The Leadership Conference Celebrates Confirmation of 100th Black Woman to Lifetime Judgeship

Courts News 03.12,24

Contact: Patrick McNeil, [email protected]

WASHINGTON Maya Wiley, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, released the following statement after the Senate confirmed Judge Melissa DuBose to the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island:

“We all need our federal judicial system to deliver equal justice for all, and that requires federal judges who reflect the knowledge necessary to deliver justice — including experiences that are crucial to understanding how a decision will play out for real people. Today we celebrate an important milestone toward building an equal justice judiciary for our communities. With today’s confirmation by the Senate, Judge Melissa DuBose becomes the first judge of color confirmed to the District of Rhode Island, the first openly LGBTQ lifetime judge on that court, and the 100th lifetime confirmation of a Black woman to our federal judiciary. My uncle, Alton Wiley, became the first Black Rhode Island district and superior court judge in the state’s history. It has been a long time coming to see the federal bench catch up.

“Judge DuBose brings to the bench experience that far too often has been excluded from our courts. Today and for years to come, this historic confirmation matters. Though we celebrate this long overdue milestone, we recognize that we are still far from reaching equity in representation in our judiciary. We deserve courts that work for all of us, look like all of us, and respect the rights of all of us.

“Federal judges make decisions every day about every aspect of our lives — from whether a new restrictive voting law will make it harder for people of color to vote, to whether a federal law outweighs a state abortion ban and our rights and reproductive freedom, to whether a school district has failed to protect a child from discrimination, and much more. As we live in an era of unprecedented threats to our democracy and our civil rights, many which are resolved in our federal courts, the work to nominate and confirm diverse and fair-minded judges who will work for all of us remains incredibly urgent and important.

“Judge DuBose’s confirmation matters because judicial diversity — both personal and professional — helps to build public trust in courts, improves judicial decision-making, and strengthens our democracy. It matters because Black women and openly LGBTQ people in our nation have long been underrepresented and excluded from service on our federal courts, and yet they come to federal courts to vindicate their rights. It matters because this representation will inspire more Black women and more LGBTQ people to go to law school and seek to serve in such positions. And it matters because having a judiciary staffed with fair-minded and ethical judges is a critically important component of protecting democracy and our hard-won civil rights gains.

“We the majority must show up to ensure a future in America filled with equal justice and to prevent the acceleration of the decades-long effort to dismantle our fundamental rights. Today’s historic confirmation is a crucial part of that, yet it is urgent that we make more progress. President Biden and our senators must continue to nominate and confirm great judicial nominees. Time is of the essence to build an equal justice judiciary that works for all of us.”

Judge DuBose is the 10th openly LGBTQ judge confirmed during the Biden administration. When Fourth Circuit nominee Nicole Berner is confirmed, President Biden will tie President Obama’s record of 11 openly LGBTQ lifetime judges.

  • To learn more about openly LGBTQ judges throughout U.S. history, read our fact sheet here.
  • To learn more about Black lifetime judges confirmed during the Biden administration, read our fact sheet here.

Today’s confirmation marks the 100th time the Senate has confirmed a Black woman to a lifetime position on the federal bench. Six Black women have been confirmed multiple times to lifetime judgeships, and each of their confirmations is included separately in this total.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 240 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its member organizations, visit