WASHINGTON, Sept. 7 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama has nominated a Washington lawyer who would become the country's first Muslim-American federal judge if he is confirmed.
Obama nominated Abid Riaz Qureshi Tuesday to serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Qureshi is a partner at the Latham & Watkins law firm in Washington, specializing in false claims, healthcare fraud and securities violations, according to the White House.
He has spent his entire career with the firm since graduating from Harvard Law School in 1997 and receiving his bachelor of arts from Cornell University in 1993.
Qureshi earned the Champions of Justice Award in 2012 by the National Law Journal's Legal Times for upholding the legal profession's core values through public service, pro bono work and advocacy for civil liberties.
"I am pleased to nominate Mr. Qureshi to serve on the United States District Court bench," Obama said in a statement. "I am confident he will serve the American people with integrity and a steadfast commitment to justice."
He must first be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, which halted any decisions on judicial nominations until after Obama's term ends in January. That includes Obama's Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland seven months ago.
Obama has pushed for diversity.
"The men and women the president has nominated to enforce our laws and deliver justice represent his unprecedented commitment expanding the diversity of our nation's highest courts," the White House said.
Through June, he's appointed more women (138), African-American women (26), Hispanics (37), Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (21) to the federal bench than his predecessors. He also has appointed as many African Americans to the circuit court (nine) as any other president.
And 11 of Obama's confirmed judges are openly gay or lesbian, compared with one before 2009 and appointed by President Bill Clinton.
Muslim Americans applauded the nomination.
"A judiciary that reflects the rich diversity of our nation helps ensure the fair and just administration of the law, and it is vital for American Muslims to be included," Farhana Khera, former counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and executive director of Muslim Advocates, said in a statement. "Mr. Qureshi's profound commitment to the rule of law and justice for people of all backgrounds makes him an exceptional nominee."
"The nomination of Abid Qureshi to fill a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia sends a message of inclusion that is welcomed by the American Muslim community and by all Americans who value diversity and mutual respect at a time when some seek division and discord," Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil rights group, said in a statement.