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Joe Biden Selects Texas Judge for 5th Circuit Appeals Court, Known for its Conservative Leanings
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On Friday, President Joe Biden announced his nomination of Irma Carrillo Ramirez, a federal magistrate judge in the Northern District of Texas, to serve on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The 5th Circuit is known for its conservative leanings, and this week it issued a closely watched abortion ruling. Biden also nominated U.S. District Judge Ana de Alba of the Eastern District of California to serve on the liberal-leaning 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

If the U.S. Senate confirms Ramirez, she would be the first Hispanic woman and only active Hispanic judge on the court. Biden won confirmation of another judge to the court, Dana Douglas, who formerly served as a magistrate judge and became the first Black woman to sit on the court.

The 5th Circuit has 16 active judges, with 12 of them appointed by Republican presidents. The court has issued several high-profile rulings that are adverse to the Biden administration. Earlier this week, a 5th Circuit panel temporarily blocked parts of a lower-court order to remove the abortion pill mifepristone from the market. Still, it allowed restrictions on access to the drug to remain in place. The Biden administration is appealing that order to the U.S. Supreme Court.


Ramirez served as a federal prosecutor in Texas before being named a magistrate judge in 2002. She graduated from the University of Texas School of Law and has a Bachelor of Arts from Rice University. Ramirez has also served as an adjunct professor at the Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law.

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Biden’s pace in confirming federal judges has slowed in recent weeks, driven by absences from the U.S. Senate and the “blue slip” custom requiring district court nominees to receive approval from both home state senators. Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein said Wednesday that she would temporarily step down from the Judiciary Committee after being sidelined from the Senate since February due to illness.

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The “blue slip” tradition refers to a Senate custom where senators from a nominee’s home state provide their opinion on the qualifications to the Judiciary Committee. The committee considers these opinions as part of its decision-making process.

Biden’s nominations come as he faces pressure to increase the diversity of the federal bench. During his campaign, he pledged to appoint judges who reflect the diversity of the country, including racial, gender, and professional diversity. Ramirez’s nomination is consistent with this goal, as she would be the first Hispanic woman to serve on the 5th Circuit.

Biden has been relatively successful in getting his judicial nominees confirmed, but he faces a tough road ahead. The Senate is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie. However, the “blue slip” custom could complicate the confirmation process for some nominees, particularly if they are opposed by one or both of their home state senators.

The nomination and confirmation of judges to the federal bench are crucially important, as these judges serve lifetime appointments and have significant power to shape the law. With the 5th Circuit’s conservative leanings, Ramirez’s confirmation would be a significant win for Biden and his efforts to shift the federal judiciary in a more progressive direction.



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