LOS ANGELES / NEW YORK –  The White House this week announced its third slate of judicial nominations to serve as federal judges on district or appellate courts. The list of nominees includes just one Latino.

Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund), and Juan Cartagena, president and general counsel of LatinoJustice/PRLDEF issued the following joint statement on today’s announcement:

“This week, the Biden Administration released its third set of federal judicial nominations, including the first nomination from the Latino community to a court of appeals judgeship.  We welcome the nomination of Chief Judge Gustavo A. Gelpí, Jr. to the First Circuit Court of Appeals; he will bring a critically important perspective to that court and to issues relating to the relationship between Puerto Rico and the federal government, a relationship rendered even more fraught by four years of the presidency of Donald Trump.  Once confirmed, Judge Gelpí will return Latino judicial representation to a circuit whose population is over 30 percent Latino.

“Yet, at the same time the Biden Administration announced this important restorative step for the First Circuit, it also announced a significant backward step for the Latino community in the states of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.  That Circuit, which includes the heavily Latino states of Colorado and New Mexico, and whose population is one-fifth Latino, had one Latino judge, who after many years of service took senior status this year.  The White House yesterday announced that it is nominating a non-Latino to succeed Judge Carlos Lucero.  This means that the Biden Administration has decided to add the Tenth Circuit to the too-long list of circuit courts without a single active judge from the largest minority group in the country, Latinos.  That constitutes retrogression.

“The Biden Administration cannot expect to be lauded for going backwards in Latino representation in the federal judiciary, especially as it does this while achieving significant and unprecedented representation on courts for other communities.  Moving backwards is moving backwards.

“Added to the continued exclusion of Latino representation in leadership of the Department of Justice, as well as this week’s inexplicable appointment of 17 immigration judges who were vetted and selected by Trump immigration policy leadership, the failure to ensure Latino representation on the Tenth Circuit is another unfortunate indication of the Biden White House’s refusal to prioritize Latino leadership in the legal arena.”