WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) today applauded the Senate’s swift confirmation of U.S. Magistrate Judge Zahid N. Quraishi to the U.S. District Court of New Jersey, becoming the country’s first ever Muslim American district court judge. Judge Quraishi’s judicial appointment was approved by the Senate by a vote of 81-16.
“Judge Quraishi has devoted his career to serving our country, and his story embodies both the rich diversity of New Jersey and the promise of America as a place where anything is possible,” said Sen. Menendez during a speech on the Senate floor prior to the confirmation vote. “Zahid Quraishi is a man of integrity, a consummate public servant, and a trailblazer for Asian Americans and Muslim Americans across this country who dream of one day presiding over a court of their own. We should all draw inspiration from his story, because it is a story that could only take place in the United States of America.”
Quraishi is the second judge appointed to the U.S. District Court of New Jersey this week. On Monday, the Senate confirmed the nomination of Julien X. Neals.
The U.S. District Court of New Jersey is one of the busiest in the country, with 46,000 cases pending before it and with judges facing individual caseloads more than triple the national average. New Jersey’s six, longstanding district court vacancies are second only to California’s and have been declared a “judicial emergency.”
Quraishi was appointed as a U.S. Magistrate Judge for the District of New Jersey in the Trenton Vicinage on June 3, 2019. Quraishi, who is of Pakistani ancestry, is the first Asian American to serve on the federal bench in New Jersey. Prior to his appointment, he was Chair of Riker Danzig’s White Collar Criminal Defense and Investigations Group and his firm's first Chief Diversity Officer. Before joining Riker, Quraishi served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the District of New Jersey for over five years. He previously represented the United States as an Assistant Chief Counsel and trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He also served as a military prosecutor and achieved the rank of Captain in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps. In the Army, Quraishi was assigned to the First Infantry Division stationed in Germany and deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004 and 2006 before he was honorably discharged. Earlier in his career, Quraishi worked as a litigation associate at LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae, LLP and clerked for the Honorable Edwin H. Stern, Presiding Judge, Superior Court of New Jersey - Appellate Division (retired). Quraishi received his law degree from Rutgers Law School - Newark, where he was the Managing Business Editor of the Rutgers Computer and Technology Law Journal and a member of the Rutgers Moot Court Board.
President Biden nominated Quraishi and Neals March 30 to the U.S. District Court of New Jersey and a confirmation hearing for both nominees was held last month before the Senate Judiciary Committee. There are two other pending nominees to the New Jersey federal bench: President Biden nominated attorney Christine P. O’Hearn on April 29 and U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen M. Williams on May 12.
Below are Sen. Menendez’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
M. President, today in the Senate, we have an opportunity to both alleviate a judicial emergency and make history by supporting the confirmation of Zahid Quraishi to the U.S. District Court of New Jersey, where he currently serves as a U.S. Magistrate Judge.
As I’ve mentioned many times in the past, the vacancies on this court have been declared judicial emergencies by the Judicial Conference of the United States.
The U.S. District of New Jersey is one of the busiest courts in the entire country, with 46,000 cases pending before it.
Yet being short-staffed has left our judges with mind-boggling caseloads more than three times the national average.
Fortunately, we in the Senate have an extraordinary nominee before us this week.
Judge Quraishi has devoted his career to serving our country, and his story embodies both the rich diversity of New Jersey and the promise of America as a place where anything is possible.
He was born in New York and grew up in Fanwood, New Jersey with his parents, both immigrants from Pakistan who came to this country to build a better life.
In 1997, he graduated from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and in 2000, earned his J.D. from Rutgers Law School.
After a clerkship with the New Jersey Superior Court, Mr. Quraishi accepted a position with a New York law firm.
His first day on the job was September 11, 2001 – and the horrific events of that day prompted him to change the trajectory of his career and focus on serving our country.
In 2003, he joined the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corp, where he earned the rank of Captain and served two deployments in Iraq, first in 2004 and then 2006.
For his service, Mr. Quraishi was awarded the Bronze Star and the Combat Action Badge – a recognition by the U.S. Army for non-infantry soldiers who engage in ground combat.
After leaving the Army, he continued to work in public service, first as a trial counsel with the Department of Homeland Security and then as a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey.
In 2013 he joined the law firm of Riker Danzig, where he worked until 2019, when he was appointed as a U.S. Magistrate Judge for the U.S. District Court and became the first Asian American federal judge in New Jersey’s history.
Now, Mr. Quraishi is poised to break barriers once more.
If confirmed, he will become the first Muslim-American in U.S. history to serve as an Article III federal judge.
My colleagues, Zahid Quraishi is a man of integrity, a consummate public servant, and a trailblazer for Asian Americans and Muslim Americans across this country who dream of one day presiding over a court of their own.
We should all draw inspiration from his story, because it is a story that could only take place in the United States of America.
I urge my colleagues to support his historic nomination to the U.S. District Court of New Jersey without delay.