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With Latina and Black nominees, Biden unveils 10 new court picks

Bringing his total number of judicial nominees to 62 on Wednesday, the president has officially worked to fill empty court seats at a faster clip than any of his predecessors

President Joe Biden put 10 people on the path to the bench Wednesday, including one nominee who, if confirmed, would be the only Black woman serving the Northern District of California as an active U.S. district judge.

Judge Trina Thompson is one of two former public defenders included in the latest slate of nominees. Following Thompson's stint as a law clerk and then an assistant public defender at Alameda County’s Public Defender’s Office from 1986 to 1991, she went into private practice as a criminal defense attorney for nearly a decade. Thompson became a judge for the Superior Court of Oakland County, California, in 2002 after working there first as a Juvenile Court commissioner.

The Golden State has no active Black women holding federal benches, although Biden nominated another Black woman, Judge Maame Frimpong, to a Central District of California opening in September.

The White House noted Wednesday that with 62 nominees to date, Biden has put forward more judicial candidates during his 287 days in office than any other president in modern American history, including former President Donald Trump. The Democrat has reportedly focused on speed in this area to match or exceed the more than 200 judges that Trump put on federal benches nationwide. To date, 28 of the president's judicial nominations have been confirmed, more than any other president this far in his first term dating back to President Ronald Reagan.

In a statement Wednesday, the nonprofit advocacy group Alliance for Justice highlighted the importance of keeping up this pace on the heels of statewide elections where Democrats suffered a critical loss of power in Virginia.

"This slate advances his important commitment to bringing more professional and demographic diversity to our courts, including two more former public defenders and several women of color," Alliance for Justice President Rakim H.D. Brooks said in a statement. "As Tuesday’s elections demonstrated, time may be limited to ensure the Senate can continue confirming these nominees. It is imperative that this impressive pace continues.” 

The other Black woman along with Thompson whom Biden selected for a judgeship on Wednesday is Kendra Briggs. Tapped for an opening on the Superior Court for the District of Columbia, Briggs has been an assistant U.S. attorney for the district since 2010. Her most recent duties have involved prosecuting civil rights offenses as a senior assistant U.S. attorney for the division’s public corruption and civil rights section. For two years before that, she practiced law at the private firm, Shook, Hardy & Bacon, in Washington.

Thompson is one of two nominees Biden made Wednesday to the Northern District of California — the other being Jacqueline Corley, who has been a magistrate judge in the district since 2011. Previously, Corley was a partner for two years at the San Francisco firm Kerr & Wagstaffe, which specializes in civil litigation. 

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As for the other newly nominated former public defender, Biden tapped Anne Traum for Nevada’s federal bench. Traum was an assistant federal public defender in the District of Nevada from 2002 to 2008, following a two-year stint as a civil assistant federal prosecutor at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Nevada. Since 2008, Traum has taught at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law.

Biden’s latest slate of court picks includes his second Latina nominee to the Southern District of California. If confirmed, Ruth Bermudez Montenegro would become only the second active Latina federal judge in a state with 61 federal bench seats and a Latino population of approximately 40%. Montenegro has served as a magistrate judge at the court since August 2018. She was previously a judge at a county-level superior court in California, joining the bench after serving as an assistant county lawyer.

Tapped for judgeships on New Jersey and Nevada’s federal courts, respectively, nominees Evelyn Padin and Judge Cristina Silva would similarly be the second Latina federal judges on their prospective benches. Currently operating her own private practice, Padin’s specializations include family law and civil litigation. She has run her own firm since 1995. Her site emphasizes her ability to speak to clients in both Spanish and English.

Silva, who would be just the third Hispanic judge to ever serve for the Nevada District Court, is currently a judge on the Eighth Judicial District Court in Las Vegas, where she has been since 2019. Previously, she served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the District of Nevada from 2011 to 2019.

Rounding out the group of federal bench nominees Wednesday, Georgette Castner and Judge Julie Rubin were put forward for seats on New Jersey and Maryland’s federal courts, respectively. 

Castner is a partner at the firm Montgomery McCracken in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, a practice she has worked at since 2007. She has been a partner since 2015. Rubin meanwhile is a Circuit Court judge for Baltimore, Maryland, a position she has held since 2013. Prior to this she spent 12 years in private law at the Baltimore firm Astrachan Gunst Thomas Rubin working on intellectual property and employment law suits.

The lone male nominee Wednesday, Biden tapped Judge Leonard Stark to serve on the U.S. Appeals Court for the Federal Circuit. Stark is currently a federal judge for the District of Delaware. He has been a judge there since 2010 and served as the court’s chief judge from July 2014 to June 2021. Prior to this, he worked as a U.S. magistrate judge for court from 2007 to 2010.

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University of California, Berkeley

Judge Trina Thompson.