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Brad N. García. Photo: O'Melveny & Myers LLP
Brad N. García. Photo: O'Melveny & Myers LLP

U.S. Senate confirms the first and youngest Latino to powerful D.C. Appeals Court

Bradley N. García, a former Department of Justice official turned judicial nominee for a federal court, was confirmed this week by the Senate.

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The United States Senate moved to confirm Bradley N. García to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, making him the first Latino to serve on that bench in its 200-year history, Roll Call reported Monday. 

García, now 36, was also the youngest nominee for the circuit court before being confirmed by President Joe Biden. In a 53-40 vote, García drew bipartisan favorability in advance of his confirmation. 

“Latinos are historically underrepresented across the federal bench,” said Senate Majority Leader Charles Schummer, a Democrat, in a floor speech before members of the Senate voted. 

“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.”

During the hearing, García faced questions from Texas Senator Ted Cruz — a persistent opponent of Biden’s nominees and a thorn in the side of Senate Democrats — who doubted García about his lack of judicial experience.“You’ve never served as a judge,” Cruz told Garcia at the hearing.

García’s 12-year career includes clerking for Associate Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, clerking under Judge Thomas B. Griffith on the same court he is being confirmed for, and a stint as an official for the DOJ. 

“What I can speak to is my record. And in my career, I’ve litigated more than 50 appeals, argued 13 of them,” García told Cruz, according to reporting by Roll Call. 

“I sit before you here today as a deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department,” he said. 

Backed by a legal powerhouse

The Mexican American Legal Defense & Education Fund (MALDEF), a group backing García during his nomination, wrote a letter to the Senate in November, highlighting García’s qualifications to serve on the federal bench.

“Mr. Garcia has demonstrated his commitment to civil rights and access to justice throughout his legal career,” the letter penned. MALDEF is a legal organization at the forefront of a nationwide movement monitoring Latino rights.

Last year, MALDEF defended Latino voters from near-constant attempts at voter disenfranchisement in Arizona after the state legislature passed a bill imposing severe restrictions and penalties around voter registration. 

In its letter, MALDEF underscored the irregular nature of García’s nomination, citing the shortage of diverse judges currently sitting on federal courts. 

“Although Latinos have been the nation’s largest racial minority group for close to two decades, a Latino has never served on the D.C. Circuit, the ‘second most important court in the United States,” the letter read. 

“Circuit is particularly important due to the significance and nature of the myriad cases that appear on its docket, including many that touch on the role the federal government plays in our lives and in our communities. By confirming Mr. Garcia, the Senate will be achieving a historic feat.” 

Alliance for Justice, a national progressive organization with 150 groups under its umbrella, and the Hispanic National Bar Association, also backed García’s nomination. 

Diversity in the judiciary

The D.C. Appeals Court is known for its legal heavyweight. It is one of the most important courts in the country, second only to the U.S. Supreme Court.

It’s not uncommon for the Circuit Court’s docket to be filled with thousands of cases that yield legal repercussions across the country, hearing issues concerning national security, gun safety measures, food safety, labor law, election law, and clean air regulations.

The presiding judges are predominantly conservative, and García’s nomination, while marking a stepping stone for diversity in its halls, won’t do much to change the ideological makeup. 

A previous judge, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, was the last judge appointed to the court, leaving her seat vacant after being confirmed for the nation’s most powerful court. 

Still, MALDEF argues that García’s nomination meant progress in other ways, such as restoring trust in courts that are more representative of the country’s racial demographic. 

“Representation is essential to public trust in government entities. When people see members of their communities serving as elected officials, judges, and in other influential positions, they are more likely to take part in and trust the democratic process themselves,” MALDEF’s letter said. 

Other judges who rose to the U.S. Supreme Court from the Appeals bench are Chief Justice John Roberts, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Brett Kavanaugh.

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