Looking for some good news about the Obama presidency? Here’s one: President Obama is moving at a historic pace to try to diversity the nation’s federal judiciary.
A recent Associated Press story says:
“Nearly three of every four people [President Obama] has gotten confirmed to the federal bench are women or minorities. He is the first president who hasn’t selected a majority of white males for lifetime judgeships.”
More than 70 percent of Obama’s confirmed judicial nominees during his first two years were “non-traditional,” or nominees who were not white males. That far exceeds the percentages in the two-term administrations of Bill Clinton (48.1 percent) and George W. Bush (32.9 percent),
To enumerate, because it’s worth reminding ourselves: President Obama won Senate confirmation of the first Latina to the Supreme Court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor. He also managed to get Elena Kagan confirmed as a Supreme Court justice, bringing the total of women on the high court to three for the first time in history. In addition, he nominated and won confirmation of the first openly gay man to a federal judgeship.
Of course, many of President Obama’s judicial nominees have been held up by members of Congress, whose stated goal is to obstruct the President at every turn. But they’ve not stopped them all, and those who have been confirmed represent an undeniably significant shift in judicial diversity: According to Obama administration figures, of the 90 Obama nominees who have been confirmed, 21 percent are African-American, 11 percent are Hispanic, 7 percent are Asian-American and almost half — 47 percent — are women.
Obama also has doubled the number of Asian-Americans sitting on the federal bench. There currently are 14 Asian-American federal judges on the 810-judge roster. In fact, President Obama has nominated as many Asian-Americans as were sitting on the bench when he was inaugurated.
Gloria Shur Bilchik is a freelance writer and community volunteer in St. Louis, Missouri. She is the editor of Occasional Planet. She views the preservation of progressive values as vital to making the US a humane, livable place for her children and grandchildren.