New Obama court appointee: A positive sign for NC?

With the in-state news so universally dreadful this week, a body is forced to look elsewhere to find some shreds of hope.

Here’s at least one non-NC item that might even portend something good for our state: Today, President Obama appointed an excellent lawyer named Jane Kelley to the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. As you may or may not already know, the Eighth Circuit is headquartered in Kansas City and covers seven Midwestern states: Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Here’s another fact about the Eighth Circuit: In the history of that court, there have been 57 justices. Of that number, 56 have been men. We’re not making this up. 

The President’s selection of Kelly will make it two out of 58 — still awful, but, hey, 3.4% is better than 1.8%. It’s a start, anyway.

And what is the implication for North Carolina, you ask?

Well, consider this: In the history of our state, there have been 51 federal District Court judges (the trial court judges who are also appointed by the President). Of that number, exactly two have been men of color and two have been white women. The other 47 have been white men.

Right now, there is a vacancy in the Eastern District of the state that has been sitting vacant for years. No federal judge of color has ever sat in that district. Of course, eastern North Carolina is also home to a higher proportion of African-American people than any other part of the state. Many counties have Black populations that exceed 50%.

By any fair assessment, the time for breaking the current abysmal pattern is long overdue. Let’s hope Kelly’s mold-shattering appointment in the Eighth Circuit is a harbinger of a similar development in North Carolina, and soon. 






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