President Joe Biden has nominated a Pakistani-American to the US District Court of New Jersey. If confirmed by the Senate, Zahid Nisar Quraishi will become the first Muslim federal judge to a US District Court in the country’s history.
Biden announced 11 judicial nominees, the White House said. The nominations are highly diversified, including three Black women for circuit courts; the first Asian American and Pacific Islander female for US District Court for the District of Washington, D.C. and the first woman of color to serve as a federal judge for the District of Maryland.
“This trailblazing slate of nominees draws from the very best and brightest minds of the American legal profession,” Biden said. “Each is deeply qualified and prepared to deliver justice faithfully under our Constitution and impartially to the American people – and together they represent the broad diversity of background, experience, and perspective that makes our nation strong.”
Quraishi was also the first Muslim to serve as US Magistrate Judge for the District of New Jersey in 2019. Quraishi was born in New York City and raised in Fanwood, New Jersey by his parents Shahida P. Quraishi and Dr. Nisar A. Quraishi. He graduated in 1993 from Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School, received his bachelor’s degree from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City in 1997, and his Jurist Doctor from Rutgers Law School in 2000.
Prior to his appointment, Judge Quraishi was a partner at Riker Danzig where he chaired the firm’s White Collar Criminal Defense and Investigations Group and served as his firm’s first Chief Diversity Officer. Before joining Riker Danzig, Judge Quraishi served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey from 2008 to 2013.
“Prior to joining the U.S. Attorney’s office, Judge Quraishi served as an assistant chief counsel at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He also served as a military prosecutor and achieved the rank of Captain in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps, deploying to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004 and 2006. Earlier in his career, Judge Quraishi worked in private practice and clerked for Judge Edwin H. Stern, of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, from 2000 to 2001,” the White House said in a statement.
Judge Quraishi has been recognized in his legal field by Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business as one of the country’s leading white collar lawyers, Best Lawyers in America®, a peer review of U.S. lawyers, and “Super Lawyers” by Thomson Reuters. Most recently in 2019, Zahid received APALA-NJ’s Professional Achievement Award, SABA-NJ’s Standing Ovation Award, and NJMLA’s Trailblazer of the Year Award. Additionally, Zahid previously received Rutgers APALSA’s alumni award for leadership and service in the profession in 2017. In 2014, shortly after entering private practice at Riker Danzig, he was named a “New Leader of the Bar” by New Jersey Law Journal.
Governor Murphy, Senator Booker and Senator Menendez Celebrate
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy was among the many public officials who too to the Twitter to congratulate Judge Quraishi. “I congratulate both Magistrate Judge Zahid Quraishi and Julien Neals on their nominations to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. With these historic nominations, @POTUS is proving his commitment to ensuring that our bench is more diverse,” he said.
The two U.S. Senators from New Jersey, Cory Booker and Robert Menendez applauded Biden’s nomination of Julien Xavier Neals and Judge Zahid Quraishi to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey.
“Julien Neals and Zahid Quraishi are smart, experienced, and thoughtful attorneys who will both bring an exceptional commitment to fairness and impartiality to the federal bench,” Insider NJ quoted Senator Booker as saying.
“Mr. Neals has had a long and distinguished legal career and possesses an unwavering commitment to justice. Judge Quraishi, who would make history if confirmed as the first Muslim American federal judge, has defended and served our country with distinction in numerous roles. Their skills, experience, and unique perspectives are needed on the federal bench now more than ever. I look forward to their hearing before the Judiciary Committee and their confirmations by the full Senate,” he added
“President Biden has nominated two outstanding and highly qualified individuals to serve on the U.S. District Court of New Jersey in Julien Neals and Magistrate Judge Zahid Quraishi. They not only represent the best of New Jersey and our state’s values, but they reflect the state’s proud and rich diversity—critical elements for any effective judiciary sworn to uphold equal justice under the law,” said Senator Menendez. “If confirmed, both nominees will uphold the highest ideals of our justice system. I applaud President Biden for making a bold statement with these nominations and I would encourage their swift confirmation.”
Pakistani Community Delighted
The announcement of Judge Quraishi’s nomination sent the Pakistani community into a festive mode. People took to the Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp chat groups to express their pleasure at his nomination. American Pakistani Public Affairs Committee, a community organization, hailed the nomination as “history in the making”. APPAC said it had pushed for the nomination for several months.
“We want to thank Mr. Ali Najmi, who is a proud APPAC member that brought this forward as a cause to fight. We would also like to thank our biggest ally in New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, who took this as his personal mission to be the trailblazer and see a Muslim-American be appointed as a federal judge,” APPAC said in a statement posted on its Facebook page.
“History in the making!! @JoeBiden has nominated Zaid Qureshi as a Federal District Court Judge in New Jersey. A highly qualified candidate! Let’s go!!!,” Najmi, himself a criminal defense attorney, said in a tweet.
“The intent to nominate 11 individuals today is faster than any president in modern history,” the White House said. Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, also made these nominations a priority, appointing more than 200 judges to the federal bench in four years.
In contrast, former US president Barack Obama was criticized for a slower pace and narrower legacy in shaping the federal bench.