Zahid Quraishi confirmed as first Muslim federal judge

The US Army veteran has been assigned to a federal district court in New Jersey.

Zahid Quraishi, nominated by U.S. President Joe Biden to be a U.S. District Judge for the District of New Jersey, is sworn in during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on pending judicial nominations, Wednesday, April 28, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Pool photo by Tom Williams)

(RNS) —The U.S. Senate made history on Thursday (June 10) by confirming the first presidentially appointed Muslim American judge to a federal court. Zahid Quraishi was confirmed by a vote of 81-16 and awaits judicial confirmation before assuming his post with the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. 

Born in New York City and raised in New Jersey, Quraishi is the son of immigrants to the United States from Pakistan. He graduated from law school at Rutgers University and took a job in a law firm only to join the army in June 2003 to serve in its Judge Advocate General’s Corps. He was later assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, based in Germany.

Quraishi also holds the distinction of being the first person of Asian American heritage to sit on the federal bench in New Jersey.

During his military service, he twice deployed to Iraq in support of coalition military efforts in that country in 2004 and again in 2006 before being discharged with the rank of captain.

He subsequently served as assistant chief counsel in the Office of the Chief Counsel at the United States Department of Homeland Security in 2007 and as an assistant U.S. attorney from 2008 to 2013 before returning to private practice with the New Jersey firm Riker Danzig, where he headed up its white-collar criminal defense group.

At the same time, Quraishi became involved in Riker Danzig’s diversity initiatives and in June was appointed chief diversity officer, according to the firm’s website.

At the time of his nomination by President Joe Biden to his federal judge position, he was already serving as a magistrate judge, a term-limited office that requires no confirmation, in the same district. 

Quraishi is one of a diverse slate of 11 names that President Biden put forward in March, calling them a “trailblazing slate of nominees.” Quraishi is the third Biden judicial nominee overall to be confirmed by the Senate.

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President Barrack Obama had nominated Washington, D.C., attorney Abid Riaz Qureshi to Washington D.C.’s U.S. District Court in September of 2016 to fill a seat vacated by Judge Rosemary M. Collyer, but the nomination was not acted on by the Senate by the end of that congressional session in January 2017.

Earlier this year, the influential Harvard Law Review appointed its first Muslim president since the journal was founded in 1887.

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