Senate confirms President Biden pick the first Black woman to 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
BY MARK BALLARD | Staff writer
Dec 13, 2022 - 11:57 pm
WASHINGTON — U.S. Magistrate Judge Dana Douglas, of New Orleans, was confirmed Tuesday as the first Black female judge to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
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 be working out of the 5th Circuit courthouse on Lafayette Square in New Orleans.
“She appears to me to be very apolitical,” said U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., moments before voting in favor of Douglas to the lifetime appointment on the court that hears appeals from federal district courts in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi. The court’s decisions go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Kennedy supported Douglas’ nomination on the Senate Judiciary Committee and then on the Senate floor.
Louisiana’s senior senator, Bill Cassidy, a Baton Rouge Republican, also supported Douglas’ confirmation, telling reporters that she had good judicial temperament and excellent credentials. Later, Cassidy said in a statement, “Judge Douglas will serve with honor and integrity.”
Douglas earned her law degree from Loyola University New Orleans College of Law in 2000. She clerked for U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle in New Orleans, then joined Liskow & Lewis, one of the state’s largest law firms, focusing on energy and intellectual property litigation. She also served on the New Orleans Civil Service Commission and became a federal magistrate judge in 2019.
Douglas fills an opening left by 86-year-old Judge James Dennis, a nominee of Democratic President Bill Clinton, who took “senior status” last year with a reduced caseload.
All 31 of the “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 to approve the Douglas confirmation. Four senators were absent for the vote.
Back in June, Douglas was President Joe Biden’s first nomination to the 5th Circuit. She 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 very strong vote, 65. A lot of the votes on Biden’s appellate nominees were very close, 52, 53,” voting to confirm, Tobias said. Fifty-one senators need to vote “yes” for a nominated federal judge to take office.
Douglas likely will find her 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 U.S. Supreme Court then used in its decision to give the states the authority to limit abortions.
A dozen judges on the 17-member court were nominated by Republican presidents — six by former President Donald Trump alone.
Though a stop on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail — the 5th Circuit once issued the key rulings that struck down racial segregation and discrimination during the 1950s and 1960s — only seven women have served on the 5th Circuit bench and none of them were Black, according to the Federal Judicial Center database.