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Senate Panel Advances Cunningham’s Nomination to Federal Circuit

June 17, 2021, 1:51 PM

The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced Tiffany P. Cunningham’s nomination to the Federal Circuit, bringing her one step closer to becoming the first Black judge on the nation’s top patent court.

Cunningham, a partner at Perkins Coie LLP, was approved 16-6 with bipartisan support. The next step for the nominee is a confirmation vote by the full Senate, which could happen as soon as next week.

Committee Chairman Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) noted Cunningham’s “exceptional credentials,” and that she will be the first Black judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the only federal appeals court never to have a Black member.

At her May 26 confirmation hearing, Cunningham recalled clerking at the Federal Circuit in the early 2000s and seeing pictures of its judges on the walls. All were White, and only two were women, she said.

“I saw a court that had fine, fine jurists,” Cunningham said. “But it was very homogeneous, if I must admit.”

She’s up for the seat vacated by Judge Evan J. Wallach, who took senior status at the end of May.

To contact the reporter on this story: Perry Cooper in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Renee Schoof at; Keith Perine at