The U.S. Senate has voted 49-47 to confirm Nancy Gbana Abudu, Deputy Legal Director and Director for Strategic Litigation for the Southern Poverty Law Center, to serve as a judge on the Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Eleventh Circuit hears cases from the U.S. Northern District of Georgia, which includes Clayton County and northern Georgia, as well as other districts in Alabama and Florida. She is the first Black woman to serve on the Eleventh U.S. Circuit.

A graduate of Columbia University and Tulane Law School, Abudu worked for the American Civil Liberties Union Voting Rights Project from 2005 to 2013 and was the ACLU of Florida’s legal director from 2013 to 2018. Prior to her time with the ACLU, Abudu was an associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP from 1999 to 2001.

From 2002 to 2004, Abudu was a staff attorney for the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

Abudu’s parents immigrated from Ghana and her father made enormous sacrifices to pay her private school tuition. Her mother got stuck in Ghana for 20 years after she was unable to provide the right paperwork to return to the U.S. after a family visit.

Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock hailed Abudu’s confirmation: “Nancy Abudu is a champion for justice and a stalwart public servant,” he said in a press release. “I’m pleased Ms. Abudu, a relentless advocate for the rule of law and a dedicated servant to communities across Georgia and the South, will soon sit on the Eleventh Circuit Court. As a voice for Georgia in the Senate, I look forward to continuing to confirm qualified public servants to the federal court system.” 

Writing for the SPLC, Esther Schrader notes that Abudu “spent a majority of her billable hours representing survivors of domestic violence and advocating for communities in the South suffering from exposure to toxins and other forms of pollution….[S]he understood early on that her passion for human rights and her commitment to ensuring equal access to justice would require her to leave the luxury and comfort of the corporate world to fight in the trenches with communities suffering from social injustice.”

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, along with 17 other state attorneys general, opposed Abudu’s appointment in a letter sent to U.S. senators. The letter read in part, “Based upon her record and prior comments, it is clear that Nancy Abudu has no interest in upholding the rule of law but is far more concerned with promoting her own extreme beliefs and agenda, Throughout her career, Ms. Abudu has perpetuated false claims regarding Georgia’s election integrity law, which yielded record-high voter turnout, and vilified our law enforcement officers. Political activism of any kind does not belong on the bench, and I urge the Senate in the strongest possible terms to reject this nomination to ensure fairness and integrity on the court.”

The letter also read, “She has also demonstrated marked hostility to the State of Georgia and especially its law enforcement officers. Without evidence, she has asserted that Georgia has a ‘culture of law enforcement that still targets Black and Brown people.’ She has derided the entire State, claiming that ‘Georgia continues to be a bad actor,’ and that the state legislature ‘is committed to keeping us in the past and that is scary.’ How could Ms. Abudu impartially adjudicate the many Eleventh Circuit cases involving Georgia, its statutes, its citizens, and especially its law enforcement officers, when she already believes that the State is a ‘bad actor’ with a ‘culture of law enforcement’ that ‘targets Black and Brown people’?”

You can read the full letter here:

In a questionnaire from the Senate Judiciary Committee, Abudu wrote, “On July 6, 2021, I was contacted by an attorney from the White House Counsel’s Office to set up an interview for consideration for a potential nomination to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. That interview took place on July 7, 2021. On July 21, 2021, I interviewed separately with Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. Since July 26, 2021, I have been in contact with officials from the Office of Legal Policy at the Department of Justice. On December 23, 2021, the President announced his intent to nominate me.”

You can watch the Senate vote on C-SPAN:

You can read Abudu’s full response to the Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire here:

Abudu will take the seat previously held by Judge Beverly Baldwin Martin, who retired.

Robin Kemp is executive editor and CEO of The Clayton Crescent, which she founded in 2020. She has worked for Gambit, CNN, The Weather Channel, Clayton News, Henry Herald, and numerous freelance outlets....

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