Candace Jackson-Akiwumi will be added to the list of prominent Black judicial nominees to take the bench in the federal courts after the Senate confirmed her to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago with a 53-40 vote on Thursday.
Jackson-Akiwumi is the first ex-public defender and the only Black person to currently serve on the Seventh Circuit. She’s the second Black woman in her position following Judge Ann Claire Williams, who retired in 2018, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Thursday’s confirmation follows that of Judge Ketanji Brown and Julien Xavier Neals, all of whom were nominated by President Joe Biden in the spring as a means to diversify the federal judiciary where judges are routinely white and male.
These nominations and confirmations also closely watched due to the historic nature that SCOTUS justices are pulled from the federal judiciary, and with the possibility of retirement, many civil rights groups are advocating for the appointment of a Black woman to the highest court in the land.
In 2020 Jackson-Akiwumi was made partner at Zuckerman Spaeder in Washington, D.C. A native of Norfolk, Virginia, Jackson-Akiwumi graduated from Yale Law School in 2005 after she received a B.A. from Princeton University in 2000.
On social media, civil rights organizations hailed her appointment as a positive step forward in pushing the balance in the criminal justice system.
“We congratulate Candace Jackson-Akiwumi on her well-deserved confirmation to the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit,” Lisa Cylar Barrett, Director of Policy at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) said in a statement. “Her substantial public service record, accomplished litigation in civil and criminal cases, and her abiding competence, leadership, and integrity epitomize why she is so well-suited to join the federal appellate bench.
“Ms. Jackson-Akiwumi brings urgently-needed diversity to the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit,” Barrett continued. “She is the first-ever public defender to serve on this Court — and is deeply committed to preserving civil rights for all, especially the most vulnerable members of our society. The federal judiciary needs more judges who, like Ms. Jackson-Akiwumi, have experience as public defenders, have represented the most vulnerable members of our society, and have demonstrated a deep commitment to the preservation of civil rights for all. Her impeccable reputation and professionalism as a public defender have undoubtedly prepared her to make important contributions to the federal judiciary’s work and diversify its professional viewpoints.
“Candace Jackson-Akiwumi is an outstanding addition to the Seventh Circuit bench and will serve the American people honorably in that role,” People For the American Way President Ben Jealous said in a statement. “She brings to the position the experience, integrity and intellect that the federal appeals court demands, as well as a commitment to upholding the rights of all, not just the wealthy and powerful. Her past work as a public defender gives her a keen insight into the ways in which the justice system affects ordinary Americans. Her confirmation brings much-needed diversity to a bench that serves some of the most diverse cities in our nation. We applaud the Senate for confirming her. We also applaud the Biden-Harris administration for prioritizing federal judicial nominations. The administration’s confirmations of federal judges so far have set the swiftest pace since the Ford administration.”