President Barack Obama has already nominated more African-American judges and more LGBT judges than any previous president. On Thursday, he announced the nomination of Staci Michelle Yandle, the first African-American lesbian federal judge.
Yandle, who is in private practice, will be Obama’s pick for the district court for the Southern District of his home state of Illinois. If confirmed, that would make her the first African-American judge ever on that court, and the first openly gay judge in the 7th Circuit, which covers Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.
There has never been an African-American male gay judge, but Yandle follows Deborah Batts, an African-American lesbian whom President Bill Clinton nominated to the Southern District of New York.
There’s another first among the four new nominees Obama will announce Thursday: Salvador Mendoza, Jr., currently a county Superior Court judge in Washington state, will be Obama’s pick for the district court for the Eastern District of his state, where he would be the first Hispanic judge in that position.
Increasing diversity on the bench has been a legacy priority for Obama, and one that’s become an emphasis for the White House over the past year under Denis McDonough’s leadership as chief of staff. But the collaboration on this they’ve enjoyed with Senate Republicans is in danger from the bitterness over the nuclear option.
The White House is hoping that filibuster rules changes will speed the confirmation process for Yandle and Mendoza, as well as for the other two district court nominees Obama will announce Thursday: Stephen Bough, also in private practice, who would sit in the Western District of Missouri, and Richard Franklin Boulware II, a public defender who’d sit in the District of Nevada. Boulware wouldn’t be the first African-American on that court, but he will be the 57th African-American Obama’s nominated to bench.