Biden to nominate Texas judge to be first Latina on federal appeals court
Both of Texas’ Republican senators voice support for Irma Carrillo Ramirez’s nomination to the conservative 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
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President Joe Biden plans to nominate federal Judge Irma Carrillo Ramirez to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the White House announced Friday, filling a vacancy in the conservative-leaning court that oversees federal appeals from Texas.
Ramirez, a U.S. magistrate judge for the Northern District of Texas for more than 20 years and previously an assistant U.S. attorney, would be the first Hispanic woman to serve on the New Orleans-based court.
Texas’ U.S. senators previously supported her during an ultimately unsuccessful confirmation process for a lower court seven years ago, and Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz reiterated their support Friday.
“Judge Ramirez’s distinguished track record of judicial excellence throughout her decades of service in Texas makes her exceptionally qualified for the Fifth Circuit,” Cornyn said in a statement. “I am proud to recommend her for this position with Sen. Cruz, and I look forward to seeing her continue to uphold the rule of law on the federal bench.”
Cornyn and Cruz sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In 2016, former President Barack Obama nominated Ramirez to serve as a U.S. district judge in Fort Worth after Cornyn and Cruz recommended her. Cornyn said at the time he was “proud” of the choice and called her “well-qualified.” Individual senators have considerable power to stall nominations, and the White House often works with nominees’ home state senators to ensure a smooth confirmation.
Ramirez’s nomination, however, expired before the Senate could vote on her confirmation. Republicans held control of the Senate at the time, and legal activists accused the upper chamber of stonewalling Obama’s judicial nominees, particularly Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.
During her 2016 confirmation hearing, Cruz and Cornyn questioned Ramirez about whether she would engage in judicial activism, to which she responded, “I can say to you that I have endeavored over the past 14 years and will continue in my current job to endeavor to never allow my personal beliefs to influence my decision-making."
Republican presidents have nominated 12 of the 16 active judges on the 5th Circuit Court, including six by former President Donald Trump, making it one of the nation’s most conservative circuit courts and a frequent battleground for hot-button issues such as abortion and gun rights.
Most recently, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of Lubbock ruled that the Food and Drug Administration erred more than 20 years ago in approving mifepristone, a drug used in medication abortions, potentially eliminating a key component of those abortions.
The 5th Circuit Court, which also oversees cases in Louisiana and Mississippi, blocked parts of Kacsmaryk’s order Thursday, keeping the drug available based on its 2000 FDA approval but imposing other limitations. The ruling has been appealed to the Supreme Court.
U.S. Reps. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston; Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso; and Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, urged Biden last year to nominate a Latina to serve on the appeals court, citing the region’s growing Latino population over the last decade. In Texas, the Latino population grew by more than 20% from 2010-20.
“Lack of diversity deprives the courts of real-life experiences and implications of the issues that come before them,” the Texas Democrats wrote in a letter to Biden.
The Senate has approved one Biden nominee to the 5th Circuit Court — Dana Douglas, formerly a federal magistrate in Louisiana and the first Black woman to serve on the appeals court.
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