Diplomatic Correspondent: US President Joe Biden has nominated Bangladeshi-American Nusrat Jahan Choudhury to be the first Muslim woman to serve as a federal judge in the United States.
Choudhury’s nomination – if confirmed, she would be just the second Muslim judge, as well as first Bangladeshi-American to sit on a federal bench in the U.S. – captured most of the attention among the eight named Wednesday in Biden’s latest round of nominees chosen to reflect his promise of diversifying the judiciary.
Choudhury emerged as the top choice among Muslim American advocates last summer for one of New York’s federal court vacancies; Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer backed her as an expert in civil rights and liberties, USA Today reports..
Muslim Advocates, a national civil rights organization, wrote in a July letter to Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, the two Democratic senators of New York, that Choudhury has a “stellar reputation” for advancing the rights of minority communities and that her nomination would make much-needed history.
Choudhury, 44, has built a stellar record serving in various important positions with the storied American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU, which calls itself “the world’s largest public interest law firm,” working across the entire spectrum of civil rights and civil liberties.
She is currently the Legal Director at the ACLU’s Illinois chapter, where she oversees a team advancing civil rights and civil liberties across Illinois. Nusrat has more than a decade of experience in advancing reform in the criminal legal system and policing. She has led litigation to protect immigrants from dangerous detention conditions and serves as counsel for community organizations enforcing a federal consent decree to reform Chicago police patterns of excessive force.
Her team advances First Amendment rights, government transparency, change in the criminal legal system and policing, voting rights, access to reproductive health care, gender equity, and the rights of LGBTQIA+ people, children in the foster system, young people in juvenile detention, and people in prisons and jails.
Prior to joining the Illinois chapter, Nusrat served as Deputy Director of the national ACLU Racial Justice Program, a staff attorney in the ACLU National Security Project, and a Marvin M. Karpatkin Fellow with the organization.
At the ACLU, Nusrat led efforts to challenge racial profiling and unlawful stop-and-frisk, the targeting of people of color for surveillance without evidence of wrongdoing, and practices that disproportionately punish people for being poor.
Her work against practices that disproportionately punish people for poverty without prior court hearings, consideration of ability to pay, or legal representation changed practices in Georgia, Mississippi, Washington, and South Carolina, and and is said to have helped secure national guidance from the American Bar Association and other entities to promote fairness and equal treatment of rich and poor in courts.
Nusrat also helped secure the first federal court ruling striking down the US government’s No Fly List procedures for violating due process. She filed litigation to challenge the NYPD’s unjustified and discriminatory profiling of Muslims for surveillance, which resulted in a court-ordered settlement agreement, and to secure public records about the FBI’s racial and ethnic mapping program.
Nusrat clerked for Judge Barrington D. Parker in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and for Judge Denise Cote in the Southern District of New York. She is a recipient of the South Asian Bar Association of New York Access to Justice Award and the Edward Bullard Distinguished Alumnus Award of Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Nusrat is a graduate of Columbia University, Princeton University, and Yale Law School, according to her profile on the ACLU website.
Nusrat is the daughter of Nafisa A. Choudhury and the late Dr. Nurer R. Choudhury, who migrated to the United States before she was born.
Her mother was a food-services coordinator for grammar schools and middle schools in Northbrook, Illinois and the surrounding areas.
Dr Nurer R Choudhury was the chief of neurology at St. Mary’s of Nazareth Hospital in Chicago, and an associate professor of neurology at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Nusrat tied the knot with Michael Early, a graphic designer, in 2012.
The nomination dropped on Wednesday night in the US, and so still awaits scrutiny in Thursday’s round of the morning shows and newspapers, but the initial reactions on Twitter would seem to be overwhelmingly positive in favour of Choudhury’s nomination.
Many have shared the news published by USA TODAY that leads with “Biden nominates Muslim woman to the federal bench, a first in US history”.
Dean Obeidallah, one of the few Muslims who gets to host his own show on American radio, tweeted: “WOW! Biden nominates Muslim woman to the federal bench, a first in US history! Nusrat Jahan Choudhury, the legal director of the ACLU Illinois, is Biden’s nominee for United States District Court in New York.”
Mark Levine, legal reporter for Slate magazine, wrote on Twitter: “[T]his is an extraordinary slate of brilliant nominees, several of whom will make history. ACLU stalwart Nusrat Jahan Choudhury on EDNY sounds almost too good to be true.”
EDNY is the Eastern District of New York, the jurisdiction where a vacancy has opened up on the bench, and which Choudhury will serve if confirmed.
Louise Melling, an ACLU colleague who serves the national chapter, where Nusrat used to work, as deputy legal director, tweeted: “What a spectacular cast. I’m delighted to see Nusrat Choudhury, a beloved aclu colleague, on the list as well.”
At the same time it must be pointed out that voices on the right of the US political spectrum are far less enthused.
The White House’s own press release on the nominees also gives Nusrat Choudhury top billing. The part extolling the virtues of the cohort, mentions Nusrat’ accolades first: “A nominee who would be the first Bangladeshi-American, the first Muslim-American woman, and only the second Muslim-American person to serve as a federal judge.”
This is Biden’s thirteenth round of nominees for federal judicial positions, the first in 2022 that bring the number of announced federal judicial nominees to 83. Seven out of yesterday’s 8, and overall 62 out of these 83 nominees have been women.
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