WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Wednesday, June 21, the U.S. Senate voted 50-49 to confirm President Joe Biden’s 100th federal district court judge nominee, Natasha Merle. With the confirmation of Natasha Merle to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, the Democratic-controlled Senate has voted to confirm 100 district court judges.
This milestone is critically important as Democrats work to reshape the federal judiciary. Biden and Senate Democrats have worked in tandem to confirm federal judicial nominees that are more professionally and racially diverse than ever before.
The federal court system is composed of district courts, appellate courts (also known as circuit courts) and the U.S. Supreme Court. There are 677 judges across 94 district courts, 179 judges across 13 appellate courts and nine justices on the Supreme Court, all of whom serve lifetime appointments once confirmed by the Senate.
Today’s confirmation of Merle — who was previously a public defender, and most recently the deputy director of litigation of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund — is significant since she will bring an important pro-democracy perspective to the bench. According to Alliance for Justice, “Ms. Merle participated in Greater Birmingham Ministries v. Alabama,” a 2020 lawsuit filed by the NAACP challenging Alabama’s restrictive photo ID law.
Merle is one of many civil rights attorneys that has been confirmed recently. On June 14, the Senate voted 50-49 to confirm Dale Ho to a lifetime appointment as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Ho worked on voting and civil rights litigation with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund before serving as the director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project since 2013.
On June 15, the Senate also voted 50-49 to confirm Nusrat Jahan Choudhury, legal director of the ACLU of Illinois, to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. In addition to her civil rights background, Choudhury made history as the first Bangladeshi American and first Muslim woman confirmed to a federal judgeship.
With these historic confirmations, Biden is outpacing his predecessors by diversifying the federal judiciary in terms of gender, race and professional backgrounds — a critical step toward balancing federal courts, which conservatives have packed for years. Although dozens federal court vacancies still remain, Merle’s confirmation is an important step toward progress on the federal bench.