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Fourth Circuit judicial nomination: Biden nominates Nicole Berner

President Biden nominated longtime union lawyer Nicole Berner to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, ending a years-long impasse over the position between the White House and the Senate .

Berner currently serves as general counsel for the Service Employees International Union, which represents about 2 million workers. She previously worked as an attorney at Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

“It is diverse in many ways. Not only is she an accomplished workers’ rights advocate, but she is also a mother, an LGBTQ woman and a Jew,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in an interview before the announcement of the nomination. She defended Berner in a letter to Senator Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) and Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) early last year, saying she would be the first openly gay judge on the 4th Circuit and his only one. judge with training in labor law.

The vacant seat on the 4th Circuit was vacated in September 2022 by Clinton appointee Judge Diana Gribbon Motz, who took senior status. Once one of the most conservative appeals courts in the country, after the Obama administration the 4th Circuit became one of the most liberal, issuing landmark rulings on transgender rights and gun restrictions .

The seat remained open for many months due to disagreements between the White House and the Senate. The White House nominates judicial nominees, but they must be confirmed by the Senate. Traditionally, senators can block disadvantaged nominees from their home state using a “blue slip.”

Manny Pastreich, president of SEIU Local 32BJ, said he knows of only two appellate judges in the country with professional experience. Referring to recent Supreme Court decisions limiting the organizing power of unions, he said: “Having the voice of workers in the courts is extremely important to the future of this country. »

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