From the start, Mr. Biden’s White House has made clear that it intends to put judges with different types of backgrounds on the federal bench as quickly as it can. In a letter in December, the incoming White House counsel, Dana Remus, told Democratic senators that Mr. Biden would be looking for judges from groups historically underrepresented on the bench.
“White House Counsel Dana Remus has made clear that President Biden wants to nominate the most diverse judges in history — including diversity of professional background and experience representing individual Americans,” said Christopher Kang, a co-founder of the progressive group Demand Justice. “As long as Senate Democrats follow Remus’ letter, Biden will not only start to rebalance to our courts, but transform the judiciary by establishing a new mold for all Democratic presidents’ judicial nominees.”
Mr. Biden is not the first Democratic president to try to reshape the federal bench. When Mr. Obama was elected, his lawyers also considered appointing judges who did not have the traditional pedigrees of litigating experience at major law firms, graduating from top colleges, selection to elite clerkships and service as federal prosecutors.
But when Mr. Obama’s counsel’s office sent the names of public defenders or sole practitioners to the American Bar Association for the standard review before nomination, the group frequently objected. One person familiar with the effort said the Obama White House ran into what he called “endless difficulties” with the bar association, which would indicate privately that it intended to rate such candidates poorly.
Late last year, during his transition, Mr. Biden agreed with advisers to end the tradition of Democratic presidents of submitting names to the bar association before nominating them. The association will be free to issue judgments on those nominees, but only after the president has already made his selections public.
That could help Mr. Biden fill judicial vacancies more quickly, said several people familiar with the process. The president and his lawyers are keenly aware that Democratic control of the Senate may not last past the midterm elections in 2022, giving him a short window in which to make his mark on the judiciary.
“I think speed is paramount,” Mr. Eggleston said. “If I were them, I’d be full speed and just assume you are going to lose the Senate in two years. I don’t think that will happen, but that has to be their operating thought.”