Zahid N. Quraishi, a federal judge and the son of Pakistani immigrants, was confirmed Thursday by the United States Senate for a federal judge position in New Jersey, becoming the first Muslim judge of the Federal District Court in the history of the United States. country.
Judge Quraishi recognized his status as a historic actor after President Biden announced his intention to appoint him in March. “Frankly,” said the judge, “I’d rather be the hundredth, if not the thousandth. He added, “I understand what this means for the community.”
The Senate confirmation Thursday, by 81 votes to 16, sparked a wave of congratulatory messages on social media from Democrats and progressives. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey called Judge Quraishi “a great addition to the court.” Senator Mazie Hirono from Hawaii said “Congratulations Judge Quraishi!” The majority leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer from New York, and senator Gary Peters of Michigan also posted congratulatory messages.
Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey called Mr. Quraishi “a man of integrity, an accomplished public servant and a pioneer for Asian Americans and Muslim Americans across this country who dream of someday presiding over their own tribunal.” He added, “We should all be inspired by his story, because it’s a story that can only unfold in the United States of America.” “
Emphasizing the historical importance of confirmation, Janai Nelson, Associate Director-Advisor of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc., said: “The time now seems to have come to note that the first federal courts were established over 230 years ago. ”
Judge Quraishi was among the first wave of judicial appointments by Mr Biden, who sought to counter the influence of his predecessor by shifting federal courts to the right. Five of those candidates were people of color and two had worked as public defenders.
In 2019, Judge Quraishi was appointed a U.S. magistrate in New Jersey. Prior to that, he was chairman of the white collar criminal investigation and defense group for Riker Danzig Scherer Hyland & Perretti LLP, a large New Jersey law firm. From 2008 to 2013, he was Assistant to the United States Attorney General in New Jersey. Prior to that, he was deputy chief counsel in the US Department of Homeland Security.
Judge Quraishi, who was born in New York and raised in Fanwood, NJ, graduated from Rutgers Law School in 2000. After being a clerk for a judge, he went to work at LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae LLP, whom he later described in a podcast as a move to, in part, please his parents, who had immigrated to the United States from Pakistan.
“I took a job at the biggest law firm where I could find a job with the highest salary,” Judge Quraishi said in January on a podcast hosted by the Muslim Bar Association of New York. “I thought it would make my parents proud.”
His first day on the job, he said, was September 11, 2001. Two years later, Judge Quraishi joined the military and was deployed to Iraq. He was awarded the Bronze Star and was released in 2007.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil rights organization, has criticized Judge Quraishi’s work in Iraq and during President Bush’s second term. In a statement, the group said it worked as a “” custodial legal advisor “during the US occupation of Iraq from 2003 to 2007, when prisoner abuse was rampant, and its service with the ICE during the last two years of the Bush administration, concern in the civil rights community.
The organization wrote a letter to senators urging them to investigate Judge Quraishi’s work during this time.
In the podcast interview, Judge Quraishi described his path to the federal bench as a departure from what his father, a doctor, had originally planned. “You can imagine my father thinking that I would go to medical school to follow in his footsteps,” recalls Judge Quraishi. But, he said, “I had no interest.” So he applied to law school.
“With no real goals in mind, I thought why not go to law school? He said in the podcast. “I like to argue, I talk all the time.”
In April, Judge Quraishi’s 73-year-old father Nisar died of complications from the coronavirus, The Tribeca Trib reported. “He loved to practice medicine,” Judge Quraishi told the newspaper. “He loved helping others, which caused him to become infected and die.”