David Estudillo, the Sunnyside-born son of Mexican immigrants, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Tuesday as a United States District Judge for the Western District of Washington. Estudillo has worked as a Grant County Superior Court judge, appointed in 2015 by Governor Jay Inslee as the first Latino to serve as a judge on any court in Eastern Washington.
“Judge Estudillo is a great example of the successes and contributions that many immigrant families make to our great nation,” Senator Maria Cantwell, D‑Washington, said in a Senate floor speech.
Cantwell and Senator Patty Murray, D‑Washington, put forward Estudillo’s name and he was nominated to the federal bench in April by President Biden.
A second Western District nomination, of Seattle lawyer Tana Lin, is pending in the Senate with confirmation likely.
The state’s senators have moved to give much-needed help to the federal bench in Seattle and Tacoma, which has just two active U.S. District Court judges.
Seven judges with senior status, their appointments dating to the Carter and Reagan administrations, continue to fill heavy caseloads.
Judge Estudillo has enjoyed wide, bipartisan support in conservative Grant County, and currently heads the Washington State Superior Court Judges Assocation.
Still, the Senate vote to confirm him was 54–41, with 41 of 50 Republicans in the U.S. Senate voting against confirmation.
The “no” votes included Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and even Sen. Rob Portman, R‑Ohio, often touted in the press as one of the upper chamber’s most “reasonable” and collegial Republicans. The “yea” Republican votes included Senator John Cornyn, R‑Texas, a member of GOP leadership, Senator Susan Collins, R‑Maine, and Iowa’s Republican Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst. Ernst initially voted No but switched her vote with Grassley standing beside her.
Judge Estudillo built a practice as an immigration lawyer before being named to the superior court bench by Governor Inslee.
“He represented clients in tough removal proceedings, successfully presenting and trying claims for asylum, cancellation of removal and other forms of relief from deportation,” Murray said in a Senate speech supporting the nomination.
“He also consistently provided pro bono services at immigration legal clinics to help immigrants applying for citizenship and often presented information in Spanish about immigration policy and procedure all around the community.”
After his appointment by Inslee, Judge Estudillo was twice reelected to his Superior Court seat, the second time unopposed.
After Donald Trump sent a parade of white conservatives to the federal bench vetted by the Federalist Society, President Biden pledged to diversity the makeup of the U.S. District and Appellate Courts. He has also pledged to put an African American woman on the U.S. Supreme Court when there is a vacancy.