Tiffany P. Cunningham, an attorney, became the first Black judge in the Federal Circuit, a federal appeals court, earlier this week.
Cunningham’s appointment was confirmed by a Senate vote of 63-33 on Monday, July 19, according to a Bloomberg Law press release. The addition of Cunningham, according to the site, ensures that the 12-member court is evenly split between men and women. Judge Evan J. Wallach will be replaced by the Detroit, Michigan native.
“This is a genuinely historic confirmation—Ms. Cunningham will be the Federal Circuit’s first Black judge. Senator Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) said in a statement, “She will not only bring much-needed diversity to the bench, but she will also offer great credentials.” “I’m happy my colleagues joined me in bipartisan support for Ms. Cunningham’s nomination,” he concluded.
C-SPAN Cunningham is also “the third U.S. Circuit Court judge and eight federal judges total to be confirmed by the Senate during the Biden Administration,” according to producer Craig Caplan, who confirmed the news on Twitter. Caplan observed in a later post that 14 Senate Republicans voted in support of the 45-year-old, including Marco Rubio of Florida, Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst of Iowa, and Richard Burr and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, and that she is one of three Black women to be “confirmed to these Circuit Courts.”
Cunningham’s court specializes on patent law appeals, and it is the only federal appeals court that has never had a Black member. According to Reuters, patent disputes account for “more than half of the court’s docket,” but the court also has “nationwide jurisdiction over subjects like as foreign trade, government contracts, and trademark law.”
Cunningham’s nomination was first made public in late March. The lawyer was allegedly an outstanding pick as a longstanding patent litigator. Her past experience includes working as a partner at Kirkland & Ellis, a law firm that has represented Intel Corp, Microsoft Corp, and General Motors Co. She has also worked as a law clerk for Judge Timothy Dyk of the Federal Circuit.
Cunningham is a Harvard Law School and Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate.