Senate Judiciary Committee Advances Smattering of Judicial Nominees

Press Release

Press Contact

Carolyn Bobb

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 2, 2023 – Today the Senate Judiciary Committee had the opportunity to advance 25 judicial nominees, some of whom have been waiting for their confirmations for over a year. Unfortunately, a month into the term, the Senate has still not seated new members on the committee, meaning Republican obstruction could still prevail. Only 15 could advance, and two received tie votes and will have to be reconsidered at a future date. 

AFJ is proud to support many of the nominees who could advance today, and their bios can be found below. Several of them were featured in AFJ’s Confirmations Overdue campaign, highlighting nominees who have waited too long to advance. Too many nominees remain on that list. 

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

“Today was a good day. There are still more than 100 vacancies on the federal courts, a backlog of nominees waiting to fill dozens of them, and more nominations yet to come, so we’re glad to see Chair Durbin advance these 15 judicial nominees today. The only pity is that each of their committee votes were not unanimous. They are all highly qualified for the bench and deserve timely votes on the Senate floor — they all have waited long enough to serve our nation.  

“As the process continues, our message remains the same: We don’t have time to waste. We are urging the Senate to swiftly organize and get on with the essential business of confirming these deserving nominees immediately.”  

Asterisks denote nominees featured in AFJ’s Confirmations Overdue campaign. 

Judge DeAndrea Benjamin, nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, brings nearly two decades of experience serving as a judge. She began serving on the City of Columbia’s Municipal Court in 2004, and she has served on South Carolina’s Fifth Judicial Circuit since 2011. Prior to her time as a judge, she had experience prosecuting cases that involved violence against women and children and representing employees in racial discrimination cases against their employers. Judge Benjamin would be the second woman of color to serve on the Fourth Circuit. 

Judge Daniel Calabretta, nominated to the U.S. District for the Eastern District of California, would be the first openly LGBTQ+ judge to serve on that court. He brings extensive experience with constitutional law, particularly given his work as a Deputy Attorney General litigating around California ballot initiatives — including Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in the state but was ultimately ruled unconstitutional. He has served as a state judge since 2019, when he became the first openly gay man appointed to the Superior Court for the County of Sacramento. 

*Tiffany M. Cartwright, nominated for the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, has extensive experience in civil rights litigation and currently serves as a partner at the civil rights law firm MacDonald Hoague & Bayless. Additionally, Ms. Cartwright previously served as a clerk for Judge Betty B. Fletcher on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  

*Bradley N. Garcia, nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, 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. 

Matthew L. Garcia, nominated to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico, has built his legal career fighting for civil rights as a solo practitioner and at small law firms. His perspective is sorely needed given how many current judges have only worked at large firms protecting the wealthy and powerful. It is also refreshing to see a Latino nominee, as Latinx judges are unfortunately quite underrepresented on our courts, even in states like New Mexico with significant Latinx populations. 

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.     

*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. 

*Justice Adrienne C. Nelson, nominated to the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, 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 for Oregon. 

*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.