Abudu narrowly confirmed to Atlanta appeals court by the U.S. Senate

Southern Poverty Law Center attorney Nancy Abudu was confirmed May 18, 2023, by the Senate to fill a vacancy on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. (Photo: Southern Poverty Law Center)

Credit: Southern Poverty Law Center

Combined ShapeCaption
Southern Poverty Law Center attorney Nancy Abudu was confirmed May 18, 2023, by the Senate to fill a vacancy on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. (Photo: Southern Poverty Law Center)

Credit: Southern Poverty Law Center

WASHINGTON — Nancy Abudu, a civil rights attorney who has worked at the Southern Poverty Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union, was confirmed Thursday by the U.S. Senate for a seat on the federal appeals court based in Atlanta.

Abudu will become the first Black person to fill a Georgia-based seat in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which also hears cases from federal courts in Florida and Alabama. She will replace former Judge Beverly Martin, who was considered one of the court’s most liberal jurists.

“I’m thrilled,” Martin said after the Senate vote. “I think Ms. Abudu will be a great addition to the court. It’s just terrific news.”

The final vote was 49-47 with all Senate Democrats in favor except West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, who voted “no” with Republicans. Four senators did not vote.

Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, had accused Abudu of being too radical for a lifetime federal judgeship. They said her track record at left-leaning organizations on subjects like voting rights made her unfit.

“Her record falls far outside the mainstream,” McConnell said during a floor speech earlier this week.

Georgia Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, both Atlanta Democrats, rigorously defended Abudu’s nomination. Prior to the vote, Warnock said Republicans were wrong about her.

“Nancy Abudu is a remarkable public servant, a committed advocate for justice,” Warnock said. “And she, through her work, represents just the kind of perspective that we need on the bench.”

Abudu was one of Biden’s most divisive nominees because “she has a long record of being very blunt and being a ferocious advocate for civil rights,” said Anthony Michael Kreis, a Georgia State University law professor. “She spoke truth to power.”

Now, Kreis said, “she has the potential to be a leading force on the court. And I think in a short time she will be one of if not the leading liberal voice on the 11th Circuit.”

Even with Abudu’s appointment, the Atlanta-based appellate court will continue to be considered conservative-leaning because Republican presidents appointed seven of its 12 judges. That includes six who gained their seats under former President Donald Trump.

About the Authors