Judicial Nominations Hearing Features Visibility For People With Disabilities

Press Release


Persons With Disabilities

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Zack Ford

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 21, 2022 – The Senate Judiciary Committee convened a hearing today to consider six more nominees to the federal courts. The hearing’s two panels were made up of several nominees who would bring exceptional professional and demographic diversity to the bench. 

Justice Maria Araujo Kahn, nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Second Circuit, has experience both as a public defender and as an advocate on behalf of individuals with disabilities. Since 2006, she has served as a judge in Connecticut’s state courts, advancing from the Connecticut Superior Court to the Connecticut Appellate Court in 2017 and then to the Connecticut Supreme Court later that year. Justice Khan has also served as a professor of law at both University of Connecticut School of Law and Quinnipiac University School of Law.   

Julie Rikelman, nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, has spent her career fighting for civil and human rights, including serving as Litigation Director for the Center for Reproductive Rights for the past decade. She would be the first Jewish woman and first immigrant woman to serve on the First Circuit. 

Araceli Martinez-Olguin, nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, 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. 

Jamal N. Whitehead, nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, 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. 

Alliance for Justice President Rakim H.D. Brooks issued the following statement: 

“It’s still so incredible to see more judicial nominees with admirable records of advocating for civil and human rights. At a time when our courts are still much more homogenous than the people they serve, we need more demographically diverse judges who have fought to ensure the law protects all people, not just the rich and powerful. One in four Americans has some type of disability, and today’s hearing is a reminder of how much more can be done to support those people and ensure that they are represented on our courts. Today’s nominees are exceptionally qualified, so the only question remains how quickly they’ll be confirmed to those positions.”