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Biden Nods to Prosecutors, Law Partners With New Judge Picks (2)

April 13, 2022, 1:10 PMUpdated: April 13, 2022, 8:35 PM

The White House announced the first batch of planned judicial nominations in more than two months as President Joe Biden seeks to fill a backlog of vacant seats before the midterm elections.

The intended nominees unveiled on Wednesday, including trial court judges John Lee and Salvador Mendoza Jr. for the Seventh and Ninth Circuits, respectively, feature several candidates with prosecutorial experience and law firm partners. That’s a departure from Biden’s push driven by progressives to nominate people with experience that hasn’t historically been represented on the bench, like public defenders and civil rights attorneys.

The group does keep with Biden’s efforts to diversify the courts in terms of demographics. Lee would become the first Asian-American on the Chicago-based appeals court and Mendoza would be the first Hispanic on the Ninth Circuit from Washington state.

Nancy Maldonado, tapped for the Northern District of Illinois, would be the first Hispanic woman to become a federal judge in that state, and Gregory Williams would be the only person of color on the District of Delaware bench, the White House said. Maldonado is a partner at Miner, Barnhill & Galland and Williams is a partner at Fox Rothschild.

Williams would join a court that’s one of the busiest patent venues in the nation and succeed Judge Leonard P. Stark in Delaware, who was elevated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Williams represents clients in patent litigation, antitrust, and corporate governance issues and also runs a blog where he explores intellectual property decisions issued by the Delaware court.

Stephen Henley Locher, a U.S. magistrate judge picked for the Southern District of Iowa, represents Biden’s first district pick for a state with two Republican senators.

Democrats are still observing home-state senator support at the district court level. So far, Biden has mostly focused efforts in blue states where getting that support is likely easier. Iowa’s Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst recommended Locher, a former Belin McCormick partner, to the White House in Feburary.

The planned nominations are the first since early February as the Biden administration focused on filling the seat soon to be vacated by Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed last week.

Progressive groups are pressing the White House to move quickly on judicial nominations as time runs out before Democrats potentially lose their narrow control of the Senate in the midterm elections.

—With assistance from Samantha Handler

(Updates with additional details about Williams.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Madison Alder in Washington at malder@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com; Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com