Of the 35 judicial nominees currently awaiting confirmation by the Senate, 17 are women; 15 are members of ethnic minorities; five are openly gay. Just six are straight white guys. After what the Washington Post refers to as the "sluggish pace" of President Obama's first-term appointments, the second-term candidates, named since January, illustrate his desire to diversify the federal judiciary so that it better mirrors the country it serves. The administration's push isn't entirely new: Four states already have their first female justices.
In fact, the overall first-term breakdown of Obama's confirmed judges is 37% non-white and 42% women; both percentages are higher than those of George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. But he's "moving quickly," this time around, observes the Post, which expects a substantial number of candidates to be named in the coming months. But to some it sniffs of affirmative action: It's all fine and good if Obama is "achieving [diversity] through aggressive identification of minority candidates," says a conservative Obama critic who runs a judicial advocacy group. But if the administration is giving minorities "a lower threshold of qualifications," that's not OK, he says. The aggressive push is sure to meet resistance; Senate Republicans have been known to block judicial confirmations for years in some cases.