On December 1, 2010, President Obama nominated Judge Bernice Bouie Donald to replace retiring Judge Ronald Lee Gilman on the Sixth Circuit. Judge Donald currently sits as a district court judge on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, to which she was appointed in 1995 by President Clinton.
In announcing the nomination, President Obama stated: “Judge Donald has shown an outstanding commitment to public service throughout her career and as a District Judge in Tennessee. I am proud to nominate her today for a seat on the United States Court of Appeals and I am confident she will serve the American people with distinction.”
Born and raised in Mississippi, Judge Donald graduated in 1974 from Memphis State University (now the University of Memphis) and received her law degree in 1979 from the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law at Memphis State University.
After graduating from law school, Judge Donald worked variously as sole practitioner, a staff attorney at Memphis Area Legal Services, and an attorney for the Shelby County Public Defender’s Office. In 1982, Judge Donald was elected to serve as a judge on the Court of General Sessions in Shelby County, making her the first female African-American judge in the history of Tennessee. Similarly, Judge Donald became the first female African-American federal bankruptcy judge in the United States when she was appointed in 1988 to that position by the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
Judge Donald is President Obama’s second nominee to the Sixth Circuit. She follows Judge Jane Branstetter Stranch, who was nominated by the President in August 2009 and was commissioned as a circuit judge on September 15, 2010.