11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals represents Alabama, Florida, and Georgia. Its territory comprises the highest percentage of blacks—approximately 25 percent—of any federal judicial circuit in the country. Today, there are eight judges on "active" status on the bench there and eight more on "senior" status. Of these 16 jurists, only one is black—Judge Charles Wilson, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1999. Judge Wilson, in turn, replaced Judge Joseph Hatchett, the first black judge ever to serve in the 11th Circuit since its creation in 1981. There has never been a black female judge on the 11th Circuit.
There have been six vacancies on the 11th Circuit since President Obama took office in January 2009. He has not nominated a single black man or woman to fill them. He has nominated instead one Latino man and four white women. The Senate has confirmed two of these nominees—Adalberto Jordan and Beverly Martin, both of whom were Clinton district court appointees. As set forth below, there is currently a vacancy, for an "Alabama" spot on the 11th Circuit, that is so new the White House has not yet named a nominee for it.
By contrast, four of the 15 judges currently on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals are black (two of whom were appointed to their post by President Obama, the other two by President George W. Bush). The territory of the 4th Circuit comprises a slightly smaller percentage of blacks—23 percent—than does the 11th Circuit. Even the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, still by far the most conservative in the nation, has two black federal appeals judges—one appointed by President Obama, the other by Bill Clinton.
The black population of Florida in 1970, the first census year following the Voting Rights Act of 1965, was 15.3 percent. Today, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures, it is 16.6 percent. Today, only three of the state's 37 federal trial judges are black women. The first, Marcia Cooke, arrived on the bench just nine years ago, a nominee of George W. Bush. The second, Mary Scriven, arrived in 2008, another Bush nominee. The third, Charlene Honeywell, was nominated by President Obama during his first term.
There are currently four federal district vacancies in Florida (and a fifth is on its way). To the spot vacated by the aforementioned Jordan, the president has nominated the aforementioned Thomas, who would become the first openly gay black man to serve on the federal bench. The president has nominated another black man, Brian Davis, to another federal district position in Florida. Senator Rubio withdrew his hold on the Davis nomination in September but still opposes the Thomas bid. That leaves three vacancies for which the White House has not yet made a nomination.
One of those trial court vacancies was created recently by a promotion. Last week, to replace Judge Rosemary Barkett on the 11th Circuit, President Obama nominated a white woman named Robin S. Rosenbaum. He had appointed Judge Rosenbaum only last year to a spot in the Southern District of Florida, which she will leave if confirmed to the 11th Circuit. So there is no black 11th Circuit nominee from Alabama. And no black 11th Circuit nominee from Florida. Judge Wilson, the Clinton appointee, still stands alone.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Black Federal Judges
The Atlantic has an in depth piece about how President Obama is doing with his goal of diversity on the federal bench. Here's the section on the 11th Circuit and Florida: