President Biden has named three Black women—Ketanji Brown Jackson, Tiffany Cunningham, and Candace Jackson-Akiwumi—as his first three nominations to federal Courts of Appeals.
Biden’s nomination of US District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to serve on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit is a major stepping stone for her to possibly serve in the US Supreme Court, as Justice Stephen Breyer, 82, may soon retire. Judge Jackson, who formerly clerked for Justice Breyer, has served on the District Court for the District of Columbia since 2013.
For the Seventh Circuit (which includes Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana), President Biden nominated Candace Jackson-Akiwumi. No active Black judge has served on the Seventh Circuit since 2018, when Judge Ann Claire Williams retired. Judge Jackson-Akiwumi’s nomination is especially significant as she will be the first former federal public defender to join the Seventh Circuit.
For the Federal Circuit, President Biden nominated Tiffany Cunningham, who would be the first Black judge ever on the Federal Court Circuit if confirmed by the Senate. The Federal Circuit has nationwide jurisdiction over patents, trademarks, international trade, government contracts, and a few other areas. Cunningham specializes in patent litigation as a partner with the law firm of Perkins Cole LLP in Chicago, Illinois. Previously she clerked for Judge Timothy B. Dyk on the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
Currently, African Americans comprise 13% of the US population, but only 10% of active US Court of Appeals Judges (18 of 175). This disparity could grow quickly if all African American US Appellate judges eligible to retire did so.
Over the past four years, none of the 54 US Court of Appeals judges nominated by former President Trump was an African American.