NCJW supports Candace Jackson-Akiwumi. Here’s why:
Candace Jackson-Akiwumi has spent her career focused on the most vulnerable, from serving on a law school team that challenged a death row inmate’s sentence to working as a public defender for ten years in Chicago. She has argued cases related to immigration, sentencing, and the Fourth Amendment (search and seizure) in front of the very court in which she has been nominated to serve. If confirmed, Jackson-Akiwumi would be the second Black woman to serve on the Seventh Circuit — currently an all-white court.
Candace Jackson-Akiwumi’s stance on important issues:
Diversity on the Federal Courts: In her April 28 Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing, Jackson-Akiwumi touched on the importance of diversity on the federal bench stating, “Demographic diversity and professional diversity certainly increase public confidence in the court and in our court system. People can accept decisions as more fair knowing a broad array of judges have considered the matter and the courts are not restricted to just some. There is an important role modeling function so that young people in our country — young students, law students, young lawyers — know that the path to public service on the bench is open to everyone, not just those who have taken certain career paths.”
Criminal Sentencing: While Jackson-Akiwumi was a student, she was on a legal team led by future Solicitor General Don Verrilli Jr. that challenged a death row inmate’s sentence all the way to the Supreme Court, ultimately prevailing on an ineffective assistance of counsel claim.
Search and Seizure: Jackson-Akiwumi successfully argued that the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) sting operations unfairly targeted racial minorities. Her favorable defense has allowed other defense lawyers to argue that certain cases should be thrown out in situations where the government has selectively prosecuted racial minorities. These types of ATF operations are now discredited for their disproportional targeting of Black and brown communities.
Equal Access to Justice: As a public defender, Jackson-Akiwumi represented over 400 clients alone in her 10 years as a staff attorney at the federal defender program in Chicago. She wrote in Yale Law School’s alumni directory, “…my job has meaning to me. I provide quality representation to people who would not be able to afford it, and I am there for clients at a most dreary and frightening juncture: when they are being judged for the worst day or days in their life.”
Further, she tried one client’s case three times in a span of six months. The first two trials ended in hung juries — rare in the federal system, where prosecutors secure convictions in the vast majority of trials. Only after the third was the defendant found guilty, believing in her client to the end. If confirmed, Jackson-Akiwumi would be only the third appeals court judge to have spent the majority of her career as a public defender and the first-ever former federal defender on the Seventh Circuit.
Candace Jackson-Akiwumi’s education and experience:
Education and Clerkships: Jackson-Akiwumi received a JD from Yale Law School, where she was the Senior Editor of the Yale Law Journal and was a NAACP LDF Earl Warren Legal Scholar.
After graduating, she clerked for Judge David H. Coar of the US. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and Judge Roger Gregory of the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
Civil Litigation Experience: Jackson-Akiwumi worked in the Chicago office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, litigating complex civil cases involving contracts, patents, securities, and tax disputes. Currently, she is a partner at Zuckerman Spaeder LLP with a focus on complex civil litigation, investigations, and criminal defense.
Professional Affiliations: In addition to her professional experience, Jackson-Akiwumi served as an Adjunct Professor at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law.