by Nick Wolf

A Celebration of 2023 Judicial Confirmations and a Hopeful Outlook in 2024

Photo by: Nick Wolf | Earthjustice Action
Blog by: Geoffrey Nolan | Earthjustice Action

When President Biden first took office, he pledged to prioritize the nomination and confirmation of fair-minded, highly qualified judges to the federal judiciary. During the Trump Administration, the Republican-controlled Senate confirmed a record number of judges for lifetime appointments on the federal bench—significantly tilting the judiciary to the right. Three years later, the Biden Administration is on the path to rebalancing our courts, with a record number of judges hailing from diverse personal and professional backgrounds.

Why is an environmental organization concerned with judicial confirmations? Because courts matter.

Our environmental laws are only as strong as the judges who enforce them, and Earthjustice Action has worked tirelessly over the past year to keep up the pressure on the U.S. Senate to rapidly confirm the President’s nominees. In January, we launched a digital campaign urging the Senate to confirm pending nominees, and later in the year, we led an advocacy effort highlighting the importance of judges and clean water protections.

President Biden’s confirmed judges are bringing unprecedented diversity to the federal bench. Over 100 of the confirmed nominees are women, in stark contrast to the 56 confirmed women under the entire four years of former President Trump. Roughly two-thirds of the women confirmed are women of color, including the first Muslim American woman, the first out Lesbian on any federal circuit court, the first Navajo federal judge, and the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court. In fact, President Biden has nominated more people of color to our federal bench than any other president in history. Throughout the year, Earthjustice Action profiled various nominees, informed our audiences about their qualifications, and urged Senators to confirm them. Some of these nominees include:

  • Richard Federico: A former federal public defender and a Navy Reserve JAG officer confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.
  • Ana de Alba: A U.S. District Court judge for the Eastern District of California with extensive experience in workers’ rights advocacy confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
  • Sara Hill: The former Deputy Attorney General for the Cherokee Nation and the Cherokee Nation’s first Secretary of Natural Resources confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma.
  • Nancy Abudu: The former Strategic Litigation Director at the Southern Poverty Law Center confirmed as the first Black woman to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
  • Bradley Garcia: A former Justice Department official confirmed as the first Latino to serve on the D.C. Circuit Court.
  • Rachel Bloomekatz: A former public interest lawyer confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
  • Julie Rikelman: The former litigation director for the Center for Reproductive Rights confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

As of December 20, the U.S. Senate has confirmed 166 judicial nominees, with 15 pending on the Senate Calendar for final Senate confirmation votes and 18 still awaiting a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee. With 56 other vacancies still without a nominee, Earthjustice Action will continue pressing the Biden Administration to nominate stellar judicial candidates and push for the U.S. Senate to confirm them swiftly. With the 2024 election right around the corner and control of the White House and Senate hanging in the balance, the urgency is now.

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