By Nate Raymond
(Reuters) – President Joe Biden on Friday nominated a lawyer who represented the Mississippi clinic at the heart of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion rights decision to become a federal appeals court judge.
Biden’s latest slate of nine new judicial nominees included Julie Rikelman, an abortion rights lawyer with the Center for Reproductive Rights whom the president picked to serve on the Boston-based 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The nomination, which Republicans are likely to oppose in the narrowly Democratic-controlled Senate, came a month after the conservative-majority Supreme Court overturned Roe, which for nearly five decades had guaranteed women nationally a constitutional right to obtain abortions.
Rikelman had argued against such a ruling in representing the Jackson Women’s Health Organization – Mississippi’s only abortion clinic – in challenging a Republican-backed law that banned abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
The clinic has since closed, after a near-total ban in Mississippi sprang into effect following the decision by the United States’ highest court. About half of the 50 U.S. states have banned or are expected to ban or restrict abortions following that ruling.
The nomination followed criticism by Biden’s fellow Democrats about a since-abandoned plan to nominate a Republican who had defended abortion restrictions to a judgeship in Kentucky, in a deal with Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Progressive advocates have been warning that the window to confirm new judicial nominees like Rikelman and others is narrowing with Nov. 8 midterm elections fast approaching – and the risk that Republicans regain control of the Senate.
Rikelman is one of two new appellate court nominees by Biden. He also nominated Connecticut Supreme Court Justice Maria Araujo Kahn to the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Biden’s latest nominees continued the White House’s push to diversify the federal bench. They include Daniel Calabretta, a California state court judge nominated to become the first openly LGBT federal judge in the state’s Eastern District.
Myong Joun, a state court judge in Boston, was picked to become the first Asian American man on the federal bench in Massachusetts, where Biden also nominated Julia Kobick, a deputy state solicitor in the state attorney general’s office.
District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Todd Edelman was nominated to be a federal judge in Washington, and U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Jeffery Hopkins would if confirmed by the Senate become a district court judge in Southern Ohio.
Biden also nominated Araceli Martinez-Olguin of the National Immigration Law Center and Superior Court Judge Rita Lin to be federal judges in California’s Northern District.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; editing by Jonathan Oatis)