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With 5 new nominees, Biden marks 90 appointments to federal bench

The latest round of nominees includes a Seventh Circuit pick who would be the first Asian American judge on the court and a nominee who would be the first Hispanic federal judge in Illinois.

WASHINGTON (CN) — President Joe Biden announced five new federal judicial nominees Wednesday, three for district court positions and two of them former Obama appointees now being vaulted to the appellate circuits.

Judge John Z. Lee has been judge in the Northern District of Illinois since 2012. Biden is nominating him to be the first Asian American on the Seventh Circuit.

Lee previously worked in private practice with Grippo & Elden and later with Freeborn & Peters. He spent the start of his career as a trial attorney in the Environmental and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice.

Biden also on Wednesday named a nominee to serve on the Ninth Circuit, the largest of the country's federal appeals courts.

Judge Salvador Mendoza Jr., who has presided at the Eastern District of Washington since 2014, would be the first Hispanic judge from Washington on the Ninth Circuit. He previously served as a superior court judge in Washington and as a prosecuting attorney, in addition to time as a solo practitioner.

To fill three federal district court vacancies, Biden nominated Nancy L. Maldonado to the Northern District of Illinois; Judge Stephen Henley Locher to the Southern District of Iowa, and Gregory B. Williams to the District of Delaware.

If confirmed, Maldonado would make history as the first Hispanic woman to serve as a federal judge in Illinois.

She is a partner at Miner, Barnhill & Galland in Chicago and has been part of the firm since 2003. Maldonado began her law career clerking for Judge Rubén Castillo, a now-retired judge from the very court to which Maldonado is set to ascend.

Locher has worked as a magistrate judge in Iowa, with prior experience in both private practice and prosecution. He spent four years as an associate at Goldberg Kohn before working as an assistant U.S. attorney in Iowa. Locher was also a partner at Belin McCormick for eight years before becoming a judge.

Williams is slated to become the second Black judge to serve on the District of Delaware but the only judge of color serving it actively.

He is a partner at Fox Rothschild, a firm he joined as an associate back in 1995 before moving up the ranks. Williams has also served as a special master for complex civil cases in the District of Delaware since 2020, and he spent six years prior to college and his legal career serving in the U.S. Army Reserve.

The new round of nominees brings Biden's total number of judicial nominations to 90. The first year of his presidency saw a historic pace of judicial confirmations in the Senate. To date, the Senate has confirmed 58 of Biden's lower court nominees as well as Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was confirmed to the Supreme Court last week, cementing her spot as the first Black woman on the high court.

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