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Senate confirms first South Asian judge to seat on Ninth Circuit

Roopali Desai marks the 76th of President Biden's judicial nominees to be confirmed.

WASHINGTON (CN) — The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Roopali Desai to a seat on the Ninth Circuit, making her the first South Asian judge to ever serve on the San Francisco-based federal appeals court.

Desai, the latest of President Joe Biden's judicial nominees to make it onto the federal bench, was confirmed by a vote of 67-29.

A partner at the law firm of Coppersmith Brockelman in Phoenix, Desai drew high praise from Democrats for her litigation experience, but Republican lawmakers criticized her work on state election cases during her confirmation hearing last month.

Amid the fallout of the 2020 presidential election, Desai rose to prominence fighting against election lawsuits and calls for Arizona to conduct an audit of the election results, citing former President Donald Trump's "Big Lie" of election fraud.

Desai filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case of Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, arguing on behalf of her clients that an Arizona state law prohibiting third parties from collecting absentee ballots was racially discriminatory and violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

"It rejected the argument. You wrote as an advocate that prohibitions on ballot harvesting are designed to suppress minority votes. Do you believe that as a factual matter?" Republican Senator Ted Cruz asked Desai during her hearing.

"The statements that you're reading from were written in an amicus brief as an advocate filing on behalf of my clients. As a judge, I would apply unreservedly, fully and faithfully the precedent set forth by the court," she told the Texas senator.

Desai also drew Republican criticism for an amicus brief she filed in Brush & Nib Studio v. State of Arizona, arguing that a small business was violating the state constitution by refusing to create wedding invitations for same-sex couples.

"It's true that some of my clients have been affiliated with Democratic causes, but I'm sure ... that I have represented clients, plaintiffs, defendants. ... I've represented large corporations, Fortune 500 companies, small business owners. I've represented the government in many cases," Desai testified during her confirmation hearing last month.

With Desai's confirmation, the Senate has confirmed 76 judicial nominees to the federal bench since the start of Biden's presidency and Senate Democrats are eager to fill judicial vacancies as the confirmation of nominees could slow or cease if Republicans gain control of the Senate in the November election.

Earlier this week, Judge Elizabeth Wilson Hanes was confirmed to a post as a district judge for the Eastern District of Virginia by a vote of 59-37.

Previously, Hanes was a magistrate judge in Virginia and spent several years as a civil litigator with Consumer Litigation Associates. She also spent seven years representing indigent clients as an assistant federal public defender.

Last week, the Senate confirmed Gregory Williams to a post as a district judge for the District of Delaware by a vote of 53-42.

He will fill the vacancy left open by Judge Leonard Stark who became a jurist on the patent-centric Federal Circuit earlier this year.

Williams has spent more than 25 years at the Wilmington, Delaware office of Fox Rothschild, where he most recently worked as a partner. Since 2020, he worked as a special master for the District of Delaware in complex civil cases. Early in his career, he spent six years serving in the U.S. Army Reserve.

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