Our Nation Needs Myrna Pérez on the Federal Bench

Courts Resources 10.15,21

Four months ago, President Biden nominated voting rights expert Myrna Pérez to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Pérez, who for 15 years has worked to defend the freedom to vote and safeguard our democracy at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, is exactly who our nation needs on the federal bench today.

“She is an accomplished attorney who has dedicated her career to equal justice under the law,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who recommended Pérez for the seat, said when Biden announced the nomination. “She will bring a passion for the rule of law, voting rights and justice to her post on the Second Circuit. She is a perfect example of our push to bring balance, experience, and professional and personal diversity back to the federal judiciary.”

Leader Schumer is right — and that push to diversify our federal courts has emerged as an important part of the Biden administration’s efforts to improve both public trust in the courts and balanced judicial decisionmaking.

So far this year, the Senate has confirmed 16 Article III federal judges who are highly qualified, have various professional experiences, and look like America. This includes 13 women, including eight women of color and one Native American woman, and eight former public defenders — a profession that is severely underrepresented on the federal bench. And of the five circuit court judges confirmed in 2021 so far, four are Black women. Before this year, only eight Black women had ever served on a federal appellate court. When the judges selected to serve on the federal bench for a lifetime are committed to civil rights and representative of our nation, we are making our courts more fair for more people.

Pérez’s confirmation would likewise add important perspectives to the judiciary. If confirmed, Pérez, a daughter of Mexican immigrants, would be the only Latina serving on the Second Circuit and the first Latina to serve on this court since the elevation of Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court 12 years ago. The region covered by the Second Circuit (New York, Vermont, and Connecticut) is home to more than 4.9 million immigrants and nearly 4.4 million Hispanic or Latino/a people. It’s vital that we have judges who share experiences and characteristics with the people their decisions impact.

And of course, Pérez’s background in voting rights and election law is especially notable, as civil rights lawyers are broadly underrepresented on the federal bench. At the Brennan Center, she has served as counsel in more than 50 cases in state and federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court and numerous federal circuit courts of appeal. She has prepared amicus briefs for Voting Rights Act cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and directed legal teams in high-profile litigation involving the right to vote for millions of people.

As a legal academic and advocate, Pérez has studied and understands the importance of ensuring free and fair elections for all and protecting the freedom to vote. It’s critical that our judiciary reflects the diversity of the legal profession, including voting rights attorneys and other lawyers tasked with protecting and defending our democracy — especially as states across the country continue to advance anti-voter legislation.

On August 5, the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced Pérez’s nomination with bipartisan support, and her nomination now awaits a vote by the full Senate. We continue to call on senators to support her nomination and confirm her to the Second Circuit. Because the truth is this: With all of the challenges Americans face in accessing the ballot box, our judiciary will greatly benefit from the service of judges like Myrna Pérez, who has dedicated her career to protecting our freedom to vote and strengthening our democracy.

The time is now.