Data Wonk

Grothman Vs. Biden On Federal Judges

Did president not appoint enough 'white guys'? Let's look at the numbers.

By - Jun 7th, 2023 10:30 am
U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman. (Public Domain).

U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman. (Public Domain).

In a speech to the Congress last month, Wisconsin’s Representative Glenn Grothman attacked President Joe Biden for not appointing enough “white guys” to the federal courts with this comment:

A study was done a little while ago on the federal judiciary. I wish we had these studies for all other appointments by the Biden administration. And apparently his first two years, President Biden had 97 federal judges. I was expecting maybe 25 or 30 were white guys because I know President Biden wasn’t heavy on appointing white guys. Five of the 97 judges were white guys. Of those, two were gay. So it is almost impossible for white guys to be appointed.

An article by Lawrence Andrea reported on Grothman’s speech. Grothman, a Republican, represents Wisconsin’s 6th Congressional District, which includes Milwaukee’s northern suburbs and extends to West Bend and Manitowoc. As Milwaukee County’s north shore suburbs became more Democratic, following the 2020 census, they were dropped from the 6th district, to keep it safely Republican. In the last election, Grothman ran unopposed.

Grothman did not identify the study he referred to. However, it appears very similar to one from the Pew Research Center. The Pew study looked at the judges appointed by Biden and his twelve predecessors in the 566 days following their inauguration. In the case of Biden, this would cover the period between 1/20/2021 and 8/9/2022.

As the graph shows, during this period, Biden appointed 57 district court judges (shown in gray), 18 appeals court judges (in orange), and one U.S. Supreme Court justices (in blue), for a total of 76. This was substantially more than Donald Trump and Barack Obama.

Federal Judges Appointed in First 566 Days

Federal Judges Appointed in First 566 Days

As the next chart shows, Biden has substantially ramped up the appointment of women to the federal courts. Between Dwight Eisenhower and Gerald Ford, only one woman was appointed (by John F. Kennedy). Starting with Jimmy Carter, the number of women appointed gradually increased—more with Democratic presidents than Republicans.

The blue columns and left axis show the number, while the orange line and right-axis show the percentages of appointees who were women. During Biden’s first 566 days, three-quarters of his appointees were women.

Female Judge Appointees in First 566 Days

Female Judge Appointees in First 566 Days

The next chart shows the ethnicity of the judges appointed in the first 566 days of each president’s term. Over most of this history whites dominated. Once again, members of minority groups dominated judicial appointments during Biden’s term.

Ethnicity of Federal Judges Appointed in First 566 Days

Ethnicity of Federal Judges Appointed in First 566 Days

This discussion brings up the question of what mix of backgrounds we would prefer to see in our judiciary. One possible answer is that the judiciary should look like the population they are drawn from. The next graph uses data drawn from a report from the American Bar Association.

The report asks whether lawyers of color are underrepresented on the federal bench and offers this answer:

The question has more than one answer. Compared to the U.S. population, lawyers of color are underrepresented, particularly Hispanics. For example, 7.7% of all federal judges were Hispanic as of July 1, 2022 – less than half the percentage of Hispanics in the U.S. population (18.9%).

The same goes for Blacks and Asian Americans, but the difference is not as great. Those of mixed race are particularly under-represented compared to the number of mixed-race attorneys.

The same logic works with white judges, only in reverse. Compared to the general population of whites, they are overrepresented, but compared to their percent of lawyers they are about right.

American Bar Association Estimates

American Bar Association Estimates

Perhaps we need a broader definition of diversity when it comes to judges. Should it include diversity of experiences? It is notable, for instance, that of the nine justices on the U.S. Supreme Court eight went to one of two law schools (Harvard and Yale).

Biden’s appointments are clearly an attempt to address the historic under-representation of women and minorities on the federal bench. But Grothman’s speech points out a danger for him and for Democrats in their ability to appeal to white voters. It is likely to resonate with voters in his district which is 89% white, particularly those who did not attend college, reinforcing the notion pushed by conservatives that Democrats do not care about whites.

Categories: Data Wonk, Politics

2 thoughts on “Data Wonk: Grothman Vs. Biden On Federal Judges”

  1. ZeeManMke says:

    The last time Grothman was in court was 30 years ago. His entire record as a lawyer amounts to ten probate cases.

    The last – and only – time a black was nominated and confirmed to be a federal district court judge in Wisconsin was in 1996. So yes, that really shows bias against white people.

    Thirty-percent of Biden’s nominees were public defenders. Not corporate lawyers. Poor Glenn. He would lose a case to Lionel Hutz.

  2. Rod Botts says:

    I doubt that Grothman could understand this article if he tried to read it.

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