Obama also attacked a Republican plan to cut the number of judges on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals from 11 to eight.
The president introduced his nominees in a Rose Garden ceremony at the White House. He pointed out that there were two vacancies on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals when he became president in 2009 and two more judges have since retired, but in more than four years only one of his nominees to the court has been confirmed.
Obama said the circuit is often called "the second-highest court," below the U.S. Supreme Court, because it rules on important cases involving everything from national security to workers' rights and often has the last word.
"Anybody who values the role of our courts should find that unacceptable regardless of your party, which brings me to today," he said. "That's why today I'm nominating three outstanding, highly qualified individuals to fill those remaining seats."
Obama's nominees are Patricia Millett, Nina Pillard and Robert Wilkins. He urged speedy confirmation for all three.
Millett, who spent 11 years in the solicitor general's office, is an appellate lawyer and wife of a retired Naval officer. Pillard, a former lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, now teaches at Georgetown. Wilkins was confirmed in 2010 as a judge on the D.C. district court.
The audience laughed when Obama joked that with a Democratic president "eight is suddenly enough" on the D.C. appeals court.
"People are laughing because it's obviously a blatant political move," he said. "We know that because some of the same Republicans behind this current proposal to reduce the number of seats on the D.C. Circuit Court voted in 2007 to keep 11 judges on the D.C. Circuit -- same folks."