41 Members in Black Caucus Send Letter to Obama on Lack of Black Judges

41 Members in Black Caucus Send Letter to Obama on Lack of Black Judges

Forty one members of the Congressional Black Caucus signed on to a letter pressuring President Obama to appoint more African American judges to the federal bench.  All members of the Black Caucus signed the letter but three.

The letter asks the President to consider the history of judicial appointments in Alabama specifically.  The forty one members of the Black Caucus also ask the President to select African American judges to the Alabama bench until it reflects the state’s black population.

Terri Sewell 2
Rep. Sewell

The Black Caucus also mentioned what they believed to be a lack of diversity on the bench across the country.  Of President Obama’s 173 confirmed federal district nominees since 2009, 32 were African-American.  Of the 42 federal district nominees pending only eight are African American.

see the letter here


January 16, 2014

The Honorable Barack Obama
President United States of America
1600 Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President, We recognize your commitment to diversity on the federal judiciary and congratulate you on the recent confirmation of D.C. Circuit Court judge Robert Wilkins. Judge Wilkins’ nomination is evidence of your desire to correct history’s disregard for the unique qualifications of diverse judicial nominees.

However, in a number of jurisdictions, there still remains an inexcusable and unjustifiable lack of racial diversity that must be addressed. Currently, there are 94 federal judicial vacancies. In the U.S. District Courts, including territorial courts, there are 78 vacancies, with 42 pending nominees. Since 2009, district Court vacancies have remained high. For the first time since 1992, the average number of district court vacancies has been greater than 60, for five straight years. High vacancy levels and heavy caseloads are leaving sitting judges with unprecedented workloads.

Considering the vast number of African American potential judicial nominees, we believe it is past time to address sigsboth the high number of vacancies and the number of African Americans nominated to fill the seats. In total, there are 874 federal court judges. Currently, there are 106 African American judges sitting on the district court bench with only 77 in active status. Since 2009, you have made 226 nominations to the district court, with 173 of those nominations confirmed.

Out of those 173 confirmations, a mere 32 were African American. While there are currently 42 pending nominees for the district court bench, only 3 nominees are African American. The aforementioned statistics reflect the dire need to address the lack of attention to the nomination and confirmation of African Americans to the bench in a manner that reflects the racial diversity of our jurisdictions and the nation as a whole. The Congressional Black Caucus stands willing and able to assist you with vetting of judicial candidates prior to their nomination. Our goal is the same: to place highly-qualified and capable jurists on our federal courts.

Consider the current situation in the State of Aabama. In Alabama, there are three federal judicial districts consisting of 14 judgeships. Two of the 14 judgeships are vacant resulting in 12 sitting judges with only one of those being African American. To put this issue in greater context, 64 judges have served on Alabama’s District Court bench since districts were first established in 1824. Of this number, only three have been African American. In the 33 years since President jimmy Carter appointed the first two African American federal judges in Alabama, there have been 26 judicial appointments in the state and only one was African American; your appointment of judge Abdul Kallon in 2009.

It is our understanding that a deal is being negotiated with the two Alabama Senators to fill the current federal judicial vacancies in Alabama. In light of the controversy over the recent Georgia slate of six nominations, it is our hope that we avoid a similar fate in Alabama. Given the history of judicial appointments in Alabama, we strongly encourage you to nominate qualified African Americans to the district court bench until the court’s racial composition reasonably reflects the state’s black population.

The two current vacancies on the U.S. District Court for the Alabama Middle and Northern Districts should be filled by African Americans. This would bring the total number of active district court judges to three of 14, or 21.4%. According to the 2010 census, the African American population in the State of Alabama is 26.5%. Mr. President, history has presented you with a unique opportunity. The record reflects the need to aggressively nominate well-qualified African Americans to the federal district court bench in Alabama and across the nation. The names of African American individuals have been submitted to you for consideration and more recommendations can be provided. It is our hope that you will work with the Senate and Members of the House of Representatives to identify nominees who reflect your commitment to diversity and inclusion. Thank you for your consideration