Biden is tapping longtime public defender Catherine Henry for a U.S. court in Philadelphia in a race to confirm more judges than Trump

The longtime public defender is President Joe Biden’s latest pick for a federal judgeship in Philadelphia as he seeks to break Donald Trump’s record for confirming judges before the end of his first term.

In a statement Thursday, the White House announced the nomination of Catherine Henry — who has spent nearly 30 years defending clients who cannot afford their own attorneys against criminal charges in state and federal courts — to the U.S. District Court.

She was one of four women Biden introduced that day as candidates for seats on appellate and district courts across the country.

“These elections[…]”continue to fulfill the President’s promise that the nation’s courts reflect the diversity that is one of our greatest strengths as a country – both in terms of personal and professional backgrounds,” the White House said of the nominees.

U.S. Senator John Fetterman (D-Pa.), who recommended Henry, praised her achievements as a public defender and called her nomination “a great victory for Pennsylvania.”

“She will be an excellent federal judge and I will do everything in my power to ensure she is confirmed as quickly as possible,” he said.

Fetterman’s counterpart in the Senate, Democrat Bob Casey, said he, too, supports Henry. “She is committed to the people of eastern Pennsylvania, and I look forward to her bringing her integrity, experience and strong commitment to fairness and equal justice under the law to this crucial new role,” he said.

Henry’s nomination came as Biden rushed to cement his mark on the federal judiciary in the final months of his first term. Federal judges, who must be confirmed by the Senate and are appointed for life, oversee countless civil and criminal cases each year and issue the first round of rulings on significant legal issues that may ultimately reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

After Trump focused on judicial nominations – appointing more than 230 district and appellate judges and three Supreme Court justices in his single term – Democrats have insisted on making their mark on the federal judiciary, something Trump won’t be able to erase if in November will win a second term.

On Wednesday, the Senate confirmed Biden’s judicial nomination as the 200th, putting him slightly ahead of the 196 that Trump has confirmed at this point in his term. According to the White House, 64% of Biden’s confirmed judges nationwide are women and 62% are people of color. These include former employment lawyers, civil rights lawyers and public defenders.

Biden confirmed seven judges in Pennsylvania, including Cindy Chung, the first-ever Asian-American judge to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia – which hears civil and criminal appeals in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware – and Arianna Freeman, the first black woman in history to serve on that court.

Henry, who did not respond to requests for comment Thursday, received her law degree from the District of Columbia School of Law in 1995 and began her career as a lawyer at the Feminist Majority Foundation in Arlington, Virginia, before moving to Philadelphia to work. for the Defenders Association in 1996

Since leaving that position in 2001 for the Office of the Federal Community Defender, she has become a fixture at the federal courthouse in Center City, defending people who cannot afford legal representation on their own.

Her clients in recent years have ranged from a former top lieutenant to former Liberian president Charles Taylor, who faces immigration charges for lying about his past as a war criminal, to a shoe salesman at a Delaware mall department store who broke off his toe terracotta Chinese. warrior at the Franklin Institute’s “ugly sweater Christmas party.”

Lawyers with experience in defending the indigent have traditionally been underrepresented in federal court. However, Henry is the fifth former public defender nominated by Biden among his nine picks for federal court positions in the Philadelphia region.

If the Senate confirms Henry, it would leave two vacancies in the federal court district covering Philadelphia, the collar counties and surrounding areas – the last of which opened last week after the death of U.S. District Judge Gene EK Pratter – and one vacancy on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals .

Biden’s pick for the Third Circuit – New Jersey lawyer Adeel Manga, who would become the country’s first Muslim appeals court judge – has been controversial for months after Republicans threatened to withdraw his nomination.

During Mangi’s December confirmation hearing in the Judiciary Committee, Sens. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) and John Kennedy (R., Los Angeles) tried to link his role as an advisory board member of the Rutgers Center for Security, Race and Law to the support of the terrorist group Hamas.

Several law enforcement groups also opposed his confirmation on the grounds that he is an advisory board member of the Alliance of Families for Justice, a criminal justice reform group that supports families of inmates.

Nevada’s two Democratic senators opposed Mangi’s nomination, making his chances of confirmation in a chamber where Democrats have a slim 51-49 majority slim.

Fetterman previously said he supported Manga’s nomination. Casey, who is up for re-election in November, was not involved, indicating he would be open to supporting Mangi if his nomination came to a vote.

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