Published on: Monday, September 20, 2021

The Senate voted Monday night to confirm Veronica Rossman to a lifetime seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ― making her the only former public defender on that court and one of just a handful within the entire U.S. appeals court system (article available here).

Rossman, 49, is currently public defender for Colorado and Wyoming, leading the appellate division during her 11 years with the office. She has spent most of her career as a public defender, representing people in court who could not afford an attorney. Public defenders are hugely underrepresented on the nation’s courts; the vast majority of federal judges are former prosecutors and corporate attorneys. However, she also has BigLaw and civil experience: Rossman previously spent two years as a Ninth Circuit staff attorney and was a litigation associate with a law firm. She earned her law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.

Rossman is now one of just eight active judges in the entirety of the U.S. appeals court system with experience as a public defender. That’s out of a total of 174 currently active judges on U.S. appeals courts. According to a May study by the libertarian Cato Institute, 36% of active federal judges had prosecutorial experience while less than 7% had been public defenders and less than 9% had other criminal defense experience.