Biden Nominates Abortion Rights Lawyer To Federal Court


President Joe Biden is nominating attorney Julie Rikelman to be a federal appeals court judge after she challenged abortion restrictions at the Supreme Court in the case that led to Roe v. Wade being overturned, the White House announced Friday, elevating an abortion rights advocate after the president was widely condemned for trying to nominate an anti-abortion lawyer to the federal bench.

Key Facts

Biden is nominating Rikelman to the First Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers cases in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico.

Rikelman has served as the litigation director at the Center for Reproductive Rights since 2012, and previously worked as the vice president of litigation at NBC/Universal and as a clerk for federal appeals and Alaska Supreme Court judges.

In addition to Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, the Mississippi case that overturned Roe, Rikelman also successfully challenged abortion restrictions in Louisiana in the 2020 Supreme Court case June Medical Services LLC v. Russo.

Biden also nominated Connecticut Supreme Court Justice Maria Araujo Kahn Friday to serve on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which is based in New York.

Crucial Quote

“At a time when reproductive rights are under attack, Julie Rikelman is an exceptional nominee for this moment,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said Friday, calling her a “welcome addition” to the First Circuit. Warren said she and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) had recommended Rikelman and other Massachusetts-based judicial nominees to the president.


Biden’s nomination of Rikelman comes after the president had previously come under fire from Democrats for planning to nominate Chad Meredith to the federal bench, a conservative attorney and former Kentucky solicitor general who previously defended the state’s abortion restrictions in court. The president was widely condemned for his choice after the White House informed Democrats in Kentucky of his intent to nominate Meredith—which was supposed to be announced on the same day that the Supreme Court overturned Roe, emails show—reportedly as a gesture to appease Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Meredith was only removed from consideration after Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) objected to the nomination.

Key Background

Biden has made more than 100 judicial nominations since taking office, outpacing predecessors with his rate of judicial appointments even as he faces criticism from the left for not moving faster before Republicans potentially regain control of the Senate. His nomination of Rikelman comes as the Biden administration has taken steps to blunt the impact of the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling: the president signed an executive order directing resources toward reproductive rights, and the Department of Health and Human Services issued new guidelines directing medical providers to provide abortions whenever medically necessary, among other measures. The battle over abortion rights—and other civil rights that could now be under threat in light of the court’s ruling—is likely to continue to play out in the courts, however, making it important for abortion rights advocates to have sympathetic judges in federal courts. The wave of new restrictions is expected to result in thorny legal questions over issues like the legality of banning abortion pills, whether birth control access can be challenged under abortion restrictions and if Americans can be prosecuted for crossing state lines to get an abortion.

Further Reading:

Biden nominates abortion rights lawyer in U.S. Supreme Court case to federal judgeship (Reuters)

Biden Issues Abortion Executive Order—But Doubles Down On Get-Out-The-Vote Message (Forbes)

Biden May Soon Nominate An Anti-Abortion Federal Judge — To Appease Mitch McConnell (Forbes)