Senate Confirms Biden’s 200th Judge as Democrats Applaud ‘Milestone’

Sen. Chuck Schumer hailed the 200th confirmation as a victory for diversity and “a great day for America.”
Senate Confirms Biden’s 200th Judge as Democrats Applaud ‘Milestone’
President Joe Biden speaks at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington on May 17, 2024. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)
Matthew Vadum

The U.S. Senate confirmed President Joe Biden’s 200th judge to the federal bench on May 22, a landmark that emphasized, ahead of the upcoming November election, the power a president has to leave a lasting impression on the judicial branch.

At the end of his term in January 2021, President Donald Trump had appointed 234 judges, including three members of the U.S. Supreme Court. If the Biden nominees continue to be confirmed at the current rate, President Biden may exceed President Trump’s figures. On the other hand, the pace of confirmations tends to slow down as an election nears, in part because Democrat senators defending their seats will be spending a lot of time on the campaign trail.

The Senate confirmed President Biden’s 200th pick, U.S. Magistrate Judge Angela M. Martinez, as a U.S. District Court judge for the District of Arizona on a vote of 66 to 28, with six senators not voting. A magistrate judge, who is appointed by a panel of judges in a specific district, assists district judges in the performance of their duties, doing things such as overseeing criminal defendants’ first appearance in court and the setting of bail. The Biden nominee replaces the retiring Judge James Soto, who was appointed in 2014 by President Barack Obama.

President Biden’s most famous judicial appointee to date is Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, who became the court’s first black female member. The Senate confirmed the justice on April 7, 2022, on a 53-47 vote after the Senate Judiciary Committee deadlocked 11-11 on her nomination. The Senate confirmation vote was unusual because no seat was yet available on the court. Then-Justice Stephen Breyer, a 1994 appointee of President Bill Clinton whom left-wing activists pressured to step aside to clear the way for a younger liberal replacement, had not yet resigned from his post but had indicated he would do so when a successor was in place. Justice Jackson was sworn in on June 30, 2022.

Apart from Judge Martinez, President Biden has placed 42 judges on federal courts of appeal, 155 on federal district courts, and two on the Court of International Trade.

President Biden said this, his 200th judicial appointment, was a “milestone” that would “protect the freedoms and liberties of all Americans.”

So far, 64 percent of his judicial appointments are women, and 62 percent are people of color, and they hail from “every field of law – from labor lawyers fighting for working people to civil rights lawyers fighting to protect the right to vote.” All of them are committed to principles at the heart of “our democracy: independence, freedom, and liberty,” the president said in a statement.

“Judges matter. These men and women have the power to uphold basic rights or to roll them back,” President Biden said.

“They hear cases that decide whether women have the freedom to make their own reproductive decisions; whether Americans have the freedom to cast their ballots; whether workers have the freedom to unionize and make a living wage for their families; and whether children have the freedom to breathe clean air and drink clean water.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer hailed the latest appointment as “an incredible milestone” and “a great day for America,” at a presser after the vote.

“In the past, most of the people who got on the bench, or all too many, were white male partners at big fancy law firms. That’s changed.”

“We’re catching up but we’ve got a ways to go,” he said. “But the bench, for too long, didn’t look like America—it only looked like a portion of America.”

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said “this is an exciting and historic moment.”

“I think we’ve met [President Biden’s] request to bring more diversity to the federal courts,” he said.

“When you walk into a courtroom and your freedom and your business and your family’s interests are at stake, you’d like to look up and see a judge that you believe really understands … your plight and what you face.”

President Obama celebrated Judge Martinez’s confirmation in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

“@POTUS just confirmed his 200th judge – not an easy accomplishment with a narrow majority in the Senate. And more than half are women and people of color,” he wrote.

“Judges have the power to roll back progress or keep us moving forward; to protect our basic liberties or take them away. It’s another reminder of what’s at stake in this election, and why it’s so important to vote,” he added.

Stacy Robinson contributed to this report.