, N.M., since 2011. She represents clients in both civil rights cases and criminal cases in both state and federal courts in New Mexico. She has represented clients in more than 70 criminal jury trials, and she has also argued before the New Mexico Supreme Court and the New Mexico Court of Appeals. From 2017 to 2019, she served as president of the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. Strickland started her career at the Law Offices of the Public Defender for the State of New Mexico from 2006 to 2011. She received her J.D. from New York University School of Law in 2006 and her B.A. from the University of Texas at El Paso in 2003.

Judge Rupa Ranga Puttagunta: for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia

Judge Rupa Ranga Puttagunta currently serves as an administrative judge for the D.C. Rental Housing Commission. Prior to joining the Commission in 2019, Puttagunta was a solo practitioner from 2013 to 2019, representing indigent criminal defendants in trial and on appeal. Before opening her own practice, Puttagunta practiced family and appellate law at Delaney McKinney, LLP from 2012 to 2013.

While working on domestic relations matters in private practice, Puttagunta also provided hundreds of hours of pro bono legal services by volunteering at D.C. Superior Court’s Family Court Self-Help Center and Attorney Negotiator Program and representing victims of domestic violence in D.C. Superior Court. 

Puttagunta began her legal career as a law clerk for Judge William M. Jackson of the D.C. Superior Court from 2008 to 2010, as well as the Senior Judges of the D.C. Court of Appeals from 2010 to 2011. Judge Puttagunta received her J.D. from Ohio State Moritz College of Law in 2007 and her B.A. from Vassar College in 2002.

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