On Saturday, August 7, 2021, the United States Senate voted to confirm Eunice Lee for a judgeship on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Eunice was an exemplary staff and supervising attorney at the Office of the Appellate Defender for over two decades, and we are so incredibly proud of her as she takes this next step to ensure equal justice under law.1
Eunice will be the first former federal defender to serve on the Second Circuit, and the first former public defender appointed to that court in almost 50 years. Further, she will be the longest-serving public defender to become a judge on any federal circuit court.2 Importantly, Eunice will be only the second Black woman to be confirmed to the Second Circuit, after the Hon. Amalya Lyle Kearse, who was appointed in 1979.
These accolades are important because of the need for personal and professional diversity on our country’s highest benches. Advocates from the right3 and the left4 agree that broadening the career backgrounds of judicial nominees is essential to protecting the rights of all litigants, particularly those enmeshed in the criminal legal system.
During her time at OAD, Eunice was known for her legal acumen, and as a supervising attorney, played a vital role in training the staff attorneys in our office. Just as importantly, Eunice embraced OAD’s holistic model to advocacy, often receiving praise from her clients for her commitment to listening to them. She also helped develop and teach OAD’s appellate defender clinic at NYU Law School for over 15 years, consistently rated by students as one of their top educators. As many past and present OADers will attest, Eunice played an integral role in shaping the culture of our office in her twenty-one years, and we could not be any happier for her.
Eunice Lee also follows the path of several of OAD’s other distinguished alumni in becoming a judge, include the Hon. Catharine Easterly of the D.C. Court of Appeals, and the Hon. Bridget Mary McCormack, Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court.
1 Sen. Chuck Schumer, Remarks at Senate Judiciary Committee (June 9, 2021), available at https://www.democrats.senate.gov/news/press-releases/transcript-majority-leader-schumer-remarks-at-senate-judiciary-committee-introducing-eunice-lee-his-recommendation-to-the-second-circuit-court-of-appeals
2 Jasmine Sheena, “Judicial nominee stands out on many fronts,” City & State New York (June 8, 2021), available at https://www.cityandstateny.com/personality/2021/06/judicial-nominee-stands-out-on-many-fronts/182800/
3 Clark Neily, “Are a Disproportionate Number of Federal Judges Former Government Advocates?,” Cato Institute (May 27, 2021), available at https://www.cato.org/study/are-disproportionate-number-federal-judges-former-government-advocate
4 Maggie Jo Buchanan, “Pipelines to Power: Encouraging Professional Diversity on the Federal Appellate Bench,” Center for American Progress (Aug. 13, 2020), available at https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/courts/reports/2020/08/13/489312/pipelines-power-encouraging-professional-diversity-federal-appellate-bench/