Padilla Urges Confirmation of Diverse Slate of California Federal Judges

Watch: Padilla speaks in support of California judicial nominees on the Senate Floor ahead of confirmation votes

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, spoke on the floor today in support of the confirmation of a slate of well-qualified, diverse nominees to federal courts in California, including Justice Gabriel Sanchez, Judge Holly Thomas, Judge Maame Frimpong, Judge Jennifer Thurston, Judge Jinsook Ohta, Judge Linda Lopez, and Judge Hernán Vera. The Senate previously voted 50-45 to confirm Judge Koh to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

“As we work to strengthen the justice system, it’s critical that we give proper attention and support to our district and circuit courts,” said Senator Padilla. “I celebrate each of these outstanding nominees, thank them for their willingness to serve our country, and urge their swift confirmation. I’m proud of the work my Judicial Evaluation Commission and I have done so far to diversify the federal bench in California, and I’m committed to keeping up that critical mission in 2022.”

Senator Padilla is committed to rebuilding a federal judiciary that better provides justice to all. Within weeks of being sworn in to the Senate, Padilla established a Judicial Evaluation Commission that is approximately 70 percent attorneys of color and a majority women to evaluate candidates for federal judicial vacancies in California. Over the last several months, Senator Padilla worked closely with the Biden administration to advise and support the nominations of these judges.

Remarks as prepared for delivery below.

Madam President, soon after I joined the Senate in January, I established a Judicial Evaluation Commission to help me find, vet, and recommend candidates to President Biden to serve on California’s federal courts.

Usually, when people think about federal courts and the judicial branch, they think about the Supreme Court.

But the vast majority of federal cases—more than 99% of all cases—are decided at the district court or the circuit court level.

So as we work to strengthen the justice system, it’s critical that we give proper attention and support to our district and circuit courts.

The nominees to every level of the federal judiciary by the previous administration were far from diverse, to put it mildly.

As a result, federal courts moved further away from reflecting the diverse, vibrant America that they serve.

I’m not just talking about gender, and I’m not just talking about race.

For too long, the bench of our courts has been dominated by corporate lawyers and former prosecutors.

Prosecutors and corporate lawyers do contribute valuable and important expertise to our federal judiciary.

That’s why I’ve been proud to support the nomination of some this year.

But the judiciary also needs the knowledge and perspective of legal professionals who have taken other paths.

Public defenders, who uphold our Constitutional commitment that every person deserves fair representation.

Public interest lawyers, who defend fundamental rights and the rule of law.

Consumer and voting rights lawyers, labor and immigration lawyers, and local government lawyers, who serve diverse clients, advocate for different interests, and bring critical insights on how working class Americans interact with the law.

We need these perspectives to rebalance our federal courts, and hopefully, rebuild and reaffirm public confidence in the fairness of their rulings.

Our country is stronger and fairer when every level of our government reflects the voices and the experiences of all our people, not just the privileged or the powerful. 

And a federal bench that includes more voices can better provide justice to all.

That’s why, over the past year, I have worked with my commission—which is 70 percent attorneys of color, and a majority women—with Senator Feinstein, and with the President, to find, nominate, and support a new generation of qualified, outstanding, and professionally diverse judges.

A federal bench that is diverse in every sense of the word.

As a result of these efforts, and pending confirmation votes that I hope will soon occur, I am so proud that California’s district court bench will soon include Judge Maame Frimpong—a proud daughter and wife of immigrants from Ghana, who has used her law degree to fight for consumers and strengthen global democracy.

It will soon include Judge Jennifer Thurston—who earned her law degree as a night student raising a family, and spent a decade serving in county government.

It will soon include Judge Jinsook Ohta—an immigrant from South Korea who spent nearly ten years of her career helping to prosecute unfair business practices and protect consumers from fraud.

It will soon include Judge Linda Lopez—who spent more than ten years as a public defender in San Diego.

And it will soon include Judge Hernan Vera—the son of Argentine immigrants, who spent a decade fighting for the disadvantaged and leading the nation’s largest pro bono law firm.

In addition, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals now includes Judge Lucy Koh—an expert litigator of intellectual property cases and the first Korean-American woman to serve on a federal circuit court.

The Ninth Circuit will also soon include Justice Gabriel Sanchez—the proud son of a single mother from Mexico who has earned wide recognition as a public servant and an appellate judge on California’s Court of Appeal.

And it will soon include Judge Holly Thomas—the granddaughter of sharecroppers who has made a career fighting for the civil rights of all Americans.

I celebrate each of these outstanding nominees, thank them for their service to our country, and urge their swift confirmation.

Of course, we still have a long way to go, and much more work to do.

But these confirmations will be another big, big step in the right direction.

I’m proud of the work we’ve done so far to diversify the federal bench.

And I’m committed to keeping up that critical mission in 2022.

Thank you, Madam President, I yield the floor.


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