Doris Pryor becomes 1st Black judge from Indiana on Chicago-based federal appeals court

Doris Pryor will be only the third Black judge to serve on a court dominated by white men since the 7th Circuit held its first session in 1891.

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Doris Pryor was confirmed Monday by the U.S.. Senate for a seat on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals by a 60-31 vote.

Screen shot of Judiciary Committee video of hearing.

WASHINGTON — In another history-making vote, the Senate on Monday night confirmed Doris Lenea Pryor for a spot on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, the first Black judge from Indiana to serve on the Chicago-based panel.

Pryor will be only the third Black judge to serve on a court dominated by white men since the 7th Circuit held its first session June 16, 1891.

Diversifying the federal bench — in terms of race, gender and experience — has been a priority of President Joe Biden.

On June, 23. 2021, in a history-making 53-47 vote — with only three Republicans crossing the aisle — the Senate confirmed Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, who is Black, for a seat on the 7th Circuit.

Last September, the Senate confirmed John Lee for a spot on the court on a 50-44 roll call — again, with only three GOP votes — making him the first Asian American judge on the appeals court, which hears cases from Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana.

The Senate confirmed Pryor on a 60-31 vote. That roll call made Pryor one of the few federal judges nominated by Biden to be confirmed on a strong bipartisan vote, according to Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond who studies judicial selections.

That’s because Pryor, a magistrate in the Southern District of Indiana since March 2018, was backed by both Indiana Republican senators, Todd Young and Mike Braun — who could have blocked her nomination by refusing to give her what is called a “blue slip” for it to advance.

The support of the Indiana Republicans was a strong signal to other Republicans to back her. The key, it seems, is that Biden consulted with Young and Braun before the nomination. Young mentioned Biden’s role when he introduced Pryor at her July Senate confirmation hearing.

Young said, “I’m appreciative of the president’s willingness to consult with me and Senator Braun when this position became available in an effort to appoint a judge who has earned respect and support from all sides of the political aisle. I’m confident that this committee will be just as impressed with Judge Pryor as I have been.”

Pryor, born in Hope, Arkansas, in 1977 and raised in the state, became a Hoosier when she attended law school at Indiana University. Her undergraduate degree is from the University of Central Arkansas,

She did a stint as a public defender in Arkansas before becoming a federal prosecutor, serving in the United States attorney’s office for the Southern District of lndiana in Indianapolis from 2006 to 2018. From 2014 on, she prosecuted national security cases — domestic terrorism, international terrorism, counterespionage, terrorism financing, counterintelligence and export control matters.

Young noted her background when he said, “As you can tell, she has experience on all sides of the courtroom. She understands the difference between the role of an advocate and the role of a judge, and she has experience both on the criminal side and on the civil side of the docket. Since her name came up, I’ve heard an outpouring of support from across the Indiana legal community, including a diverse array of support letters that have been provided to this committee.

“I’d also be remiss if I failed to mention the historic nature of this appointment. If confirmed, Judge Pryor will be the first African American from Indiana ever to serve on the 7th Circuit. For all of these reasons, I support Judge Pryor’s nomination, and I look forward to voting to confirm her on the Senate floor.”

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, said in a statement after the vote, that Pryor “has significant federal experience and a proven track record of neutral decision-making on the bench. She was unanimously rated ‘qualified’ by the American Bar Association, and she has received blue slips from Senators Young and Braun — her two Republican home-state Senators. Judge Pryor will be an outstanding addition to the appellate bench.”

Durbin’s Diplomacy: Durbin, co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, met with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield “to discuss Ukraine’s continued resilience and determination to repel Russia’s unprovoked and illegal war,” political upheaval in Haiti and conflict in Ethiopia. Durbin, also the co-chair of the Senate Baltic Freedom Caucus, met Tuesday with Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė to discuss Russian threats against Eastern Europe.

He also met with Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova and members of the Ukrainian parliament to “discuss calls for a special tribunal to hold Russian leaders accountable for the crime of aggression.”

And on the domestic front, in a speech on the Senate floor, Durbin paid tribute to Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, retiring from an office he was first elected to in 1998. Said Durbin: “To Secretary White, you have been every Illinoisan’s Happy Warrior, championing the needs of our families and defending the rights of those who have been left behind.”

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