Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Darrin P. Gayles
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Darrin P. Gayles (J. Albert Diaz)

President Barack Obama today nominated five lawyers for trial and appellate courts, including Dechert partner Cheryl Krause for a spot on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and an attorney in Florida who would be the first openly gay male African-American federal district judge.

Krause, a former prosecutor in the Southern District of New York, has worked in Dechert’s office in Philadelphia since 2006. She specializes in white-collar criminal defense and government investigations.

Krause has taught at the University of Pennsylvania Law School since 2003 and leads an appellate litigation externship program there, the White House said. She also founded the Philadelphia Project, a partnership between Dechert and the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia to improve the quality of education for children with disabilities.

Sens. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) announced their support for her nomination this afternoon.

The White House is touting Krause’s nomination—as well as the four nominees for federal trial slots in Florida—as part of Obama’s effort to expand the gender and racial diversity of the nation’s courts. The White House today published an updated graphic that spotlights Obama’s judicial nominations to date.

The nominations come as liberal groups in Washington push to highlight the professional background of Obama’s judicial nominees. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sherrilyn Ifill, president and general counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, will participate in a discussion tomorrow on Capitol Hill about Obama’s court picks.

For the Florida trial courts, Obama nominated Darrin Gayles, a former federal prosecutor who is now a Florida state judge, for a seat on the the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Gayles, if he is confirmed, would be the first openly gay male African-American federal judge.

Gayles’ nomination comes just weeks after Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) blocked the nomination of another openly gay African-American lawyer, William Thomas, for a slot on the bench in the Southern District of Florida.

Rubio told reporters he thwarted Thomas because of his actions in two criminal cases in Miami. Several Democratic legislators and other outside groups criticized the decision as politically motivated.

A spokesman for Human Rights Campaign said Gayles “is well qualified and if confirmed will help make the federal bench look more like America, which helps increase the confidence of the American people in our justice system.”

“We were disappointed that Sen. Marco Rubio blocked the previous nominee for no good reason, and hope the Senator supports Judge Gayles’ nomination promptly,” Michael Cole-Schwartz said in a statement.

The other Florida nominees Obama announced today are: state Judge Beth Bloom for the Southern District of Florida; state Judge Carlos Eduardo Mendoza for the Middle District of Florida; and Overchuck & Byron civil litigation partner Paul Byron for the Middle District of Florida.