“We’re so pleased with both the pace and high quality of the Biden nominees, particularly that so many come from all corners of the legal profession,” Nan Aaron, outgoing president of the Alliance for Justice, told the Associated Press. “It’s a wonderful departure from previous Democratic administrations.” It really is, reflecting a prioritization of the judiciary that previously only Republicans seemed to hold.
That means that rock stars like Ketanji Brown Jackson, a potential Supreme Court nominee, are advancing. She was the first of Biden’s picks to be seated, and is the first Black woman confirmed for an appeals court seat in a decade. Other recent appointees are Tiffany Cunningham, the first Black judge in U.S. history for the Federal Circuit (the court that hears appeals from every jurisdiction primarily on patents), and Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, only the second Black woman on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
Myrna Pérez spent 15 years as a voting rights advocate at the Brennan Center for Justice. Her confirmation hearing was in mid-July. Her fierce advocacy for voting rights makes her the most controversial among appeals court nominees—she would become the only Latina on the Second Circuit, filling a role previously held by now-Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. “The right to vote keeps us free. It protects us from tyranny. It is preservative of all other rights,” she said at the hearing. “And as an advocate, I have been duty bound to ensure that the promises this Constitution makes about being able to participate in your own self governance are actualized.”
Certainly with a deep belief in our democratic system like that, she’s not going to get Republican votes. But she doesn’t need to because there isn’t a filibuster for judicial nominees any more, thanks to Harry Reid and his decision in 2013 to change the filibuster rule. That’s the one thing that got Obama those nominees he did get seated—it broke McConnell’s blockade on lower court judges—and meant that many fewer vacancies for the former guy to fill.
Which means fantastic people like these are getting onto the courts to help dilute the effect of the Trump/McConnell judges. That’s a fantastic thing, once again demonstrating that getting rid of the filibuster can make good things happen.
We need more of them on the courts, all the way up to the very top: the Supreme Court. Because McConnell has packed the courts with an unprecedented number of unqualified and extremist jurists, many of whom are young and will be there for decades. Extremists who are far out of the political and cultural mainstream of America. They have to be countered. Fighting for justice demands it. These fantastic new judges need backup.
Neither filibuster reform nor expanding the courts needs to be scary for Democrats right now. Both could very well be necessary if democracy as we know it survives.