Brad Garcia, a former O’Melveny & Myers partner, was confirmed as the first Latino to serve on the US Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
The Senate voted 53-40 on Monday to confirm Garcia, who has served as a deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel since early 2022.
Garcia’s among a batch of Biden appellate nominees who awaited Senate floor votes while Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) was absent due to illness. Others include Nancy Abudu for the Eleventh Circuit; Rachel Bloomekatz to the Sixth Circuit; and Julie Rikelman to the First Circuit. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) filed cloture on Abudu’s nomination after the Garcia confirmation vote.
At O’Melveny, where Garcia worked from 2013 to 2022, he was on teams that represented parties before the justices in notable disputes involving guns, abortion, and the First Amendment.
He delivered 13 appellate arguments, including before the Supreme Court in a 2021 immigration case, United States v. Palomar-Santiago.
His clients included Alphabet Inc.'s Google, Warner Brothers Discovery Inc., and Ford Motor Co., as well as Stony Lester, who Garcia helped get out of federal prison early because he was misclassified as a career offender.
“That was a really rewarding experience, both to get that result for Mr. Lester and to establish favorable precedent for others, which is one of the highlights of being an appellate lawyer,” Garcia told Bloomberg Law in 2021 of the case he worked on pro bono for four years.
Meaghan VerGow, a partner at O’Melveny & Myers who worked with Garcia for roughly a decade, said one of Garcia’s strengths is his willingness to consider alternative arguments and different perspectives.
That’s an “incredibly important characteristic in a judge and particularly a judge on an appellate bench where the stakes are higher,” VerGow said.
Amir Ali, executive director of the MacArthur Justice Center, recalled enlisting Garcia’s help in a case raising important issues involving access to courts for indigent incarcerated people.
Garcia agreed to take the lead on the case pro bono and “litigated the hell out of it,” Ali said. Garcia identified new issues in the brief and arguing the case before the Third Circuit, which ruled in their clients’ favor in 2020 on all three points he raised in the brief.
At his July 2022 confirmation hearing, Republican senators questioned Garcia about whether his work on Supreme Court cases involving religion, guns, and reproductive rights revealed liberal political leanings.
Garcia noted that the “bulk” of his work was representing Fortune 500 companies and that he had a track record of “working productively with clients and attorneys regardless of partisan affiliations.”
Retired D.C. Circuit Judge Thomas Griffith, for whom Garcia clerked after graduating from Harvard Law School, praised him in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee as “a model” for approaching “divisive issues in a civil and respectful manner.”
“Brad knew that I am a judicial conservative, and he played well his role of helping me be that type of judge regardless of his views,” wrote Griffith, who was a Republican appointee.
Garcia, who also clerked for Justice Elena Kagan, spoke of the importance of diversifying the appellate bar during a 2021 online panel sponsored by two American Constitution Society student chapters in Chicago.
“The lack of diversity in those spaces, from the clerks to the judges and to the attorneys is really striking,” Garcia said. He added that the “lack of representation” is an “obvious problem.”
He was first nominated to the D.C. Circuit in June 2022 and his nomination was resubmitted last month after expiring at the end of the last Congress.
President Joe Biden has made diversifying the federal bench a priority in judicial nominations, and Garcia’s selection was praised by Latino groups for what it would mean for the D.C. Circuit.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund said confirming Garcia would “ensure that the D.C. Circuit begins to reflect the diversity of the country” in a July 2022 letter to the Judiciary Committee.
“Mr. Garcia will also bring his own lived experience as a Latino to the bench—a perspective missing from the D.C. Circuit since its founding,” the MALDEF letter said.
Republicans continue to hold up a Senate Democratic blockade of Miguel Estrada, President George W. Bush’s Honduran-born D.C. Circuit nominee, as an example of Democratic mistreatment of diverse GOP nominees, including during the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson last year.
Estrada, who was considered a potential future Supreme Court candidate, withdrew from his nomination in 2003 after Democrats filibustered under Senate rules that required a 60-vote supermajority to limit debate on judicial nominees.
In addition to Jackson, the D.C. Circuit, which is sometimes referred to as the “second highest” after the Supreme Court, has also been a springboard for Chief Justice John Roberts, Justices Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh.
Garcia is the fourth Biden nominee confirmed to the D.C. Circuit. Biden nominated Jackson as well as her successor, Judge Florence Pan. Biden also appointed Judge J. Michelle Childs, who previously served as a federal trial judge in South Carolina.
“He adds his incredible intellect and careful analytical skills to a court that regularly resolves cases and issues that affect the whole country,” Ali said.
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