With the backing of Democrats and Republicans, Candace Jackson-Akiwumi was confirmed Thursday to sit on the United States Court of Appeals in the 7th Circuit. Before its confirmation, all judges of this federal court were white.
The highly influential American courts of appeal, or circuit courts, sit directly below the Supreme Court and serve as the final arbiter in many federal cases. Appointed by President Joe Biden, Jackson-Akiwumi will be the only person of color to sit on the 7th Circuit Court, which has jurisdiction over Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. Jackson-Akiwumi’s confirmation also marks only the second time that a black woman has sat on this appeals court. Ann Claire Williams was the court’s first black judge, appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1999.
Jackson-Akiwumi will fill the vacancy left by Judge Joel Flaum. The 7th Circuit is also the court that launched Judge Amy Coney-Barrett, who, appointed by then-President Donald Trump, was confirmed to the Supreme Court in 2020 following the death of Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Coney-Barrett is believed to have extreme opinions – an analysis of 538 of her time on the 7th Circuit revealed that she was one of the more conservative judges, especially on civil rights issues.
Jackson-Akiwumi’s confirmation probably represents a more gradual turn for Circuit 7. She began her career as a Clinton Appointed Clerk, then spent over a decade as a Federal Public Defender in Illinois. She is distinguished by her extreme work ethic, having represented hundreds and hundreds of impoverished people in need of legal defense, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Exceptionally skilled black women face an additional challenge when it comes to confirmations in federal court, wrote Taneisha N. Means, a professor at Vassar College. Washington post this week. Means’ research found that black female candidates face racism and sexism, but they are also seen as particularly “political.” Read Means’ article here.
Jenny Singer is a writer for Charm. You can am here on Twitter.