The U.S. Senate Tuesday night confirmed Robert Pitman to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas. Pitman becomes the first openly gay judge to sit on the federal bench in Texas, and also assumes a seat that had been vacant for more than six years.
The nominations were announced in June by President Barack Obama after Sen. John Cornyn and Sen. Ted Cruz provided the recommendations.
Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy told the Dallas Morning News Tuesday that he hoped for swift confirmations.
“Under our past practices under both Republican and Democratic leadership, you always did [confirm] before the lame duck was over,” Leahy said.
“The president’s nominees embody an unprecedented commitment to expanding the racial, gender, sexual orientation, and experiential diversity of the men and women who serve on the federal bench,” White House counsel Neil Eggelston told the National Law Journal in a written statement. “The president believes the third branch of government should reflect the rest of America and that doing so amounts to a stronger judiciary.”
“For the judicial system in the United States to be truly fair, it must reflect the tremendous diversity of the country. President Obama has made great strides in promoting and ensuring that diversity with his nominations of people of color and of openly gay and lesbian individuals to the federal bench,” said Lambda Legal Fair Courts Project Manager Eric Lesh. “We celebrate the confirmation of Judge Pitman, which brings welcome diversity to the federal bench in Texas while simultaneously filling a seat that had been vacant for more than six years.”
Lesh added, “While great progress has been made to bring diversity to the courts, we still have a long way to go. There are nearly 900 federal judges in the U.S., and most are straight white men. Federal courts are charged with providing everyone with equal access to justice, and yet justice has not always been a reality for some. A judiciary diverse in race, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation and lived and professional experience serves not only to improve the quality of justice, but to boost public confidence in the courts.”
The other two nominees appointed to the bench alongside Pitman were Texarkana lawyer Robert Schroeder III and Sherman Magistrate Judge Amos Mazzant III.