Despite Progress, Latino/a Judges Remain Astonishingly Underrepresented on the Federal Bench

Courts Resources 09.25,23

On June 15, 2022, President Biden announced seven new judicial nominees — including three Latina judges to serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, and Brad Garcia, a lawyer who has dedicated much of his impressive legal career to defending civil and human rights. When the Senate confirmed Garcia to the powerful D.C. Circuit the following May, he became the first Latino judge to ever serve on that court.

Judge Garcia’s historic confirmation brought us closer to a judiciary that better reflects and represents the diversity of America. But across the nation, our federal courts continue to lack vital Latino/a representation. There are currently 84 active Latino/a lifetime judges and 32 senior lifetime judges on our nation’s federal courts. Combined, they represent just about 8 percent of all active and senior lifetime judges — even though the Hispanic population of the United States represents 19.1 percent of the total population. Throughout history, only 161 Latino/a lifetime judges have served out of more than 3,900 total — representing just 4 percent of lifetime judges ever.

Federal Circuit Courts

  • Five of our 13 federal circuit courts (nearly 40 percent) currently have no Latino/a active judges: the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, and Tenth Circuits. Judge Irma Ramirez, a current nominee to the Fifth Circuit, would be the first Latina judge on that court.
  • Three of our 13 federal circuit courts (nearly a quarter of all federal circuit courts) have never had a Latino/a judge: the Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth. Three others — the Fourth, Tenth, and DC Circuits — have each only had one Latino judge.
  • Nine of our 13 federal circuit courts (nearly 70 percent) have never had a Latina judge — the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Tenth, and DC Circuits.
  • Only 27 Latino/a judges have ever served on our nation’s federal circuit courts, and just 14 are active today. In less than three years, President Biden appointed more than one third of these active Latino/a circuit court judges.

Federal District Courts

  • 58 federal district courts (more than 60 percent of district courts) have never had a Latino/a lifetime judge. Judge Jeffrey Bryan, a current nominee to the District of Minnesota, would be the first Latino/a judge on that court.
  • 29 states (nearly 60 percent of states) have never had a Latino/a lifetime district court judge.

The Biden administration has made significant progress, yet these numbers are alarming. Of the 84 active Latino/a lifetime judges, President Biden has appointed 27 (nearly a third), with five more pending before the Senate. These pending nominees include Judge Jeffrey Bryan, who will be the first Latino/a lifetime judge to ever serve in Minnesota, and Judge Irma Ramirez, who will be the first Latina judge to serve on the Fifth Circuit — which includes Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana — and the only active Latino/a judge on the court.

President Biden’s appointees include incredible civil rights lawyers like Myrna Pérez, Araceli Martínez-Olguín, Nancy Maldonado, and Hernán Vera, in addition to former public defenders like Gustavo Gelpí, Margaret Guzman, and Mia Perez — and many other now-judges who are committed to civil and human rights. And as we celebrate their confirmation and their service on our federal courts, we must also continue calling on the White House and senators to select, nominate, and confirm additional highly qualified Latino/a nominees who are professionally diverse and committed to equal justice for all.

In his 2023 Hispanic Heritage Month proclamation earlier this month, President Biden stated that “Latino history is American history” and called out history-makers — including Justice Sonia Sotomayor and other Latino/a judges appointed to our federal courts. But we must not settle for only the progress we have made since the beginning of this administration. With nearly 60 known vacancies without a named nominee, we need and expect to see senators and President Biden continue to select Latino/a nominees for the federal judiciary.

Article III Latino/a judges confirmed during the Biden administration

  • María Antongiorgi-Jordán, District of Puerto Rico
  • Ana de Alba, Eastern District of California — first Latina lifetime judge on this court
  • David Estudillo, Western District of Washington
  • Bradley Garcia, DC Circuit — first Latino/a lifetime judge on this court
  • Matthew Garcia, District of New Mexico
  • Gustavo Gelpí, First Circuit
  • Hector Gonzalez, Eastern District of New York
  • Margaret Guzman, District of Massachusetts — first Latina lifetime judge on this court
  • Robert Huie, Southern District of California
  • Linda Lopez, Southern District of California
  • Nancy Maldonado, Northern District of Illinois — first Latina lifetime judge on this court
  • Araceli Martínez-Olguín, Northern District of California
  • Gina Méndez-Miró, District of Puerto Rico
  • Salvador Mendoza, Ninth Circuit — first Latino/a lifetime judge from Washington on this court
  • Ruth Bermudez Montenegro, Southern District of California
  • Evelyn Padin, District of New Jersey
  • Mia Perez, Eastern District of Pennsylvania
  • Myrna Pérez, Second Circuit
  • Ana Reyes, District of DC — first Latina (and openly LGBTQ) lifetime judge on this court
  • Regina Rodriguez, District of Colorado
  • David Ruiz, Northern District of Ohio — first Latino lifetime judge to serve on any Ohio district court
  • Gabriel Sanchez, Ninth Circuit
  • Cristina Silva, District of Nevada
  • David Urias, District of New Mexico
  • Camille Vélez-Rivé, District of Puerto Rico
  • Hernán Vera, Central District of California
  • Omar Williams, District of Connecticut

Article III judges pending before the Senate

  • Jeffrey Bryan, District of Minnesota — would be first Latino/a lifetime judge on this court
  • Ana de Alba, Ninth Circuit (elevated from Eastern District of California)
  • Irma Ramirez, Fifth Circuit — would be first Latina lifetime judge on this court
  • Mónica Ramírez Almadani, Central District of California
  • Ramon Reyes, Eastern District of New York

Federal district courts with NO current or former Latino/a lifetime judges (entire states bolded)

  • Any Alabama district court (Northern District of Alabama, Middle District of Alabama, Southern District of Alabama)
  • District of Alaska
  • Any Arkansas district court (Eastern District of Arkansas, Western District of Arkansas)
  • District of Delaware
  • Northern District of Florida
  • Southern District of Georgia and Middle District of Georgia
  • District of Hawaii
  • District of Idaho
  • Central District of Illinois
  • Southern District of Indiana
  • Any Iowa district court (Northern District of Iowa, Southern District of Iowa)
  • Any Kentucky district court (Eastern District of Kentucky, Western District of Kentucky)
  • Any Louisiana district court (Eastern District of Louisiana, Middle District of Louisiana, Western District of Louisiana)
  • District of Maine
  • District of Maryland
  • Western District of Michigan
  • District of Minnesota (Note: There is a Latino nominee pending — would be the court’s first)
  • Northern District of Mississippi
  • Any Missouri district court (Eastern District of Missouri, Western District of Missouri)
  • District of Montana
  • District of Nebraska
  • District of New Hampshire
  • Northern District of New York and Western District New York
  • Any North Carolina district court (Eastern District of North Carolina, Middle District of North Carolina, Western District of North Carolina)
  • District of North Dakota
  • Southern District of Ohio
  • Any Oklahoma district court (Eastern District of Oklahoma, Northern District of Oklahoma, Western District of Oklahoma)
  • Middle District of Pennsylvania
  • District of Rhode Island
  • District of South Carolina
  • District of South Dakota
  • Any Tennessee district court (Eastern District of Tennessee, Northern District of Tennessee, Western District of Tennessee)
  • Eastern District of Texas
  • District of Utah
  • District of Vermont
  • Any Virginia district court (Eastern District of Virginia, Western District of Virginia)
  • Any West Virginia district court (Northern District of West Virginia, Southern District of West Virginia)
  • Any Wisconsin district court (Eastern District of Wisconsin, Western District of Wisconsin)
  • District of Wyoming