U.S. Senate panel considers diverse set of judicial nominees ⋆
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday questioned several judicial nominees who, if confirmed by the Senate, would break through social and racial barriers.
Rhode Island District Court Associate Judge Melissa DuBose would be the first Black and first openly LGBTQ+ judge to serve a lifetime appointment on the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island.
Jasmine Hyejung Yoon would be the first judge of color on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia and the first Asian American judge to serve a lifetime appointment on any federal district court in Virginia. She is an attorney and the vice president for corporate integrity, ethics and investigations at Capital One Financial Corp.
And Amir Ali, a civil rights lawyer and the president and executive director of the MacArthur Justice Center, would be the first Arab American judge and first Muslim judge to serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
The choices built upon President Joe Biden’s record of nominating women and people of color to be federal judges.
The committee hearing covered two more judges: Robert J. White, an assistant U.S. attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan, who was nominated to be a district judge for the Eastern District of Michigan, and Sunil R. Harjani, a U.S. magistrate judge for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois who has been tapped to be a district judge for that court.
DuBose questioned about quote
Rhode Island Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse said that DuBose was a “daughter of Providence.”
“She grew up here, worked here, stayed here, brought up her family here, lawyered here and now judges here,” Reed said.
Whitehouse noted she worked as a public school history teacher while taking night classes at Roger Williams University School of Law in Rhode Island.
DuBose said that her time as a public school teacher has helped her as a legal professional.
“Standing before, you know, 25 to 30 students who are coming into class with varying degrees of trauma, hopes, dreams, joys, and you’re trying to focus them with a common mission. It takes a lot of patience and the ability to listen,” she said. “Meeting my students where they were really has helped me to become an active listener, but also someone who can empathize with the folks that I’m working with.”
Republican Sens. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and John Kennedy of Louisiana grilled DuBose about a quote in a 2000 article published in the Feminist Press. DuBose said she didn’t know the article existed until the day before the nomination hearing.
The article quoted DuBose saying she was in her “Marxist phase.”
DuBose explained to the senators that because she was a political science major in college at the time, she was reading through various political theorists such as Thomas Hobbes and John Locke and even the philosophical texts of the Analects of Confucius.
“As a political science major and as a theorist and someone who’s considering teaching a course in political theory, I had immersed myself in those things,” DuBose said.
“Are you still a Marxist?” Kennedy asked her.
She said several times to Kennedy and Blackburn that “I’ve never been a Marxist, and I’m not a Marxist today.”
‘The role-modeling function of the judiciary’
Virginia Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, both Democrats, praised Yoon, a graduate of the University of Virginia Law School.
Warner said Yoon came to the United States from South Korea when she was 14, not knowing English.
“So in eighth grade, she spent her time reading the dictionary and watching American TV, and by the time she got into high school, she spoke fluent English,” Warner said. “Thanks to that ethic of hard work she developed such a stellar record that she was a two-time graduate of University of Virginia, both undergrad and law school.”
Hawaii’s Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono said she found it “pretty amazing” how many of the judicial nominees would be breaking barriers.
Hirono asked Yoon why it’s important to have a diverse judicial branch.
Yoon gave two reasons.
“One is that it certainly increases confidence in our judiciary, when people can look to the bench and know that diversity on the bench reflects the diversity of the constituents,” she said. “And second, I think the role-modeling function of the judiciary is absolutely important.”
authored by Ariana Figueroa
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