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Julie Rikelman

Julie Rikelman, senior litigation director at the Center for Reproductive Rights, speaks to the media after arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health on December 1, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Biden Applauded for Nominating 'Distinguished' Abortion Rights Lawyer to Federal Court

"At a time when reproductive rights are under attack, Julie Rikelman is an exceptional nominee for this moment," said Sen. Elizabeth Warren. "She will be a welcome addition to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals."

Jessica Corbett

Reproductive freedom advocates on Friday praised President Joe Biden's nomination of an abortion rights attorney to the federal bench in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court reversing Roe v. Wade.

"This important nomination... could not come at a more important time in the fight for reproductive freedom."

Julie Rikelman, the senior director of U.S. litigation at the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), was among several federal judiciary candidates announced by the White House.

The president nominated Rikelman to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit; the Senate must confirm her nomination. The Harvard Law School graduate previously worked for NBCUniversal and multiple law firms. She also clerked for a federal appellate judge and an Alaska Supreme Court justice.

As Rikelman's CRR biography highlights, in December, "Julie argued the most important abortion rights case in 30 years at the United States Supreme Court," Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which challenged Mississippi's 15-week ban on behalf of the state's only remaining clinic.

The right-wing justices issued their widely anticipated Dobbs decision in late June, overturning Roe, ending the constitutional right to abortion nationwide, and fueling demands for congressional Democrats to protect reproductive freedom with federal legislation before this year's midterm elections.

"In March 2020, Julie successfully argued another abortion rights case at the U.S. Supreme Court, June Medical Services v. Russo," CRR notes. "In addition to challenging bans and clinic closing laws around the country, Julie's other litigation work at the center has included leading the center's efforts against invasive ultrasound laws, fighting to preserve access to medication abortion, and defending the rights of young people in Florida and Alaska to make their own reproductive health decisions."

Sens. Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, both Massachusetts Democrats, said in a joint statement Friday that "Julie Rikelman is a distinguished lawyer who has spent nearly half of her 25-year career as the lead litigator for one of America's premier women's reproductive rights institutions."

"Rikelman has a keen intellect, extensive experience protecting individual rights, and a familiarity with our Constitution and laws that will contribute invaluable experience to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals," they continued. "Rikelman and her family, who immigrated to Boston from Ukraine in the late 1970s as refugees fleeing religious persecution, are a reflection of America at its best."

"We were enthusiastic to recommend Rikelman as a candidate for the First Circuit," the pair added. "We applaud President Biden for her appointment and strongly support her nomination."

NARAL Pro-Choice America president Mini Timmaraju said that "we commend the Biden administration on this important nomination, which could not come at a more important time in the fight for reproductive freedom."

"Having experts with demonstrable records of standing up for abortion rights like Julie Rikelman in the judicial branch will serve as a critical defense against future attacks on our rights," she added. "We look forward to continuing our work with the administration to further the fight for reproductive freedom."

Biden on Friday also nominated Maria Araújo Kahn to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and announced six district court candidates: Judge Daniel Calabretta, Jeffery P. Hopkins, Justice Myong J. Joun, Julia Kobick, Judge Rita F. Lin, and Araceli Martinez-Olguin. He also revealed his intent to nominate Todd E. Edelman to a district court seat.

While welcoming the full slate of Biden nominees, Christopher Kang, chief counsel at the group Demand Justice, singled out Rikelman.

"The former public defenders, union-side labor lawyers, and civil rights lawyers in this group of nominees show the Biden administration building on its important commitment to professional diversity," Kang said. "In the wake of the Supreme Court's decision overturning Roe v. Wade, Julie Rikelman brings exactly the kind of experience with reproductive rights we desperately need on the courts."

Kang declared that "the pressure is squarely on" Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) "to announce a plan to hold enough hearings to consider these nominees, as well as allow the White House to continue making new nominations."

"There are now nearly twice as many district court nominees awaiting a hearing as there are scheduled hearing slots," he noted, adding that the panel "will be a bottleneck that will severely limit the Biden judicial legacy unless Durbin announces new hearings, starting with working through August."

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