WASHINGTON — U.S. Magistrate Judge Dana Douglas of New Orleans was confirmed Tuesday as the first black judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.
The U.S. Senate voted 65-31 to confirm Douglas, who is the niece of Warren Woodfork Sr., the first black superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department.
Douglas will serve in the 5th Judicial Circuit in Lafayette Square in New Orleans.
“She strikes me as very apolitical,” said U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., moments before voting for Douglas for the lifetime appointment to the court that hears appeals from district courts federal of Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi. . Court decisions go to the US Supreme Court.
Kennedy supported Douglas’ nomination to the Senate Judiciary Committee and then to the Senate.
Louisiana’s senior senator, Bill Cassidy, a Republican from Baton Rouge, also supported Douglas’ confirmation, telling reporters he had a good judicial temperament and excellent credentials. Cassidy later said in a statement, “Judge Douglas will serve with honor and integrity.”
Douglas received his law degree from Loyola University New Orleans School of Law in 2000. He clerked for U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle in New Orleans, then joined Liskow & Lewis, one of largest law firms in the state, focusing on intellectual property and energy litigation. She also served on the New Orleans Civil Service Commission and became a federal judge in 2019.
Douglas fills an opening left by Judge James Dennis, 86, a nominee of Democratic President Bill Clinton, who was granted “senior status” last year with a reduced caseload.
All 31 “no” votes against Douglas getting the job were cast by Republicans. Sixteen of the “yes” votes, including Cassidy and Kennedy, were cast by Republicans who joined 49 Democrats in approving Douglas’ confirmation. Four senators were absent from the vote.
In June, Douglas was President Joe Biden’s first nomination to the 5th Circuit. He received more confirmation votes than any of the Democratic president’s other appellate appointments, said Carl Tobias, who studies federal courts at the University of Richmond School of Law.
“It’s a very strong vote, 65. A lot of the votes for the candidates in the Biden appeal were very close, 52, 53,” Tobias said. Fifty-one senators must vote “yes” for a federal judge nominee to take office.
Douglas will likely find that his legal opinions will be supported by only a minority of judges on the 5th Circuit, which is considered one of the most conservative courts in the nation, Tobias said. It was the 5th Circuit that drafted the opinion that the US Supreme Court then used in its decision to give states the authority to limit abortions.
A dozen judges on the 17-member court were appointed by Republican presidents, six by former President Donald Trump alone.
Although a stop on America’s civil rights track (the 5th Circuit once issued key decisions that ended racial segregation and discrimination in the 1950s and 1960s), only seven women have served on the bench of the 5th Circuit and none of them were black, according to the Federal Judicial Center database.
Of the 809 appellate judges who have served throughout history, 13 have been black women, according to a February study by Pew Research. Of the 293 federal appeals court judges serving nationwide today, 10 are black women.
“The confirmation of Judge Douglas to the Fifth Circuit is certainly historic, but she also has the experience, temperament and integrity to also be a historic judge on the Fifth Circuit,” said U.S. Rep. Troy Carter, D-Nova Orleans. statement after the Senate vote.