President Joe Biden hit a milestone on Monday night, though he may not have noticed.
With little fanfare, the Senate confirmed one of his judicial nominees, Tiffany Cunningham, to be a lifetime judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
Cunningham, a 45-year-old patent attorney from Illinois, will be the first-ever Black judge on that court, which handles patent cases. She is also Biden’s third appeals court judge to be confirmed, all of whom have been Black women. And six months into office, Biden has already appointed more Black women to federal appeals court seats than all but one previous president.
There have only been 11 Black women ever confirmed as federal appeals court judges since the U.S courts began in 1789, according to data from the Federal Judicial Center, the research and education agency of the judicial branch of government. That’s out of a total of 838 people who have served as federal appeals court judges in U.S. history.
Biden is responsible for the appointments of three of those 11 Black women: Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Judge Candace Jackson-Akiwumi on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, and Cunningham.
The only other president who has appointed as many Black women to federal appeals court seats was Bill Clinton, and he did it over the span of four years.
President Barack Obama appointed two Black women to federal appeals court seats, George W. Bush appointed two and Jimmy Carter appointed one. Donald Trump appointed zero.
Biden has been moving rapidly to fill judicial vacancies, in part to counter the massive number of conservative judges put onto the courts by Trump. He has made a point to nominate people who have a wide range of backgrounds, in race and gender, and also in their professional experiences. His administration has argued that a diversity of perspectives is sorely needed on the federal bench, which is overwhelmingly stacked with white male judges who have backgrounds as prosecutors or in corporate law.
Biden has also vowed to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court, if the court has a vacancy.