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Federal appeals court in Atlanta to get its first Black judge


Pointing to an effort to ensure diversity in the court system, President Joe Biden made history last week by nominating Nancy Gbana Abudu to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

If confirmed, Abudu would be the first Black woman to sit on that court. The circuit covers Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, where 8.5 million people are Black yet there is only one Black judge on the 12-person panel- Charles Wilson. He was nominated by former President Bill Clinton. Abudu will be the first Black person assigned to the Georgia office. 

A graduate of Columbia University and Tulane University Law School, Abudu is the daughter of immigrants from Ghana. Abudu is deputy legal director and interim director for strategic litigation at the Decatur office of the Southern Poverty Law Center. She previously was the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, where she specialized in voting rights.

An announcement from the White House said Abudu would be “the first African-American woman judge ever to sit on the Eleventh Circuit, the second woman of color ever to sit on that court, and only the third African-American judge ever to sit on that court. She would also be the first person of color to serve on the Eleventh Circuit from Georgia.” 

Biden also nominated another woman of color, South Carolina U.S. District Judge J. Michelle Childs, to serve on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. 

The White House issued an announcement saying, “These choices also continue to fulfill the president’s promise to ensure that the nation’s courts reflect the diversity that is one of our greatest assets as a country — both in terms of personal and professional backgrounds.”

The nominations are subject to U.S. Senate confirmation.

Considering the increasing challenges facing voters this year, White House officials and advocates say Abudu’s deep experience in voting rights will be extremely relevant as they point to Georgia being a state that was among the most critically watched during the 2020 elections.

 “This is an extraordinary appointment,” said Leslie Proll, senior adviser on judicial nominations for NAACP. “Nancy Abudu’s nomination addresses a breathtaking gap in representation on this Southern appellate bench. Her substantial voting rights expertise will be a welcome addition to this court, which has an outsized voting rights docket and is pivotal to protecting our democracy.”This is President Biden’s twelfth round of nominees for federal judicial positions, bringing the number of announced federal judicial nominees to 75 in his first year–more than any president since Ronald Reagan. Some 80 percent have been women and 65 percent have been people of color. In comparison, 84 percent of Trump’s nominees were white, and 76 percent were male.


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