Senate confirms 2 Michigan judges to federal bench

Washington – The United States Senate confirmed on Friday evening two Michigan judges appointed to the federal bench by President Joe Biden.

Senators voted 44-22 to approve Oakland County Circuit Court Chief Justice Shalina D. Kumar just after 11:20 p.m. and voted 45-25 earlier for Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Jane Mr. Beckering. Kumar will be Michigan’s first South Asian federal judge.

Kumar and Beckering were among a list of 22 appointments that Senate Democrats pushed to go through on Friday, which also included other judge positions, ambassadorial appointments and positions at the US Agency for International Development .

In June, Biden brought in Kumar for a vacant position in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan and Beckering for a vacant position on the Bench in the Western District of Michigan. Both were unanimously rated “well qualified” by the American Bar Association.

“Judge Kumar and Judge Beckering are two exceptional and highly qualified women,” US Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, said in a statement. “Their confirmation is great news for Michigan.”

Kumar, 50, of Birmingham is chief justice of Oakland County Circuit Court, Michigan’s second-largest trial court, which has 20 judges, more than 400 employees and an annual budget of $ 72 million.

She was appointed to court in 2007, handles civil and criminal cases, and has presided over nearly 10,550 cases, including 99 jury or bench trials that resulted in a verdict or judgment. Kumar also served as chairman of the Adult Treatment Court for five years, which aims to treat and divert defendants from prison.

Beckering, 56, of Grand Rapids, has served on the Michigan Court of Appeals since 2007 and is the court’s pro tempore chief justice. She has presided over around 4,070 cases that have earned her an opinion, according to a questionnaire she submitted to the Judicial Commission.

Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Jane Beckering addresses the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, October 6, 2021, during a hearing on her appointment to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan.

Beckering will be the only one appointed by a Democratic president to the Western District Court, where the other judges are appointed by Republican presidents.

“Justice Kumar is an accomplished jurist whose appointment breaks barriers as the first Michigander of South Asian descent to serve on the federal bench in our state. Justice Beckering is highly qualified and has extensive experience in the Michigan Court of Appeal and in private practice, ”said Senator Gary Peters, of the Township of D-Bloomfield. “I know the two women will serve the people of Michigan and our nation well.

In October, Kumar and Beckering received backing from Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, as well as Republican Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Thom Tillis of North Carolina to step out of the panel.

At their hearing this fall, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa noted that the two Michigan candidates are former plaintiff lawyers with “long histories” of giving to Democrats.

“While there is nothing wrong with plaintiffs’ lawyers or anyone who wants to donate to a political party, including Democrats, we need to make sure these candidates are prepared to be fair on the bench. federal, ”said Grassley, who voted against both. in committee.

Beckering told senators that the Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct explicitly provides for the ability for judges to contribute to political campaigns. She also cited an advisory opinion of the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission which “expressly stated that this was not an appearance of impropriety”.

Records have shown that Beckering’s donations in recent years have gone to Michigan legislative and court candidates, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s campaigns, the Kent County Democratic Party and the Progressive Women’s Alliance of West Michigan, among others.

Kumar has also donated to the Whitmer campaign and the Michigan House Democratic Fund, as well as to state bench and legislative candidates, according to the disclosure documents.

Both candidates gave last year to the campaigns of Biden and Democratic Senator Gary Peters Bloomfield Township, who, along with Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, recommended them to the White House.

Kumar and Beckering were first appointed to their respective courts in Michigan by the government of the day. Jennifer Granholm, Democrat, then elected by Michigan voters. Both also attended the University of Michigan.

Kumar graduated from UM in 1993 and from the University of Detroit-Mercy Law School in 1996. She was a civil lawyer from 1997 to 2007, mainly representing injured clients in medical malpractice cases. . She served on Sylvan Lake City Council from 1997 to 1998.

Beckering received her law degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1990 and her BA from UM in 1987. She spent 17 years as a litigator in private practice and gained experience in commercial litigation. and multi-state claimants, negligence, wrongful death and product liability cases.

Her husband, Raymond, is assistant to the United States attorney in the Western District. To avoid conflicts of interest, Beckering had informed the committee that he was planning to leave the office, so he would not be working with other attorneys appearing before her.

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