President Joe Biden recently announced his intent to nominate Candace Jackson-Akiwumi ’00 to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. If confirmed, she will be the second Black woman to serve in the position.
According to the statement from the White House, Jackson-Akiwumi’s nomination, along with the nominations of 10 other candidates, will highlight the President’s promotion of a more diverse federal judiciary, “both in background and in professional experience.”
Jackson-Akiwumi will also be the first former federal defender on the court after serving 10 years as a staff attorney for the Federal Defender Program in Chicago from 2010 to 2020. There, she “represented more than 400 indigent clients accused of federal crimes at every stage of the process,” according to the statement from the White House.
Her colleagues at the program celebrated her rigorous work ethic and incomparable pursuit of justice.
“There are a lot of smart lawyers. I don’t think there are a lot of smart lawyers who work as hard as she does,” said long-time friend and colleague MiAngel Cody in The Chicago Tribune.
The executive director of the Federal Defender Program, John Murphy, also praised her for being among the first local attorneys to challenge the racially discriminatory and now-rejected practice of “stash house” sting operations, which targeted Black men and saddled them with heavier mandatory sentences.
During her time at Yale Law School, Jackson-Akiwumi was part of a legal team that successfully challenged a death row inmate’s sentence at the Supreme Court on the grounds of poor assistance of counsel.
Jackson-Akiwumi received an A.B. with Honors from the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, along with certificates in African American Studies and Women’s Studies, and she continues to contribute to the Princeton community.
In an email to The Daily Princetonian, Director of Alumni Council Operations Livia Wong McCarthy highlighted Jackson-Akiwumi’s volunteer role as a member of the Alumni Council’s Committee on Nominations, which recommends members for election with a commitment to promoting diversity.
“Candace's warmth and sharp insight are impressive. She articulates her opinions directly, while listening intently and building consensus,” McCarthy wrote.
Jackson-Akiwumi also served as a director for the Princeton Club of Chicago, an alumni group first founded in 1876.
In an email to the ‘Prince,’ Vice President of the Alumni Association Mary Newburn said that it was an honor to work alongside Jackson-Akiwumi for roughly a decade.
“Quite simply, Candace elevates any organization of which she is part as well as the people around her. I am thrilled for our country that upon confirmation, a judge with her incredible level of intellect, grace, good humor and thoughtfulness will shape the federal judiciary for years to come,” Newburn wrote.
Jackson-Akiwumi declined to offer any press comments at the time of publication.