Remember these names: Ketanji Brown Jackson, Tiffany Cunningham, and Candace Jackson-Akiwumi. These are President Joseph Biden’s first three nominations for the federal Court of Appeals.
In 2020, Biden pledged to name the first African American woman to the U.S. Supreme Court. A number of retirements are expected from the federal judiciary now that Donald Trump is out of office.
The percentage of African American judges on the federal appellate circuit is inconsistent with the makeup of the broader U.S. population overall. Former President Trump nominated no African Americans of 54 U.S. appellate nominations.
President Biden has now nominated U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. She would replace Merrick Garland who is now U.S. Attorney General. The position is also seen as a steppingstone to the U.S. Supreme Court.
President Biden nominated Candace Jackson-Akiwumi to the Seventh Circuit where no African American judge has served in three years. Biden has also nominated Tiffany Cunningham who will now likely become the first African American judge ever on the Federal Circuit.
In December 2020, Biden said, “We are particularly focused on nominating individuals whose legal experiences have been historically underrepresented on the federal bench. Including those who are public defenders, civil rights and legal aid attorneys and those who represent Americans in every walk of life.”
The power of the federal judiciary to be the final decision maker on policies that impacts that lives of African Americans unmatched. Former President Trump, along with Sen. Mitch McConnell, nominated many judges to the federal bench who were defined as unqualified by the leading groups who follow judicial nominees.
Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist for NNPA and the host of the podcast BURKEFILE. She is also a political strategist as Principal of Win Digital Media LLC. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke