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Senate confirms Bradley N. Garcia to appeals court in DC

DOJ official is the first Latino judge on the court that hears cases with a national sweep on environment, labor and other policies

The E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse in Washington houses the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
The E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse in Washington houses the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. (Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The Senate confirmed Justice Department official Bradley N. Garcia to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Monday, a move that would make him the first Latino judge on the influential court.

Garcia, 36, is the youngest circuit court nominee confirmed under President Joe Biden after the 53-40 vote. And he is the Senate’s fourth confirmation of a Biden pick for the D.C. Circuit, which handles many regulatory cases with a national sweep on environmental, labor, immigration and other policy issues.

“Latinos are historically underrepresented across the federal bench,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer said in a floor speech ahead of the vote Monday. “So confirming the first-ever Latino to the second most important court is a long overdue step towards making the federal bench better reflect our country.”

Although the Biden administration has pushed to diversify the federal bench, it has also faced criticism from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund on its approach to appointing Latinos to appellate courts.

Garcia, a former law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, currently is a deputy assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. He previously worked at O’Melveny & Myers law firm.

Progressive groups such as Alliance for Justice backed Garcia’s nomination, along with former prosecutors and the Hispanic National Bar Association.

Garcia received some support beyond the Democratic caucus during the floor vote Monday. Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted for his confirmation.

Garcia’s appointment won’t change the ideological balance of the court, which can also be a pipeline to the Supreme Court. Biden’s first pick for the D.C. Circuit, Ketanji Brown Jackson, left that bench when Biden appointed her to the Supreme Court. The Senate also has confirmed Biden appointees Julianna Childs and Florence Pan to the court.

Meanwhile, conservatives criticized Garcia’s age during his hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee last summer, and most Republicans last week opposed a procedural vote to get to Garcia’s confirmation vote.

During a confirmation hearing last summer, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas pointed to Garcia’s youth and brought up what Democrats said about Judge Justin Walker, a Trump nominee who was in his 30s when confirmed to the D.C. Circuit.

“You’ve never served as a judge,” Cruz told Garcia at the hearing.

Garcia responded that he couldn’t speak to anyone else’s nomination. “What I can speak to is my record. And in my career, I’ve litigated more than 50 appeals, argued 13 of them,” he said. “I sit before you here today as a deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department.”

Garcia at the hearing also highlighted that he clerked for former Judge Thomas B. Griffith, a George W. Bush appointee who sat on the D.C. Circuit.

Griffith supported Garcia’s nomination in a letter to the Judiciary Committee, writing that Garcia knew he was a judicial conservative and helped him “be that type of judge regardless of his views.”

“Brad’s integrity in this regard coupled with his brilliance gave me complete confidence in his work,” Griffith wrote.

John P. Collins, a visiting associate professor at the George Washington University Law School, said one benefit to appointing a younger circuit court judge is that it locks up a seat for a prolonged amount of time and prevents the spot from being flipped.

“Because people are very concerned about having a majority of seats on individual circuits,” Collins said.

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