Confirmations Overdue: 10 Champions of Justice That Exemplify The Importance Of Judicial Nominations


Zack Ford

President Biden and Senate Democrats have undoubtedly done incredible work confirming 84 judges to our federal courts, but there is still more to be done.  As of Election Day, there are 25 judicial nominees awaiting action by the full Senate, and at least 18 nominees that the Senate Judiciary Committee could still advance in time for a final vote. Some nominees have already been waiting months, if not all year, to be confirmed. 

 Every opportunity to fill a judicial vacancy with a Biden nominee is a chance to restore faith in our courts and the promise of equal justice for all. It’s important to remember that President Trump successfully appointed 234 judges, many of whom have already demonstrated their willingness to issue brazenly partisan decisions meant to advance the conservative agenda instead of preserve rights and precedents Americans hold dear. 

That’s why AFJ is calling on the Senate to demonstrate its commitment to our courts by confirming at least ten nominees by the end of November. This would set an impressive pace toward confirming the remaining nominees by the end of the lame duck period, including all 25 who have already been voted out of committee. 

President Biden’s judicial nominees have been the most diverse of any president’s, both in terms of their demographic backgrounds and their legal professional experience. As all eyes turn to see how many of the pending nominees the Senate can confirm in the limited time left, here is a look at ten nominees still awaiting their votes that exemplify the impressive qualifications we need more of on the federal bench. 

Dale Ho – U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York 

Dale Ho has an extensive record litigating on behalf of voting rights through his work at the ACLU. He notably led the legal fight at the Supreme Court to block the Trump administration from adding a citizenship question from the census. Ho’s qualifications are unmatched, and he would be the only man from the AAPI community to serve on the Southern District of New York. Due to a party-line split vote, Ho’s nomination will require the extra step of a discharge petition before he advances to a confirmation vote. 

Ho has been awaiting Senate action since January. 

Natasha Merle – U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York 

Natasha Merle is a civil rights champion who has dedicated the majority of her legal career to public interest law and public defense, having served as the Deputy Director of Litigation at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and as an assistant federal public defender. Judges with such civil rights backgrounds remain severely underrepresented on our courts, making Merle a significant and historic nominee. 

Merle has been awaiting Senate action since May. 

Nancy Abudu – U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (Georgia) 

Nancy G. Abudu has shown a relentless commitment to fighting for fairness for all. She is an experienced civil rights attorney and a leading voting rights expert. Abudu built her career at both the ACLU and more recently at the Southern Poverty Law Center, where she spearheaded the creation of the Center’s Voting Rights Practice Group and supervised litigation in both the Fifth and Eleventh Circuits. She would be the first Black woman to serve on the Eleventh Circuit. She would also be just the second woman of color to ever serve on the Eleventh Circuit, and only the third Black judge — as well as the first person of color from the state of Georgia.   

Abudu has been awaiting Senate action since May. 

Tiffany Cartwright – U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington 

Tiffany M. Cartwright has notably dedicated her career to civil rights litigation — in particular, cases in which the state government has unlawfully burdened citizens for exercising their constitutional rights, as well as employment discrimination and wrongful conviction cases. 

Cartwright has been awaiting Senate action since June. 

Rachel Bloomekatz – U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (Ohio) 

Rachel S. Bloomekatz brings extensive experience in labor and economic justice law, advocating for workers and consumers, as well as handling cases defending voting rights, gun safety, and the environment. As part of her pro bono practice, she also represented indigent women and children seeking asylum. She previously clerked for Associate Justice Stephen Breyer and has taught courses as an Adjunct Professor at the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. 

Bloomekatz has been awaiting Senate action since August. 

Bradley Garcia – U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit 

Bradley N. Garcia is awaiting confirmation to what is often dubbed “the second highest court in the country” after the Supreme Court. Garcia would be the first Latinx judge to sit on this court since it was established in 1893. He has been serving as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel since earlier this year, but for the previous decade, he served as an appellate litigator in over 50 cases, including significant pro bono work. He also served as a law clerk for Justice Elena Kagan on the United States Supreme Court and for Judge Thomas Griffith on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. 

Garcia has been awaiting Senate action since September. 

Julie Rikelman – U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (Massachusetts) 

Julie Rikelman has dedicated her career to fighting for abortion access, including serving as Litigation Director for the Center for Reproductive Rights for the past decade. She argued both June Medical Services v. Russo and Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization before the Supreme Court. Though the extremists on the Trump court ruled to overturn Roe v. Wade, Rikelman’s work to protect our Constitutional rights is uncontested. She would be the first Jewish woman and first immigrant woman to serve on the First Circuit. 

Rikelman’s nomination is still pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

Jamal Whitehead – U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington 

Jamal N. Whitehead has regularly represented victims of workplace discrimination and unfair labor practices as a trial attorney, including cases of disability discrimination, racial discrimination, and sexual harassment and assault. In addition to his experience advocating for workers, Whitehead will also add diversity to the bench as a Black man and the first of President Biden’s nominees with a disclosed disability. 

Whitehead’s nomination is still pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

Araceli Martinez-Olguin – U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California 

Araceli Martinez-Olguin is the first of President Biden’s nominees to have dedicated her career to immigrants’ rights. Serving as Supervising Attorney at the National Immigration Law Center, she has fought to defend the employment rights of immigrant workers as well as litigated DACA cases for those trying to keep their families together. Martinez-Olguin is Latina and brings important professional and demographic diversity to the courts. 

Martinez-Olguin’s nomination is still pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

Justice Adrienne Nelson – U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon 

Justice Adrienne C. Nelson currently sits on the Oregon State Supreme Court. Nelson will further grow the ranks of former public defenders serving on our federal courts to help balance the overwhelming number of former prosecutors. When she was first appointed as a state trial court judge in 2006, she was only the second Black woman judge ever in Oregon. Now with 16 years of judicial experience under her belt, she stands to make history again as the first Black woman to serve on the District Court of Oregon. 

Nelson’s nomination is still pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

For a complete list of all the judicial nominees awaiting confirmation, check out Alliance for Justice’s nomination tracker. Hopefully by the end of the Senate term, there will be no pending nominations left to track. 

Zack Ford is the press secretary at Alliance for Justice.