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Nusrat Jahan Choudhury Becomes First Muslim Woman, First Bangladeshi American to Join Federal Judicial Bench

Nusrat Jahan Choudhury Becomes First Muslim Woman, First Bangladeshi American to Join Federal Judicial Bench

  • She was confirmed narrowly in a 50-49 vote, with lone Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) voting against her.

The U.S. Senate has confirmed Nusrat Jahan Choudhury as a federal judge, making her the first Muslim woman and the first Bangladeshi American on the federal judicial bench. She will join the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. 

She was narrowly confirmed in a 50-49 vote yesterday (June 15) with Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) the only Democrat to vote against her confirmation. “Law enforcement officers in West Virginia and across the country go above and beyond the call of duty to protect our communities, and I am incredibly grateful for their service,” Manchin said in a statement a day before Choudhury was confirmed. “Some of Ms. Choudhury’s previous statements call into question her ability to be unbiased towards the work of our brave law enforcement.”

Biden appointed the civil rights attorney in January 2022, along with seven other federal judicial nominees, who, the White House said, “continue to fulfill the President’s promise to ensure that the nation’s court reflects the diversity that is one of our greatest assets as a court – both in terms of personal and professional backgrounds.” 

CNN notes that Choudhury’s “historic confirmation highlights the lack of diversity among federal judges, by race and ethnicity, and gender.” Last June, Pakistani American Zahid Quraishi became the first Muslim American federal judge in U.S. history, after being confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

Currently, the Roger Pascal legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, Choudhury emerged as the top choice among Muslim American advocates last summer for one of New York’s federal court vacancies. According to the ACLU, her work includes challenging the Milwaukee Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy and the New York Police Department’s surveillance practices post-9/11, which have been criticized as discriminatory against Muslim Americans.

“Nusrat Choudhury is a trailblazing civil rights lawyer with a remarkable record of advancing equal justice for all in our nation,” Anthony Romero, ACLU’s executive director, said in a statement. He added that the confirmation is “an exclamation point on her long track record of protecting civil liberties and civil rights.”

At ACLU Illinois, Choudhury oversees a team advancing civil rights and civil liberties across the state. With more than a decade of experience in advancing reform in the criminal legal system and policing, she has “led litigation to protect immigrants from dangerous detention conditions,” according to her ACLU profile. 

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Additionally, she serves as counsel for community organizations enforcing a federal consent decree to reform Chicago police patterns of excessive force. Her team advances First Amendment rights, government transparency, change in the criminal legal system and policing, voting rights, access to reproductive health care, gender equity, and the rights of LGBTQIA+ people, children in the foster system, young people in juvenile detention, and people in prisons and jails.

The Bangladeshi American who has served as legal director of the ACLU of Illinois since 2020, has held numerous positions with the nonprofit in New York, last serving as the deputy director of the Racial Justice Program. She also served as a senior staff attorney as well as state attorney for the Racial Justice Program; and staff attorney for the National Security Project. She was a Marvin M. Karpatkin Fellow with the Racial Justice Program from 2008 to 2009.

She clerked for Judge Barrington D. Parker in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and for Judge Denise Cote in the Southern District of New York. She is a recipient of the South Asian Bar Association of New York Access to Justice Award and the Edward Bullard Distinguished Alumnus Award of Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. 

She received her J.D. from Yale Law School in 2006, her M.P.A. from the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs in 2006, and her B.A., summa cum laude, from Columbia University in 1998.

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