Democrats have begun advancing President Biden’s first judicial nominees through the Senate Judiciary Committee, taking a significant step to counter the influence President Donald J. Trump had in steering the federal courts to the right.
In a marked and intentional contrast to Mr. Trump’s picks, the two circuit court nominees and three district court candidates considered on Wednesday were all people of color with backgrounds that differed substantially from nominees traditionally chosen by presidents of both parties, including an emphasis on serving as a public defender.
Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois and the chairman of the committee, noted that none of the 54 appeals court judges selected by Mr. Trump had been African-American. Mr. Biden’s nominees would orient the courts back to “even-handedness, fair-mindedness and competence” while improving racial and professional diversity, Mr. Durbin said.
“We need it on the federal courts,” he said.
Most of the focus on Wednesday was on two nominees to federal appeals courts — usually the last stop for major cases before the Supreme Court — Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, chosen for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and Candace Jackson-Akiwumi for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in Chicago. Both are Black. Judge Jackson, currently a district court judge in Washington, is considered a potential future Supreme Court nominee by Democrats, and Ms. Jackson-Akiwumi would be the only Black judge on the Seventh Circuit.
The Biden White House and Senate Democrats are trying to move quickly to fill scores of federal court vacancies after Mr. Trump placed more than 220 conservative judges on the federal courts with the assistance of Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who made judicial confirmations a high priority while he was majority leader. He said he was not surprised at the Democratic push.
“That’s what I would do if I were in their shoes,” Mr. McConnell said in a recent interview. “Pick as many outstanding liberals as you can, and try to get them confirmed as quickly as you can. I wrote the playbook on that. I can’t blame them for taking a look at how it was done. I think it was done very effectively.”