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Senate confirms first Muslim American federal judge

The Hill logo The Hill 5 days ago Jordain Carney
Chuck Schumer wearing a suit and tie: Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) © Greg Nash Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)

The Senate on Thursday confirmed the first Muslim American to serve as a federal judge in U.S. history.

Senators voted 81-16 to confirm Zahid N. Quraishi to serve as a district judge for the district court of New Jersey. Thirty two Republicans joined with Democrats to confirm him.

"Mr. Quraishi will be the first American Muslim in United States history to serve as an Article III federal judge. Third largest religion in the United States; and he'll become the first to ever serve as an Article III judge," Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said ahead of Thursday's vote.

Quraishi has served as a U.S. magistrate judge since 2019, and previously worked in the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. attorney's office and served in the military.

"His time in the private sector was cut short by a strange, tragic twist of fate. His first day of work was September 11, 2001. The events of that day inspired Judge Quraishi to work in public service. He was a commissioned officer and was twice deployed to Iraq in 2004 and 2006," Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who chairs the Judiciary Committee, said recounting Quraishi's experience.

Quraishi, the son of Pakistani immigrants, was also the first Asian-American to serve on the federal bench in New Jersey when he was appointed as a magistrate judge.

"I am so proud and excited that he will become the first ever Muslim American Senate confirmed federal judge in our country's history. In a bipartisan vote, this is a chance to show our commitment to great people, to a great man. To a person of patriotism and conviction," said Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

Quraishi is the third judicial nominee that Democrats have confirmed since Biden was sworn into the White House.

All three, so far, have been for the district courts but Democrats are poised to confirm their first nominee to the powerful appeals courts next week when they wrap up Ketanji Brown Jackson's nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Three Republicans helped advance Jackson's nomination on Thursday over an initial procedural hurdle.

Democrats are ramping up their work on confirming Biden's picks, after Senate Republicans and then-President Trump confirmed more than 230 judicial nominees at a break-neck pace over four years.

"We estimate in the coming months, we're going to have over 100 vacancies at district and circuit court level that need to be filled. We are committed, as is President Biden, to bringing well-qualified, competent, diverse nominees to be considered by the Judiciary Committee," Durbin told reporters earlier this week.

He added that he encouraged Democrats during the closed-door lunch to put together their state's selection committees, considered a first step to vetting and picking potential judicial nominees.

Trump's nominees were overwhelmingly white, conservative and young. Democrats are vowing to diversify their court picks, with Schumer saying that they would "restore the balance" of the courts.

"As the Senator from New York, and as the Majority Leader, I'm intent on restoring balance to a judiciary that has been thrown out of whack by four years of President Trump's selections," Schumer said.

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