Professional Diversity By Senator
A hallmark of President Joe Biden’s approach to judicial nominations has been his focus on professional diversity. While past presidents–of both parties–have mostly nominated former corporate lawyers and prosecutors to the bench, Biden has put a premium on nominating public defenders, civil rights lawyers, legal aid lawyers, and union-side labor lawyers.
But Biden can’t deliver professionally diverse judges on his own. Senate Democrats have a critical role to play, because they are tasked with recommending potential district court judges from their states to the White House. So Biden has asked them to follow his lead and focus on district nominees from historically underrepresented legal backgrounds.
This dataset captures how well Senate Democrats have followed through. It includes every senator from a state with two Democratic senators who has recommended multiple Biden district nominees and reports what percentage of those nominees have been professionally diverse. In most states, the Democratic senators make joint recommendations; in the three states where senators split taking the lead on recommendations (CA, NJ, and NY), we have separated the data.
A majority of Biden’s district nominees have been professionally diverse, so senators whose recommendations have been at least 50% professionally diverse are colored in green.
While Democratic senators make the recommendations for district nominees, their roles with respect to circuit nominees vary and therefore cannot be uniformly tracked. As a result, this dataset does not include, for example, Sen. Schumer’s recommendations of Circuit Judges Eunice Lee, Alison Nathan, and Myrna Pérez or Sens. Warren and Markey’s recommendation of Julie Rikelman.
For more information on the individual nominees and their professional experience, see more Balls and Strikes data here.