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US Senate confirms Pakistani-origin Zahid Qureshi as federal judge

The US Senate on Thursday approved President Joe Biden’s nomination of Zahid Qureshi, a magistrate judge in New Jersey, to the federal bench, making him the first Muslim federal judge in US history.

The Democrat-controlled Senate voted 81-16 to confirm Qureshi, 46, who is the son of Pakistani immigrants and a former federal and military prosecutor.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York noted on the Senate floor that while Islam is the third-largest religion in the US, no Muslim has ever served on the federal bench.

“We must expand not only demographic diversity but professional diversity, and I know that President Biden agrees with me on this and this will be something that I will set out to do,” Schumer said.

Qureshi could not immediately be reached for comment.

Before being appointed as a magistrate in 2019, which did not require Senate confirmation, Quraishi was a partner in the white collar criminal defense practice of New Jersey law firm Riker Danzig Scherer Hyland & Perretti.

He had previously worked as an assistant US attorney, assistant chief counsel with the Department of Homeland Security, and a prosecutor with the US Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps. Qureshi served two tours with the Army in Iraq, in 2004 and 2006.

The Senate on Thursday also voted 52-46 to elevate US District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the District of Columbia to the US Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Jackson, whose record on the bench was criticized by some Republicans, is widely considered a contender for any US Supreme Court vacancy that arises during the Biden administration.

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