Demand Justice Statement on Biden Appointing Record-Tying Number of Public Defenders to Circuit Courts

10.18.21

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 18, 2021

CONTACT: [email protected]

DEMAND JUSTICE STATEMENT ON BIDEN APPOINTING RECORD-TYING NUMBER OF PUBLIC DEFENDERS TO CIRCUIT COURTS 

WASHINGTON, DC— On Monday, President Biden tied the record set by President Obama for the most judges successfully appointed to the powerful federal appellate courts with experience as public defenders, when the Senate confirmed Gustavo Gelpí. Gelpí is the fifth former public defender Biden has appointed to the circuit courts, and now half of all active circuit court judges with experience as public defenders are Biden appointees.

Demand Justice Chief Counsel Christopher Kang said:

“The days when Democrats defaulted to appointing prosecutors and corporate lawyers to the federal bench are gone. President Biden recognizes that public defenders’ experience representing people who cannot afford a lawyer and defending our Constitution gives them perspective that’s desperately needed in a court system tilted in favor of the rich and powerful. In partnership with Senate Democrats, President Biden is acting decisively to bring balance to the federal bench.”

Biden is setting new records for the number of public defenders appointed to the bench. In less than a year, the Senate has confirmed 8 Biden nominees who were former public defenders to federal judgeships. That is as many former defenders as were confirmed in the first years in office of Presidents Trump (0), Obama (2), Bush (2), and Clinton (4) combined.

Overall, one-third of Biden’s judicial nominees have experience as public defenders. That more than doubles the percentage set by Obama (13%), more than triples the percentage set by Clinton (10%), and blows out of the water percentages set by President Bush (5%) and Trump (2%).

Biden, himself a former public defender, has nominated a total of 17 former public defenders to federal judgeships. Five of his nominees would be the first ever former public defender to serve on the bench to which they are appointed.

A study conducted before Biden assumed office found that prosecutors outnumbered public defenders 4:1 on the federal bench.

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