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Roopali Desai becomes 1st Indian-American judge on US’ 9th Circuit

Roopali Desai, an attorney from Arizona, has been approved by the US Senate to join the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals as the first South Asian American judge, as the Biden administration works to diversify the federal judiciary.

Desai, a civil litigation partner at Coppersmith Brockelman with offices in Phoenix since 2013, was confirmed by the Senate on Thursday by a bipartisan vote of 67-29. This was the 18th overall US appeals court confirmation since Joe Biden took office.

The vote took place on the same day that the Senate approved seven Biden candidates for the US Sentencing Commission on a bipartisan basis, giving the federal body a quorum for the first time in three years. The board’s first Black leader will be Mississippi’s U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves, who was recently approved as the commission head.

Desai is the sixth confirmed appointment made by Biden to the 9th Circuit, which hears appeals from much of the western United States, including California. The Senate Judiciary Committee or entire Senate will still need to vote on sixteen additional Biden candidates for circuit courts. On Friday, Desai did not respond to a message requesting comment right away.

Republicans on the judiciary committee in the Senate did not obstruct Desai’s swift move to full Senate approval last month. Only the second time under the Biden administration did the committee utilise a voice vote to support her candidacy rather than a formal roll call of members. Senators Josh Hawley of Missouri, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Ted Cruz of Texas, and Mike Lee of Utah were the only four Republicans who were still listed as opposing Desai’s nomination.

Kyrsten Sinema, a prominent senator from Arizona and a Democrat who has opposed removing the filibuster, supported Desai.

Additionally on Thursday, the Senate approved the new members of the US Sentence Commission, which decides on and establishes sentencing guidelines, by voice vote.

As vice-chair, Reeves, a federal court appointment from the Obama administration, will collaborate with Claire McCusker Murray, a lawyer from the Trump administration’s Justice Department. John Gleeson, a retired U.S. District Judge who is currently a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton, was also included in the new appointments.

‘The criminal justice system has some troubling divisions that have emerged among courts on sentencing issues during the years the Commission lacked a quorum’, Reeves said in a statement.

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