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October Sees Biden Judges Playing Important Roles in Variety of Cases to Promote Justice  

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News & Analysis

During October, federal judges nominated by President Biden wrote or cast deciding votes that helped promote justice in ten cases in a wide variety of areas. These included discrimination based on disability, free speech, workers’ rights, Indian treaty rights, student harassment, gun safety, justice concerning January 6, and more. Each case is summarized below, along with a link to the full People For the American Way blog entry on the decision and to the ruling itself. Such rulings by Biden judges illustrate the importance to all of us of promptly nominating and confirming fair-minded judges.

Although the Biden White House and Senate Democrats have been working hard to rebalance the courts after four years of Trump-McConnell judges, there is much more to do. As of November 6, the Senate has confirmed 148 Biden judges, five in October, which puts Biden and Senate Majority Leader Schumer behind where Trump and McConnell were at this point four years ago (158 judges). There are currently 25 nominees out of committee and waiting for a floor vote with only 25 working days left until the end of the year. Updated statistics can be found at Time is Running Out: Confirm Fair-Minded Judges.

Biden Judge Rules that Postal Service Violated Law Prohibiting Disability Discrimination 

Judge Doris Pryor, nominated by President Biden to the Seventh Circuit, wrote a unanimous decision reversing a lower court and ruled that the US Postal Service  had violated the rights of a woman in a wheelchair to have meaningful access to its services in southern Indiana. Judge Pryor sent the case back to the lower court to determine whether the victim’s proposed accommodation was reasonable. The decision was in Ellison v. US Postal Service.

Biden Judge Rules that Hmong Group Could Properly Prevent Proselytizing in Area They Rented at State Fairgrounds 

Judge Gabriel Sanchez, nominated by President Biden to the Ninth Circuit, wrote a 2-1 decision that upheld a lower court ruling rejecting a claim by an evangelical proselytizer that he had a free speech right to proselytize inside an enclosed state fairgrounds area rented by a Hmong group. The court found that he could conduct his activity in an area just outside the rented space. The decision in Camenzind v California Exposition and State Fair is an example of the rejection of far-right groups’ efforts to weaponize free speech protections.  

Biden Judge Orders Enforcement of NLRB Ruling Against Anti-Union Business

Judge Jennifer Sung, nominated by President Biden to the Ninth Circuit, wrote a unanimous decision that ordered enforcement of a National Labor Relations Board ruling against a business guilty of anti-union activity.  The activity included refusing to rehire employees who had joined the union. The decision was in NLRB v Kava Holdings LLC.

Biden Judge Upholds Indian Tribe’s Treaty Rights and Reverses Lower Court

Judge Jennifer Sung, nominated by President Biden to the Ninth Circuit, wrote a unanimous decision that reversed a lower court and ruled that an Indian tribe could pursue its claim that Idaho officials had improperly denied them their right to hunt on unoccupied land as provided in a treaty with the US. The court in Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation v Wooten. specifically rejected Idaho’s claim that the right applied only if the tribe lived on a reservation.

Biden Judge Gives Parent Her Day in Court to Prove Unlawful Harassment of Her Child at School

Judge Gustavo Gelpi, nominated by President Biden to the First Circuit, wrote a unanimous decision that reversed a lower court and ruled that a parent should be able to pursue her claim that a charter school was liable for the improper harassment of her child “on the basis of sex.” The decision was in Grace v Board of Trustees. 

Biden Judge Upholds January 6 Rioter’s Conviction forObstructing Congressional Vote Certification in Ruling that Helps Preserve Trump Prosecution

Judge Florence Pan, nominated by President Biden to the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, wrote a 2-1 opinion that upheld a district court conviction of a January 6 rioter for “corruptly” obstructing Congress’s certification of the 2020 election results. The October 2023 decision in United States v Robertson may also apply in prosecutions of former President Trump and others for election subversion.

Biden Judge Upholds Gun Safety Rules in State Parks and Playgrounds

Judge David Urias, nominated by President Biden to the federal district court in New Mexico, upheld the state governor’s order restricting guns in parks and playgrounds in the Albuquerque area and authorized it to take effect. He denied a request for a preliminary injunction against the order sought by gun rights groups in We the Patriots Inc. v. Grisham.

Biden Judges Ensure that Former Employee Can Raise Disability Discrimination Claim

Judge Tiffany Cunningham, nominated by President Biden to the Federal Circuit, wrote a unanimous decision, joined by Biden Judge Leonard Stark, that rejected an effort by the Army to dismiss a disability discrimination claim brought by a former employee. Instead, the ruling in Wiegand v Dept. of the Army ensured that the case could go forward in another court.

Biden Judge Casts Deciding Vote to Give Contractor His Day in Court on  Claims Against Big Bank

Judge Beth Robinson, nominated by President Biden to the Second Circuit, cast the deciding vote to overturn a lower court that dismissed a claim by an independent contractor against a big bank. He contended that the bank was unjustly enriched when it replaced him with a large consulting firm that copied an important part of his work. The ruling was in Pauwels v Deloitte LLP.

Biden Judge Casts Deciding Vote Overturning  Reduced Damages Award to Accident Victim, Despite Trump Judge Dissent

Judge Eunice Lee, nominated by President Biden to the Second Circuit, cast the deciding vote to reverse a lower court judgment that significantly reduced the damages awarded to a bike messenger who was knocked off his bike when a Marine Corps recruiter negligently opened his car door as the messenger was riding by. Trump Judge Michael Park dissented and would have ruled against the messenger in Dooley v United States.