With Republicans seizing control of the U.S. Senate, President Obama’s first six years in office may mark the peak of his influence on the judiciary, including the appointment of Supreme Court justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, says the Los Angeles Times. Experts say it’s a record of unprecedented achievements in judicial diversity. Women make up 42 percent of his confirmed nominees, more than double the average of his five predecessors combined, while African Americans make up 18 percent and Latinos 6 percent. Eleven openly gay judges now serve where there was only one.
“It’s been quite an impressive record,” said Sheldon Goldman, a professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst who studies judicial nominations. “A large majority of his appointments — approximately 60% — have gone to nontraditional candidates, people who are not white males.” When gay rights lawyer Michelle Friedland was confirmed by the Senate in April to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, Democrats cheered that a liberal woman would become the youngest federal appeals court judge in the nation. Democrats now hold a majority on nine of the 13 appeals courts, including the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals. Democrats had the majority on only three appeals courts when Obama came to office.