A Washington Post profile of President Obama’s efforts to diversify the federal bench provides an interesting window into the depth of his commitment to this project. Of the 35 judicial nominees currently pending before the Senate, “17 of the 35 pending judicial nominees are women, 15 are ethnic minorities and five are openly gay.” Only six are white straight men.
To be sure, this particular slice of the President’s judicial nominees is unusually diverse, but Obama has still shown a great commitment to judicial diversity than any of his predecessors. “During Obama’s first term, 37 percent of his confirmed judges were nonwhites, compared with 19 percent for President George W. Bush and 27 percent for President Bill Clinton. The trend is similar on gender: 42 percent of Obama’s first-term judges were women, compared with 21 percent for Bush and 30 percent for Clinton.” As ThinkProgress previously reported, Obama has quadrupled the number of openly gay judges with lifetime appointments to the federal bench (although this has as much to do with the fact that there was only one openly gay Article III judge before Obama took office as it does with the President’s nominees).
It should be noted that, while the President’s devotion to judicial diversity is admirable, his record on judicial confirmations would be stronger if he were quicker to nominate judges — the majority of vacancies currently do not have a nominee. Likewise, because the biggest obstacle to swift judicial confirmations remains widespread filibusters by Senate Republicans, Senate Democrats will ultimately need to push through a more aggressive filibuster reform package than the fairly weak package enacted earlier this year or else many of the President’s nominees are likely to languish behind a curtain of obstructionism.