By Philip Rucker, Updated: Sunday, March 3, 3:00 PM
In Florida, President Obama has nominated the first openly gay black man to sit on a federal district court. In New York, he has nominated the first Asian American lesbian. And his pick for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit? The first South Asian.
Reelected with strong support from women, ethnic minorities and gays, Obama is moving quickly to change the face of the federal judiciary by the end of his second term, setting the stage for another series of drawn-out confrontations with Republicans in Congress.
The president has named three dozen judicial candidates since January and is expected to nominate scores more over the next few months, aides said. The push marks a significant departure from the sluggish pace of appointments throughout much of his first term, when both Republicans and some Democrats complained that Obama had not tried hard enough to fill vacancies on federal courts.
The new wave of nominations is part of an effort by Obama to cement a legacy that long outlives his presidency and makes the court system more closely resemble the changing society it governs, administration officials said.
“Diversity in and of itself is a thing that is strengthening the judicial system,” White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler said. “It enhances the bench and the performance of the bench and the quality of the discussion . . .
The diversity of Obama’s judicial nominees stands in contrast to staff selections at the start of his second term that have been dominated by white men, including White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Secretary of State John F. Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.
By contrast, 17 of the 35 pending judicial nominees are women, 15 are ethnic minorities and five are openly gay, according to White House statistics. Six are straight white men.