President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced his intent to nominate a third slate of jurists to the federal bench, selecting six nominees that continue to further the administration’s goal of increased racial, gender, and ideological diversity on the judiciary.
“These individuals embody President Biden’s commitment to ensure that his judicial nominees represent not only the excellence but the diversity of our nation with respect to both personal and professional backgrounds,” the White House said in a press release that described the choices as “groundbreaking.” The latest batch of jurists brings Biden to a total of 20 federal judicial nominees since taking office.
Leading the pack are three potential federal appeals court judges, all of whom have previous experience working as public defenders, a rare attribute in the federal system.
Chief Judge Gustavo A. Gelpí, Jr. currently sits on the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, where he’s served since he was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in 2006. Gelpi was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. If confirmed, he would become only the second judge of Hispanic origin and the second judge from Puerto Rico to sit on the First Circuit. Beginning his legal career as a law clerk on Puerto Rico’s federal court, Gelpi then spent three years serving as an Assistant Public Defender before switching gears to prosecution.
Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), who used to chair the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, praised the nomination in a statement Wednesday.
“A proud son of Puerto Rico, Judge Gelpí has led a distinguished legal career, and is widely regarded by several political factions in Puerto Rico as a fair and impartial jurist,” Velazquez said. “When Judge [Juan] Torruella passed away last year, we lost a giant of the legal system, a beloved and trailblazing figure. I hope Judge Gelpí continues his legacy as he makes history in his own right as just the second Hispanic judge to serve on the First Circuit.”
Eunice Lee, an assistant federal defender with the Federal Defenders of New York City, was Biden’s nominee for the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. An adjunct law professor at NYU School of Law for more than 15 years, Lee also served as the director of recruitment and outreach at the Office of the Appellate Defender from 2003 to 2019 and has represented more than 380 indigent clients, according to the White House.
Lee would be the “second African American woman ever to serve on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, who would also be the only judge with experience as a federal defender serving on that circuit,” the White House said.
Rounding out the Circuit Court nominees was Veronica S. Rossman, who since 2017 has been serving as the senior counsel to the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the Districts of Colorado and Wyoming. Prior to that post, Rossman spent more than five years serving as an assistant federal public defender in the Appellate Division and was a visiting law professor at the University of Denver, Sturm College of Law from 2008 to 2010. Rossman, an immigrant, would be the only judge on the Tenth Circuit with experience as a federal defender.
The president also announced a trio of district court nominees, beginning with Angel Kelley for the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. Kelly began her legal career as working for the Legal Aid Society in Brooklyn for the Juvenile Rights Division. Since 2009, she served as an associate judge on the Massachusetts state court. She was initially appointed to the District Court and later appointed to the Superior Court in 2013, according to the White House.
The final two nominees were Lauren J. King for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington and Karen M. Williams for the U.S. District Court in New Jersey. King would become the third Native American federal judge currently serving in the U.S. and the first in the history of Washington state. Williams spent 17 years in private practice at the New Jersey-based law firm Jasinski & Williams before becoming a U.S. Magistrate Judge for New Jersey’s federal court in 2009.
[image via SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images]
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