President Joe Biden quietly hit a milestone on Thursday: With the help of Senate Democrats, he has confirmed more lifetime federal judges than any president has done in more than 50 years by this point in their first six months in office.
With the Senate’s latest confirmation of Candace Jackson-Akiwumi to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, Biden has confirmed a total of seven judges. These are specifically Article III judges, who hold lifetime appointments on federal district courts, appeals courts and on the Supreme Court.
Broken down, Biden has confirmed five district court judges and two appeals court judges so far.
By this point in their presidencies, Donald Trump had confirmed two lifetime federal judges (one of whom was a Supreme Court justice, Neil Gorsuch), Barack Obama had confirmed zero, George W. Bush had confirmed zero, Bill Clinton had confirmed zero, George H.W. Bush had confirmed four, Ronald Reagan had confirmed zero, and Jimmy Carter had confirmed four.
Going back even further, the comparison isn’t really applicable to President Gerald Ford, who took over for Richard Nixon in 1974 along with his pending judicial nominees.
The last time a president moved this quickly to confirm judges was in 1969, more than 50 years ago, when Nixon had confirmed seven judges by this point in his first year in the White House.
It’s still early in Biden’s presidency. A rapid start to confirming judges doesn’t necessarily mean he will surpass the massive number of judges that Trump ultimately confirmed, for example. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) helped Trump confirm more than 230 lifetime federal judges during his four years in the White House.
But for the moment, Biden can make the case to Democrats that he is delivering on their calls for urgency in filling court seats with a mix of progressive and diverse lawyers to counter the effect that Trump had on the courts with his wave of conservative picks.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) took a moment Thursday to tout the fact that Democrats, too, know how to make judicial confirmations a top priority.
“For all the focus that the Republican leader put on judges during the previous administration, the Senate only confirmed one ― one ― district or circuit judge before July 4 in the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency,” he said on the Senate floor.
“By the end of today, the Senate will have confirmed more judges this week than in all [the first] six months of Donald Trump’s first year in office,” Schumer said. “In fact, with the confirmations this week, the Senate will have confirmed more district and circuit court judges to the federal bench in the first six months of President Biden’s first year than any other administration in 50 years.”
Biden’s judicial nominees are already far more diverse than Trump’s court picks, who were almost entirely white, male corporate lawyers. His nominees so far include public defenders, civil rights lawyers, voting rights lawyers and historic firsts with Native American and Muslim American picks.
Jackson-Akiwumi, whom the Senate confirmed Thursday, will be the first judge on the 7th Circuit who spent a large part of her career as a public defender. She will also be the only person of color on the court, and just the 10th Black woman ever confirmed to a U.S. appeals court seat.
“We’ve done it with judges who break the federal mold,” Schumer said of Democrats confirming Biden’s court picks. “They make me proud that we are constantly expanding who in America can get to the bench.”