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Biden to unveil five new judicial nominees, bringing total to 90

Fresh off the Senate confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, the president looks to put more judges on the federal bench.
President Joe Biden, in Menlo, Iowa, on April 12. Carolyn Kaster / AP

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden plans to roll out five new judicial nominees on Monday, elevating two judges to federal circuit courts and picking three to serve on district courts, a White House official told NBC News.

Biden is nominating John Z. Lee, a district court judge in Illinois, to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and Salvador Mendoza Jr., a district court judge in Washington, to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

He plans to nominate Stephen Henley Locher to the Southern District of Iowa; Nancy L. Maldonado to the Northern District of Illinois; and Gregory B. Williams to be district court judge in Delaware.

The five additions bring Biden's total to 90 judicial nominations. The Senate has confirmed 59 of Biden's picks to Article III courts, most notably Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court on a vote of 53-47 last Thursday, in a major victory for the president.

Confirming judges is one part of Biden's agenda that is still moving forward quickly and successfully, unhindered by the Democrats' wafer-thin 50-50 majority and a variety of political challenges and party divisions that are complicating his other domestic goals. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has made it a priority to confirm Biden-nominated judges and Democrats have been unified behind his selections, winning some Republican votes along the way for many of them.

The new nominees reflect Biden's goals of adding racial, ethnic and professional diversity on the courts.

If confirmed, Lee would be the first Asian American to serve on the Chicago-based 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, which oversees numerous Midwestern states. Maldonado would be the first Hispanic woman to be a federal judge in Illinois, the official said.

As the Senate confirmed Jackson last week, Schumer said Biden's judicial nominees are diverse in background and "in their experiences — more public defenders, more civil rights attorneys, more nonprofit lawyers have been added to the federal bench."

"After years of the previous administration confirming judges that were disproportionately white, disproportionately male, disproportionately from big law firms, Senate Democrats are working to bring balance back to our judiciary," he said. "It will make our democracy healthier, fairer, and stronger as the country grows increasingly diverse in this century."

When factoring in the new slate, 72 percent of Biden's picks for judges will be women, 30 percent will be Black, 21 percent will be Hispanic and 19 percent will be Asian American, the White House official said. In terms of personal background, 27 percent will be public defenders and 22 percent will be civil rights lawyers.

Democrats are seeking to move judges quickly in anticipation of a slowdown if Republicans capture the Senate in the fall elections.

On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said at an event in Kentucky that the chamber would approach nominations “very differently” if he becomes majority leader.

He noted that the “majority leader has the ability to decide what you’re going to put on the floor,” and said the “single most important decision” he made when he held that job was to block President Barack Obama from filling a Supreme Court vacancy.