In a final vote of 66-63, the Senate confirmed Julien Xavier Neals on Tuesday, securing his transition to a judicial position in the federal courts.
Neals, 56, currently serves as County Counsel and Acting County Administrator for Bergen County, New Jersey, and was the first judicial nominee of President Joe Biden’s administration. With the vote passage Neals will preside on the bench of the U.S. District Court of New Jersey for the rest of his lifetime.
Tuesday’s confirmation marked an important milestone for Neals who six years ago was denied a confirmation vote after he was nominated by former President Barack Obama in 2015. Like Merrick Garland, Neals’ confirmation hearing was delayed until the clock ran out, marking the end of Obama’s presidency.
Neals is a Newark, New Jersey native who graduated from Morehouse College in 1986 and later received his Juris Doctor from Emory University School of Law in 1991.
“They are both highly qualified, and they represent the diversity that is one of the ultimate strengths of our nation ― in all branches of government, including the judiciary,” President Joe Biden said in a statement. “Other nominees are awaiting confirmation who also have bipartisan support, and I hope they will be rapidly confirmed as wel
Neals is one of five Black judges who were nominated by the Biden administration in an effort to reshape the courts. The four others, Judge Kentaji Brown Jackson, Judge Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, Judge Tiffany Cunningham and Judge Lydia Griggsby, all await a Senate confirmation vote.
The Biden administration has set forth a plan to diversify the courts, which under Trump, the majority of the nominees were white and male. Progressive leaders and civil rights groups advocated that the Biden administration make diversifying the courts with qualified nominees from diverse backgrounds a top priority in order to reshape the justice system.
Democrats are also working alongside the Biden administration to ensure that a large number of Biden’s appointments are confirmed by the Senate, in hopes of surpassing Trump’s record of 230 appointees during his first and only term.
By July, Biden is projected to confirm more judges than any president in their first year in more than 50 years.
Following Neals’ confirmation, the Senate also confirmed federal judicial nominee Regina M. Rodriguez to a district court in Colorado on Tuesday. Rodriguez was also denied a confirmation vote after Obama nominated her in 2016.
There are a total of 17 judicial nominees waiting in the cue for the confirmation process, and 80 vacancies on the U.S. district and appeals courts.