Obama Nominates First Muslim To The Federal Bench

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Kevin Daley Supreme Court correspondent
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President Barack Obama nominated attorney Abid Qureshi to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Tuesday.

If confirmed, Quershi will be the first Muslim to serve as a federal judge.

Qureshi is a partner at the Washington, D.C., office of Latham & Watkins, a well-heeled law firm practicing in 13 countries. An American national of Pakistani origin, he is a senior litigator and global chair of the firm’s pro bono practice. Latham runs one of the world’s largest pro bono shops. He is a graduate of Cornell University and Harvard Law School.

“I commend President Obama for taking this important step in continuing to pick the best and brightest from every community to serve as part of our nation’s judiciary,” said Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates. “A judiciary that reflects the rich diversity of our nation helps ensure the fair and just administration of the law, and it is vital for American Muslims to be included.”

The president has made a priority of diversifying the federal bench, to great success. The White House crowed earlier this year that 42 percent of Obama’s judicial nominees have been women, and 37% have been minorities. He also nominated 11 LGBT persons to federal judgeships. Previously, only one openly gay individual had served. (RELATED: Kagan Says Supreme Court Racially Diverse Enough, Needs Fewer People From New York City)

Qureshi’s odds of confirmation are low unless the Senate is inspired to take up a slew of judicial nominations after the election. The American Bar Association president, Linda Klein, sent a Tuesday letter to Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell urging action on 20 pending nominations for district court judgeships around the country. There are currently 75 vacancies across the federal district courts.

The Senate refuses to take up the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court. Though McConnell still vows to block Garland’s nomination, some Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee express openness to holding hearings on his nomination after the election, should Democrat presidential nominee Hillary Clinton prevail in the November election.

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