Biden nominates reproductive rights lawyer Julie Rikelman as federal appeals court judge
Also picks two for Massachusetts District Court judgeships
PRESIDENT BIDEN will nominate prominent reproductive rights attorney Julie Rikelman, who argued in favor of abortion rights before the US Supreme Court in the Dobbs case, to be a US Appeals Court judge for the First Circuit, which includes Massachusetts.
The White House announced the nomination Friday.
Rikelman has worked since 2011 as the United States litigation director for the Center for Reproductive Rights, an international organization headquartered in New York that advances reproductive health rights, including the right to abortion.
She defended the Jackson Women’s Health Organization in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, taking the pro-abortion rights position in the landmark case in which the US Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to an abortion.
Before coming to the Center for Reproductive Rights, Rikelman worked for NBC Universal and for two private law firms – Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in New York and Feldman & Orlansky in Anchorage. She was a law clerk for Third Circuit US Court of Appeals Judge Morton Greenberg and for Alaska Supreme Court Justice Dana Fabe. Rikelman was born in Kiev, Ukraine, and immigrated to the US with her family in 1979. She earned her bachelor’s and law degrees from Harvard.
Rikelman’s nomination will need to be confirmed by the US Senate, and her strong stance on abortion rights could prove fodder for a confirmation battle in the divided Senate.
Massachusetts’ US Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, both Democrats, said they will strongly support her nomination. “Julie Rikelman is a distinguished lawyer who has spent nearly half of her twenty-five year career as the lead litigator for one of America’s premier women’s reproductive rights institutions,” Markey and Warren said in a joint statement. “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 First Circuit Court of Appeals.” They said Rikelman and her family, who fled Ukraine as refugees fleeing religious persecution, “are a reflection of America at its best.”
Rebecca Hart Holder, executive director of Reproductive Equity Now, a Massachusetts abortion rights advocacy group, called Rikelman “an extraordinary advocate and fighter for reproductive freedom for all.” “We need more people on the federal bench with a deep commitment to reproductive freedom, and I am delighted to see an attorney of her caliber nominated to the First Circuit Court of Appeals by the Biden administration,” Hart Holder said.
Alexis McGill Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, urged the Senate to confirm Rikelman, praising her commitment to abortion rights. “In this moment of uncertainty and unprecedented attacks on abortion, we need judges like Rikelman who will stand up for our rights and pursue equal justice for all,” Johnson said in a statement.
The First Circuit Court of Appeals covers Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Puerto Rico, and Rhode Island.
Professor Carl Tobias, the Williams Chair in Law at the University of Richmond and a national expert on federal judicial selection, said Rikelman is “incredibly well-qualified.” He said she fits into the profile of judges Biden has been appointing – people who have been active in public service and in cutting edge issues, whether immigration, reproductive rights, or criminal defense as public defenders. The big question, he said, is whether she can get confirmed by the Senate.
“I think Democrats will push as many people through as they can, but the calendar’s tough because there are not that many working days between now and January 1,” Tobias said.
In addition to Rikelman, the White House will announce two judicial nominees to serve on the US District Court for Massachusetts.
Myong Joun would be the first Asian American man on the US District Court for Massachusetts. Joun has been an associate justice on the Boston Municipal Court since 2014, a position he was nominated for by former Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat. Joun was previously a solo practitioner and before that, an associate at Howard Friedman. A veteran of the US Army and the Massachusetts National Guard, Joun holds a bachelor’s degree from UMass Boston and a law degree from Suffolk University.
Julia Kobick has been a deputy state solicitor in Attorney General Maura Healey’s office since 2021. She was an assistant attorney general in the same office from 2013 to 2021, under Healey and her predecessor Martha Coakley, both of whom are Democrats. Kobick clerked for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg 2012 to 2013 and also clerked for Third Circuit Appeals Court Judge Michael Chagares and Massachusetts US District Court Judge Dennis Saylor. Kobick holds a bachelor’s degree and law degree from Harvard.This is a breaking news story that has been updated with additional information.