With support from both Democrats and Republicans, Candace Jackson-Akiwumi was confirmed on Thursday to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals in the 7th Circuit—the federal court. Before her confirmation, every judge on the 7th Circuit was white.
The Court of Appeals is the highest court in the U.S., just below the Supreme Court. Nominated by President Joe Biden, Jackson-Akiwumi will be the only person of color serving on the 7th Circuit court, which has jurisdiction over much of the midwest. Jackson-Akiwumi’s confirmation also marks only the second time a Black woman has ever served on this particular court of appeals. Ann Claire Williams was the first Black judge on the court, 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 Justice Amy Coney-Barrett, who, nominated by then-president Donald Trump, was confirmed to the Supreme Court in 2020 after the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Coney-Barrett is thought to have extreme views—analysis from 538 of her time on the 7th Circuit found she was one of the most conservative justices, especially on civil rights issues.
Jackson-Akiwumi’s confirmation likely represents a more progressive turn for the 7th Circuit. She began her career by clerking for Clinton-appointees, and then spent over a decade as a federal public defender in Illinois. She’s notable for her extreme work ethic, having represented hundreds and hundreds of impoverished people in need of legal defense, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Exceptionally qualified Black women face an additional challenge when it comes to confirmations to federal court, Vassar College Professor Taneisha N. Means wrote for the Washington Post this week. Means’ research has found that Black women nominees experience racism and sexism, but they are also perceived as especially “political.” Read Means’ piece here.
Jenny Singer is a staff writer for Glamour. You can follow her on Twitter.