WASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday confirmed US District Judge Zahid Quraishi to the federal bench in New Jersey, making him the first Muslim American to serve as a presidentially appointed federal judge.
The history-making nomination was part of President Joe Biden's first wave of judicial picks, a list intended to send a message that the new administration would make diversifying the bench a priority. Quraishi's nomination largely passed along bipartisan lines by a vote of 81–16.
His confirmation broke multiple barriers; he's also the first Asian Pacific American to serve as a federal district judge in New Jersey. His nomination received support from a host of Muslim American and Asian Pacific American organizations, as well as the New Jersey chapter of the Federal Bar Association. He'll fill a seat that's been vacant since 2018 and is considered a "judicial emergency" by the federal judiciary because of its caseload.
Quraishi, a Pakistani American, is already a member of the New Jersey court. He's been a federal magistrate judge since 2019, a position that's filled by the judges of the court for an eight-year term as opposed to the presidentially appointed and Senate-confirmed lifetime district judgeship. He'd previously worked in private practice, as a federal prosecutor, as a senior lawyer in the Department of Homeland Security, and as a captain in the US Army Judge Advocate General's Corps.
Quraishi, through chambers, declined to comment.
He is the third judge confirmed under Biden. The Senate on Wednesday confirmed another new member of the New Jersey bench, US District Judge Julien Neals, and a nominee for the Colorado court, US District Judge Regina Rodriguez.
Biden rolled out his first slate of judicial nominees on March 30, a list of 11 names — 10 for the federal courts and one for the DC Superior Court — that featured a mix of professional and personal diversity. Liberal advocacy groups have pushed Biden to make the courts a focus after the Trump administration had success filling more than 200 vacancies, largely with white male judges.
There are 112 vacancies across the federal judiciary as of Thursday and 15 nominees at various stages of the confirmation process pending before the Senate. The number of vacancies has steadily grown since Biden took office as judges confirmed under former president Bill Clinton open up their seats. Lawmakers are scheduled next week to take up the nomination of US District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was nominated by Biden for the powerful US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit; Jackson is widely considered a frontrunner for the US Supreme Court if a seat opens up under Biden.