February 3, 2023

Celebrating Black History Month

Russ Feingold President

ACS is excited to join in the celebration of Black History Month. At ACS, we celebrate the incredible achievements and contributions of the Black community, including of Black lawyers and judges throughout history and those who are making history today.

To secure the promise of a multiracial democracy, we need a multiracial judiciary. A judiciary that reflects the diversity and experiences of the public it serves. We never have had and still do not have such a judiciary. There have only been 254 Black federal judges in our country’s history– only six percent of the roughly 3,900 federal judges who have or are serving on the bench. And less than 2.5 percent of federal judges have been Black women.

Today, we have a federal judiciary that is still overwhelmingly white and male, and that is dominated by judges with one of two backgrounds, that in big law or as a prosecutor. These demographics and experiences do not reflect the diverse public whose fundamental freedoms are being shaped by federal judges in real time.

We have a long way to go to achieve a multiracial judiciary. The last two years have seen strides with several historic confirmations to the federal bench, and we celebrate these leaders and affirm our commitment to diversifying the federal bench.

Amongst many others, we celebrate:

  • Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. She is also the first public defender to sit atop our highest court.
  • Tiffany Cunningham, the first Black judge to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
  • Arianna Freeman, the first Black woman – and woman of color – to serve on the 3rd Circuit.
  • Dana Douglas, the first Black woman to serve on the 5th Circuit.
  • Andre Mathis, the first Black man from Tennessee to serve on the 6th Circuit.
  • Holly Thomas, the first Black woman from California to serve on the 9th Circuit – and the second Black woman ever to serve on the 9th Circuit.
  • Gregory Williams, the second Black judge to serve on the District Court of Delaware and currently the only judge of color on that court.

We celebrate these and the many other Black judges and lawyers contributing to our judicial system and to our country today, and the leaders who paved the way across history.

ACS is working tirelessly with the White House and the Senate to confirm more diverse, qualified judges. We are calling on the Senate to eliminate blue slips and to take other steps to expedite the judicial confirmation process. We must maximize the 118th Congress to move towards a multiracial judiciary.

Every day, the federal judiciary is deciding cases that impact our fundamental freedoms and our country’s pursuit of a multiracial democracy. A judge’s lived experience inevitably influences their perspective on the law. It is imperative that we diversify the federal bench and confirm more judges of color who will bring their lived experience to the bench.

As we engage in this important work, we honor the Black leaders who are making history and moving us closer to a multiracial judiciary that helps secure the promise of democracy.

Judicial Diversity, Judicial selection, On The Bench