President Joe Biden turned a corner on Monday night, although he may not have noticed.
With little fanfare, the Senate has confirmed that one of its presidential candidates, Tiffany Cunningham, is a life judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
Cunningham, a 45-year-old patent attorney from Illinois, will be the very first black judge in this court, which deals with patent cases. She is also the third judge in the Biden appeals court to be confirmed, all of whom are black women. And six months after taking office, Biden has already appointed more black women to federal appeals court seats than any previous president but one.
According to data from the Federal Judicial Center, the research and education agency of the government’s judicial arm, there have only been 11 black women confirmed as judges of federal appeals courts since the opening of US courts. in 1789. This is out of a total of 838 people who have served as judges of the Federal Court of Appeal in the history of the United States.
Biden is responsible for appointing three of those 11 black women: Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, Judge Candace Jackson-Akiwumi to the US Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit and Cunningham .
The only other president who nominated so many black women to federal appeals court seats was Bill Clinton, and he did so within four years.
President Barack Obama appointed two black women to the seats of the Federal Court of Appeal, George W. Bush appointed two and Jimmy Carter appointed one. Donald Trump named zero.
Biden moved quickly to fill vacancies in the bench, in part to counter the massive number of Tory judges put on court by Trump. He made it a point of honor to name people who have a wide range of backgrounds, race and sex, as well as their professional experience. His administration has argued that a diversity of views is badly needed on the federal bench, which is overwhelmingly stacked with white male judges who have backgrounds as prosecutors or in corporate law.
Biden also promised to appoint a black woman to the Supreme Court, if the court has a vacancy.
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