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New Vacancy On D.C. Circuit Gives Biden Boost In Filling Judicial Nominations

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President Biden will soon be getting two nominations to fill vacancies on the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Today, David Tatel, a highly respected judge, announced that he will be stepping down, creating a second vacancy on the D.C. Circuit. The other vacancy is expected in a matter of weeks when Judge Merrick Garland is confirmed to be U.S. attorney general. NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg has more on the story.

NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: Judicial sources tell NPR that once Garland is confirmed, the president is expected to nominate Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to replace him. She's been a federal trial judge for eight years and is on President Biden's shortlist of potential nominees to the Supreme Court should a vacancy occur there. She's 50, African American and was on President Obama's Supreme Court shortlist in 2016. Tatel, 78, was nominated to the D.C. appeals court in 1994 to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg after her appointment to the Supreme Court.

Tatel, an admired figure on the D.C. Circuit, said in his letter to the president that he would assume senior status with a reduced workload once his successor is confirmed. His decision to, as he put it, make room for a new generation of judges hands President Biden the opportunity to make an immediate mark on the D.C. Circuit, widely seen as second only to the Supreme Court in influence. An unusually large number of judges at both the appellate and trial levels across the country are expected to take senior status now that Donald Trump has left office. With the aid of then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Trump appointed nearly as many federal appeals court judges in one term as the two previous presidents, Obama and Bush, did in their two terms.

Nina Totenberg, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Nina Totenberg is NPR's award-winning legal affairs correspondent. Her reports air regularly on NPR's critically acclaimed newsmagazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition.

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