LOS ANGELES – Please attribute the following statement about President Joe Biden’s recent nominations to the federal appeals courts to Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel, MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund):
“President Biden has justly been praised for strides in diversity of many kinds in his appointments to the federal bench, but when it comes to equity in regards to the large and growing Latino community, his record is decidedly worse.
“Now, the President has taken us backwards with respect to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. At the beginning of his administration, the Tenth Circuit had one active Latino circuit judge; it now has none thanks to Biden’s nominations.
“The Tenth Circuit covers six states in the Mountain West. All of these states have populations, according to the 2020 Census, that are greater than ten percent Latino. Three of the states are among the top states in terms of Latino proportion of the population: Utah (15 percent), Colorado (22 percent), and the most Latino state in the nation New Mexico (48 percent). In the two states with the lowest Latino population percentages – Oklahoma and Wyoming – Latinos still accounted for two-thirds of total population growth in the last decade.
“Yet these states now have a court of appeals that includes no one from the prominent and growing Latino community. Early in the Biden Administration, Judge Carlos Lucero took senior status, and President Biden opted for a non-Latino to succeed him. This week, the president filled the remaining vacancy on the Tenth Circuit with a non-Latino nominee. The nominee comes from Kansas, a state where more than 97 percent of the population growth in the last decade came from the Latino community.
“The problem is not limited to the Tenth Circuit. President Biden has only nominated five Latinos to federal courts of appeals; he has appointed more Blacks, more whites, and more Asian Americans to this tier of courts just below the Supreme Court despite the fact that Latinos have been the nation’s largest minority group for two decades and that Latinos accounted for 51 percent of the nation’s total growth from 2010 to 2020.
“Equity matters. Representation matters. Failure on these dimensions reduces faith in courts and the rule of law. Moreover, given the lengthy tenure of federal judges, Biden has limited Latino representation for decades to come, when Latinos will be even more prominent in the population.
“Fortunately, President Biden can ameliorate some of the damage. He should immediately nominate a Latino to the vacancy on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which has never had a Latino or Latina judge in its entire history. And he should immediately nominate a Latino to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which currently has no active Latino judge despite the circuit being dominated by Texas, with its 40 percent Latino population.”