Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke before the Senate Judiciary Committee introducing Orelia Merchant, nominated by President Biden to serve as District Judge for the Eastern District of New York. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
Thank you, Chairman Durbin, Ranking Member Graham, members of the committee for the opportunity to come before you and introduce a truly extraordinary nominee to the federal bench, Ms. Orelia Merchant, who is nominated to replace the great Judge William “Bill” Kuntz on the Eastern District of New York, from my home borough of Brooklyn.
And before I begin, I want to take a moment to recognize Ms. Merchant’s great family, who made the trip to Washington and is seated here up front. Her husband, Karim Camara, who I know well, is a former NY State Assemblyman and pastor at Abundant Life Church in Brooklyn. They are joined by their two children, Karim and Celia.
And I just want to note, one of my fondest memories is, as you know, Mr. Chairman, I ride my bicycle through New York and Brooklyn on Saturdays.
Yes, it's a sight to behold. I'm not a spandex guy. I don't go at 40 miles an hour, I stop and look around and talk to people. And I was riding down the street in Bed Stuy, and there, I saw Kareem and his family sitting on the stoop and having a great time. I stopped and we spent about an hour talking and having a great time. So that's a fond memory that we had. Stoop means steps, Mr. Kennedy.
I also hear that Orelia’s 93-year old dad is watching online right now from California. He must be so proud! So proud of you. And hello back there in California. My dad passed away, as you know, a little more than a year ago. He was just always with me and one of my great supporters. And even when our loved ones can't join in person, they are always here in spirit. So I'm glad he's here, too.
So, it’s an exciting day for the whole family.
Now, I am confident that by the end of the hearing—and maybe even by the end of my introduction—you will learn that Ms. Merchant has the makings of an outstanding jurist, and would be a strong addition to the Eastern District, one of the most diverse districts in the nation.
Confirming Ms. Merchant would not only add another brilliant legal mind to the bench, it would help ensure that the bench of the Eastern District better reflects the diversity of the people it serves.
Ms. Merchant was born in the Bronx. Her father, a first-generation Jamaican American, is a veteran and hospital administrator, while her mother is a graduate of a segregated high school in Louisiana, but overcame injustice and served in the Peace Corps and as a New York City public school teacher. So, public service isn’t just Ms. Merchant’s career—it’s her family’s very calling!
A graduate of Dillard—a prestigious historically Black university in Louisiana—and William and Mary and the Tulane Law School, Ms. Merchant could have gone the route of corporate law or private practice. Instead, she’s dedicated herself entirely to serving her community and making sure the law applies equally to all people.
After law school, she worked with the EPA in Chicago to prosecute unscrupulous polluters.
As an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Louisiana, she stood up against workplace discrimination.
And at the Eastern District of New York, she was recognized for her valiant efforts fighting for families who were devastated by Hurricane Sandy, making sure over a thousand homeowners got the help they were entitled to under the law.
Now, she works with the New York Attorney General’s office, overseeing an operation that handles 8,000 active cases and 500 employees.
In short, our courts need more people like Orelia Merchant. We need more people with her talent, her experience, her fervent commitment to the public good.
And don’t take my word for it; her former colleagues describe her as calm, gifted with sound judgment, and affirm that she has an “excellent temperament for a judge.”
So, again I say: she would be an outstanding addition to the Eastern District.
Last Congress, I was proud to work with you, Mr. Chairman, and the members of this committee to confirm a historic number of highly qualified, diverse judges to the federal bench.
And it wasn’t just record-setting in quantity. We confirmed more people of color, more women, more nominees from unique backgrounds than under any other Administration.
This representation matters enormously. It’s how we bring balance and impartiality back to our courts. A diverse court is essential—essential—for Americans’ trust in an impartial judiciary and vital for the health of our democratic institutions.
So, you can be sure that confirming more highly qualified, diverse nominees like Orelia Merchant will be a top priority of mine, and I know of the committee’s in the 118th Congress.
I want to thank Ms. Merchant and her family for being here today and congratulate her on her nomination, and thank my colleagues on the committee for letting me speak.