This excerpt is from a piece that originally ran on February 8, 2024.
Indeed, according to an Alliance for Justice report, Biden’s nominations have been 75 percent women and more than 60 percent people of color. But even with the administration’s commitment to diversifying the bench, professional diversity remains scarce. Judges typically come from private law firms, or from a past profession of litigating corporate issues, or having worked as a prosecutor. Rarely have nominations come from what Alliance for Justice calls the “economic justice” side of the legal system, or from civil rights lawyers, or public defenders.
Biden’s record on professional diversity has been marginally better than his predecessors’, as he has nominated more public defenders and civil rights lawyers than the norm. Ketanji Brown Jackson, whom Biden nominated and saw confirmed as the first Black woman Supreme Court justice, came from a public defender background. As Alliance for Justice noted, Jackson had been one of five public defenders appointed to the appeals circuit under Biden.
“This nearly doubled the number of former public defenders on the appeals courts, and marked the first Supreme Court Justice to have worked as a public defender,” the report stated. The report, “Economic Justice, Judges, and the Law,” found that while the bench has been diversifying, there is still a lack of judges with “economic justice” experience, which AFJ categorizes to include consumer protection and union-side labor law. Overall, the report found that just 6 percent of judges had economic justice experience, while more than 80 percent had experience representing corporations. In 2022, just 11 of 171 federal appellate judges had economic justice experience.
“Though the Biden administration has worked hard to diversify the bench, these numbers have changed little since 2022,” Jake Faleschini, program director for AFJ, told the Prospect.