Biden nominates 2 Michigan judges to federal bench

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Washington — President Joe Biden on Wednesday nominated the chief judge of Oakland County Circuit Court who would be the first federal judge of South Asian descent in Michigan if confirmed, the White House said. 

Biden tapped Oakland County Circuit Chief Judge Shalina D. Kumar to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. Kumar was appointed chief judge of the Oakland County court in 2018.

President Joe Biden has nominated Oakland County judge Shalina D. Kumar to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Kumar, 50, of Birmingham also handles civil and criminal matters and has served as a presiding judge of the Adult Treatment Court. She graduated from the University of Michigan in 1993 and the University of Detroit-Mercy School of Law in 1996. She was a civil litigator in private practice from 1997 to 2007, according to her bio. 

Kumar is the ex-wife of Metro Detroit lawyer Ven Johnson. Johnson was indicted alongside his former law partner Geoffrey Fieger in August 2007 and accused of conspiring to make about $127,000 in illegal campaign contributions to Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards' 2004 campaign.

Johnson and Fieger were acquitted of all charges in 2008.

There is a vacancy on the Eastern District Court because U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts said Jan. 20 that she would step down from her Detroit post and take senior status.

Biden also nominated Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Jane M. Beckering, 56, of Grand Rapids, on Wednesday to the federal bench in the Western District of Michigan.

Both of Michigan's Democratic U.S. senators praised Biden's selections, which require confirmation in a Senate split between Republicans and Democrats.

“Judge Kumar and Judge Beckering are two outstanding and highly qualified women," U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Lansing said in a statement. "We are confident that they will serve as thoughtful and fair federal judges. We look forward to moving their nominations through the Senate confirmation process."

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters of Bloomfield Township said he welcomed the nominations, calling Kumar "a highly qualified jurist" who "would reflect Michigan’s rich diversity, as she would be the first Michigander of South Asian descent to serve on the federal bench in our state." 

Beckering "is highly respected in Michigan’s legal community," Peters added in a statement. 

Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter praised Biden's elevating Kumar to the federal court, calling her "a legal pioneer to the federal bench."

"She has been a tireless and innovative leader on Oakland’s circuit court and a well-seasoned litigator in private practice," Coulter said.

"While I’m sorry to lose her in Oakland, I’m so proud that my friend will still be forging new ground on the federal bench as the first federal judge of South Asian descent in Michigan."

President Joe Biden has nominated Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Jane Beckering to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan.

Beckering has served on the appeals court since 2007 and is chief judge pro tempore of the court and the president-elect of the Grand Rapids Bar Association. 

The Western District bench has a vacancy after Judge Janet T. Neff, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, took senior status in March. If confirmed, Beckering would become the only Democratic appointee in the Western District, where all the other judges are appointees of Republican presidents. 

Before joining the bench, Beckering was a trial lawyer for 17 years, starting the law firm Buchanan & Beckering PLC in Grand Rapids representing plaintiffs in civil litigation. She got her law degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1990 and her bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan in 1987, according to her bio.

Kumar and Beckering are part of Biden's fifth round of judicial nominees and his first picks for Michigan courts. 

Staff Writer Robert Snell contributed.