Nancy Abudu becomes first Black woman Judge of 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Nancy Gbana Abudu has become the first African-American woman to serve on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, after she was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on May 17.

It came following a year or more of bickering between Senators from both parties. The vote ultimately was cast along partisan lines, and Abudu—the daughter of Ghanaian immigrants—was confirmed by a 49-47 vote.

She succeeded Judge Beverly Martin on the bench, one of the court’s most liberal judges, after her retirement in September 2021. She was sworn-in during a Senate Committee on the Judiciary hearing for her nomination to be United States Circuit Judge for the Eleventh Circuit, in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, DC.

Ms. Abudu was once the Southern Poverty Law Center’s temporary director for strategic litigation as well as its deputy legal director. She formerly served as the Florida chapter’s legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

The appointment by President Joe Biden, and an eventual vote in favour from Senate created history for Ms. Abudu on the seat of U.S. Court of Appeals. Despite the fact that there have been two other black judges in different positions for the Eleventh Circuit Appellate, which also includes Florida and Alabama, she would be the first Black person appointed to handle Georgia cases.

Ms. Abudu worked for the 11th Circuit early in her career as a staff attorney.

Abudu, who was born and raised in Virginia, graduated with Juris Doctorate from Tulane University School of Law, after earning an undergraduate degree from Columbia University. She was a staff attorney in the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Voting Rights Project, and a specialist in voting rights law.

Abudu has litigated multiple civil rights lawsuits with the Southern Poverty Law Centre, including objections to state laws governing voter picture identification, citizenship requirements, and the right to vote for felons. She has also pressed for stricter enforcement of the Voting Rights Act and other federal statutes that safeguard the right to vote.

“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,” said the White House following Abudu’s appointment late 2021.

The Ghana Diaspora Public Affairs Collective (GHPAC), a national organization representing Ghanaians living in the United States, celebrated Ms. Abudu’s recent confirmation. According to the organisation, the Senate’s decision to confirm Ms. Abudu is a significant milestone in advancing the cause of civil rights, ensuring equal representation, and promoting social justice in our nation.

GHPAC reiterated the judge’s personality as a “highly accomplished and respected advocate for civil liberties, with a proven track record of fighting for marginalized communities. Throughout her distinguished career, she has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to protecting voting rights, challenging discriminatory practices, and promoting equity and inclusion.”


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