U.S. Senate confirms first Black woman to conservative-leaning 5th Circuit

Dana Douglas, a nominee to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, appears before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, D.C., on July 27, 2022
Dana Douglas, a nominee to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, appears before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, D.C., on July 27, 2022 U.S. Senate/Handout via REUTERS
  • Senate confirms 5th Circuit judicial nominee Dana Douglas
  • Biden has appointed 11 Black women to federal appeals courts

(Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Tuesday confirmed the first Black female judge to ever serve on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, giving Democratic President Joe Biden his first appointee to a conservative-leaning court that has often stymied his policies.

The Senate voted 65-31 to elevate U.S. Magistrate Judge Dana Douglas of Louisiana to the New Orleans-based court, where she would become the fourth active Democratic appointee on a court dominated by the 12 judges nominated by Republican presidents.

The vote marked the third time in the past two weeks that the Democratic-led Senate confirmed a Black female judge to the federal appeals courts, where Black women have long been underrepresented.

Biden has won the appointment of a record 11 Black women federal appellate judges, including on Monday when the Senate endorsed Delaware Supreme Court Justice Tamika Montgomery-Reeves' nomination to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Overall, the Senate has now confirmed 97 of Biden's judicial nominees, the vast majority of whom have been women or people of color, in keeping with the president's campaign pledge to bring greater diversity to the federal bench.

Douglas has served as a federal magistrate judge in New Orleans since 2019. Prior to joining the federal bench, she was a partner at the Louisiana law firm Liskow & Lewis, where she worked from 2001 to 2018.

Her path to confirmation was smoothed thanks to her receiving the backing of her state's two Republican senators, including Senator John Kennedy, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee who introduced her at her July confirmation hearing.

The vote on Douglas came shortly after the Senate Judiciary Committee held the last hearing for judicial nominees of the congressional term with senators hearing from four of Biden's nominees to district courts in four states.

They included Arun Subramanian, a former clerk to now-deceased Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg nominated to become the first South Asian judge to serve on the federal court in Manhattan.

Another nominee was P. Casey Pitts, a San Francisco lawyer at Altshuler Berzon who represents workers, labor unions and consumers. He would, if confirmed, become the only openly gay judge on the federal court in San Francisco.

Two federal magistrate judges, Andrew Schopler and Gordon Gallagher, also appeared before the panel in connection with their respective nominations to courts in the Southern District of California and Colorado. (NOTE: This story has been updated to correct the number of judges on the 5th Circuit.)

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Nate Raymond reports on the federal judiciary and litigation. He can be reached at nate.raymond@thomsonreuters.com.