By Ed Diokno
For the first time, an American Muslim has been nominated to the federal bench.
President Barack Obama on Wednesday (Sept. 7) nominated Abid Riaz Qureshi to be a federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. If appointed, Qureshi would be America’s first Muslim American federal judge.
“I am pleased to nominate Mr. Qureshi to serve on the United States District Court bench,” the president said. “I am confident he will serve the American people with integrity and a steadfast commitment to justice.”
Unless the Democrats get control of the Senate this November, Qureshi must still get the approval of the Senate Judicial Committee and the Senate, which under its current make-up dominated by Republicans, has shown a tendency to act in a partisan manner, especially in regards to Obama’s judicial appointments. Congressional Republicans have refused to hold a hearing for Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, who was nominated in March.
American Muslims have served as judges at the state level, but never as a federal judge, says Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, a national legal advocacy group.
“This is a very, very exciting time, and we are just so thrilled that the president took this step,” Khera says of Qureshi’s nomination.“
“A judiciary that reflects the rich diversity of our nation helps ensure the fair and just administration of the law , and it is vital for American Muslims to be included,” says Khera. “Mr. Qureshi’s profound commitment to the rule of law and justice for people of all backgrounds makes him an exceptional nominee.”
Qureshi, born in Pakistan and now a U.S. citizen. He graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School cum laude in 1997 with his J.D. and summa cum laude from Cornell University with his B.A. in 1993.
Qureshi is a lawyer in Washington who specializes in healthcare fraud, the False Claims Act and securities violations. Since 2015, he has served on the District of Columbia Bar Association’s Legal Ethics Committee. During President Obama’s two terms in office, he has appointed 138 women and 120 minorities to federal judgeships. He has made this judicial diversity a “major priority” throughout his time in office, says former White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, who now works with Qureshi at the D.C. law firm Latham & Watkins.
“Having judges who are reflective of the nation as a whole just brings public confidence into our court system,” Ruemmler says, explaining the president’s thinking about these selections, which require Senate confirmation and are held for life.
“The nomination of Abid Qureshi to fill a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia sends a message of inclusion that is welcomed by the American Muslim Community and by all Americans who value diversity and mutual respect at a time when some seek division and discord,” said Nihad Award, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
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