President Barack Obama is moving at a historic pace to try to diversify the nation's federal judiciary: Nearly three of every four people he has gotten confirmed to the federal bench are women or minorities. He is the first president who hasn't selected a majority of white males for lifetime judgeships.
More than 70 percent of Obama's confirmed judicial nominees during his first two years were "non-traditional," or nominees who were not white males. That far exceeds the percentages in the two-term administrations of Bill Clinton (48.1 percent) and George W. Bush (32.9 percent), according to Sheldon Goldman, author of the authoritative book "Picking Federal Judges."
"It is an absolutely remarkable diversity achievement," said Goldman, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, who is only counting judges once, even if they fit more than one category.
The White House recently has been touting its efforts to diversify the federal bench during Obama's tenure, now approaching three years in office.
The president won Senate confirmation of the first Latina to the Supreme Court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor. With the confirmation of Justice Elena Kagan, he has put three women on the high court for the first time. The Obama administration also nominated and won confirmation of the first openly gay man to a federal judgeship: former Clinton administration official J. Paul Oetken, to an opening in New York City.
"All of us can be proud of President Obama for taking this critical step to break down another barrier and increase diversity in the federal judiciary," Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said upon Oetken's confirmation.