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Message from the National Women’s Law Center

The Senate returned last week for its lame-duck session.  At this critical time, we wanted to give you an update about federal judicial nominations. 

At the beginning of September, the Senate confirmed Jill Pryor to a Georgia-based seat on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.  Her confirmation brings the percentage of active women judges on the federal circuit courts to almost 35 percent.  And her confirmation brings the total number of female judges confirmed to date in 2014 to 25 (out of a total of 62 judges confirmed overall this year). While significant progress has been made, the Senate still has work to do this year:  there are 16 district court nominees who are ready for a Senate vote, and several more may be approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee before the end of the year.

Before leaving at the end of September, the Senate scheduled votes on two of these district court nominees (Randolph Moss, nominated to a seat on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and Leigh Martin May, nominated to the Northern District of Georgia). They will receive confirmation votes today, and votes are also expected this week on three other nominees to district courts in Georgia (Mark Cohen, Eleanor Ross, and Leslie Abrams). Eleanor Ross and Leslie Abrams, when confirmed, will be the first African-American women to serve as federal judges in Georgia.  In addition to the three female nominees in Georgia, there are four other female judicial nominees ready for a vote, including Pamela Pepper, who would be the first woman to sit on the Eastern District of Wisconsin. 

It will therefore be critical for the Senate to stay in session in December long enough to vote on these seven women - and at least nine other district court nominees - before the end of the year.  Any nominees who don’t receive votes during the lame duck will need to be re-nominated by the President in January, and then will need to go through the Senate process again early next year.  It is not clear, now that the Senate majority has changed, whether or not the re-nominated individuals would have to have new hearings, or just committee votes, but either way, months could pass before the nominees would be ready for a Senate vote - again. 

  • Share your story with us: Have you had a case delayed or a client disadvantaged because of the backlog in the federal courts?  Are lawyers in your community filing cases in state rather than federal court because the federal docket is overloaded? Share your story here:
  • Take action: Tell your Senators to ensure that our courts are working at full capacity for women and their families:
  • Let us know how you would like to get involved: Please email Amy Matsui at with suggestions for taking action.
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