WASHINGTON, DC — President Joe Biden on Tuesday unveiled his first judicial nominees, a diverse slate that includes three Black women to sit on the federal courts of appeals.
District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is Biden’s pick for one of the vacancies on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, a partner with Zuckerman Spaedar, has been tapped for the seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and Perkins Coie partner Tiffany Cunningham has been nominated for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Cunninghman would be the first Black judge on the Federal Circuit, and Jackson-Akiwumi would be the only nonwhite judge on the Seventh Circuit.
District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson received her commission as a United States District Judge in March of 2013. Until December of 2014, she also served as a Vice Chair and Commissioner on the United States Sentencing Commission.
Prior to her four years of service on the Sentencing Commission, Judge Jackson worked for three years as Of Counsel at Morrison & Foerster LLP, with a practice that focused on criminal and civil appellate litigation in both state and federal courts, as well as cases in the Supreme Court of the United States. Before joining Morrison & Foerster LLP, Judge Jackson served as an Assistant Federal Public Defender in the appeals division of the Office of the Federal Public Defender in the District of Columbia. Before that appointment, Judge Jackson worked as an Assistant Special Counsel at the Sentencing Commission and as an associate with two law firms (one specializing in white-collar criminal defense, and the other focusing on the negotiated settlement of mass-tort claims). Judge Jackson also served as a law clerk to three federal judges: Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer of the Supreme Court of the United States, Judge Bruce M. Selya of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and Judge Patti B. Saris of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.
Judge Jackson is currently a member of the Judicial Conference Committee on Defender Services, as well as the Board of Overseers of Harvard University and the Council of the American Law Institute. She also currently serves on the board of the D.C. Circuit Historical Society and the United States Supreme Court Fellows Commission.
Judge Jackson received a J.D., cum laude, from Harvard Law School in 1996, where she served as a supervising editor of the Harvard Law Review. She received an A.B., magna cum laude, in Government from Harvard-Radcliffe College in 1992.
Tiffany P. Cunningham
Tiffany P. Cunningham has been nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and if confirmed by the U.S. Senate, she would be the first Black jurist to serve on the nation’s top patent court.
Cunningham is a partner at Perkins Coie LLP. She previously worked at Kirkland & Ellis LLP and clerked for Federal Circuit Judge Timothy B. Dyk.
The Federal Circuit has jurisdiction over appeals in patent litigation. It also reviews decisions made by U.S. Patent and Trademark tribunals. The Federal Circuit also has jurisdiction over international trade and government contract cases. It is the only federal appeals court that didn’t have any judicial vacancies during President Donald Trump’s presidency.
Cunningham’s clients have included Microsoft Corp., Intel Corp., Amazon.com, Blackberry Corp., and General Motors Corp., according to Bloomberg Law litigation analytics.
“This trailblazing slate of nominees draws from the very best and brightest minds of the American legal profession,” Biden said in a statement, adding “together they represent the broad diversity of background, experience, and perspective that makes our nation strong.”
Cunningham would fill the first seat on the Federal Circuit that’s opened up in the last six years. Judge Evan J. Wallach will take senior status at the end of May.
Candace Jackson Akiwumi
Candace Jackson Akiwumi Partner An experienced litigator, Candace Jackson-Akiwumi focuses her practice on complex civil litigation, white collar criminal defense, and investigations. Before joining the firm, Candace spent ten years as a staff attorney at the Federal Defender Program, Inc. in Chicago. As a federal public defender, she represented hundreds of clients accused of federal crimes ranging from fraud to firearms. Candace represented clients at every stage of the process, from investigation to trial, sentencing, and appeal, including petitions for writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court. She successfully advised grand jury appearances, negotiated pleas, achieved reduced sentences, and attained diversions from prosecution and other favorable results for clients and communities. She tried a number of federal jury trials and argued a half dozen appeals in the U.S. Court of Appeals. During her decade as a defender, Candace was a featured speaker at two dozen presentations on federal practice and was a contributing author to a treatise on federal criminal practice. She also served as an Adjunct Professor at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law in Chicago. Candace began private practice at the Chicago office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, where she litigated complex civil cases related to contracts, tax, privacy, securities, and patent infringement. After law school, Candace was a law clerk to the Hon. Roger Gregory of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and the Hon. David Coar of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Candace received her J.D. from Yale Law School, where she was a Senior Editor of the Yale Law Journal and NAACP LDF Earl Warren Legal Scholar. She received her bachelor’s degree, with honors, from Princeton University.