Most people across America recoiled with disgust when they saw Senate Republicans’ horrific mistreatment of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. But their base loved it. So a month later, those senators were at it again, at a confirmation hearing for Eleventh Circuit nominee Nancy Abudu.
Once confirmed, Abudu will be the first Black woman ever to serve on that court, which hears cases affecting the civil rights and other legal rights of people in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama.
Abudu is the Deputy Legal Director for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), where she helped establish its Voting Rights Practice Group. Before that, she spent many years with the ACLU. She has dedicated her career and her formidable legal skills to helping those without wealth and power access the courts to protect their constitutional and legal rights, especially the right to vote.
In other words, she is exactly the kind of fair-minded individual committed to our constitutional ideals that the far right wants to keep off the bench.
But far-right senators at the hearing – like Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, and Marsha Blackburn –didn’t want to talk about her qualifications. They didn’t want to talk about the outpouring of support she has received for her nomination. And they certainly didn’t want to talk about eliminating racial injustice.
Instead, they mainly attacked the SPLC, especially its designation of certain right-wing organizations as hate groups. When Abudu explained that her work had nothing to do with the organizational issues they were raising, they responded by asking her again. And again. And again. They interrupted her while she was trying to answer their questions. When they didn’t like the answers, they questioned her honesty.
But Abudu persevered.
She remained calm and respectful, showing true judicial temperament. While her opponents wanted to talk about other things, she kept the focus on her record:
My commitment to equal justice under law, to racial justice, to ensuring that all people are able to exercise their constitutional and fundamental rights has been the focus of my work with the Southern Poverty Law Center, and I’m very proud of the work that I’ve done in that capacity.
While Abudu got most of the attention, there were also other nominees there, including New York district court nominees Natasha Merle and Nusrat Choudhury. Merle is with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and has dedicated her career to making real the promises of justice and equality enshrined in our law. Choudhury has spent her career at the ACLU, especially focused on challenging racial disparities in the legal system. Once confirmed, she will be the first Muslim woman ever to become a lifetime federal judge, a barrier that should have been broken long ago.
Contrary to attacks from the Far Right, Abudu, Merle, and Choudhury are exactly the kind of people we need on our courts. They will protect the rights of all people, not just the wealthy and powerful. The Judiciary Committee will likely vote on all three nominations sometime in May.