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Judge Myrna Pérez

After 15 years at the Brennan Center, the longtime champion of voting rights has joined the federal bench.

October 26, 2021
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer shakes Myrna Pérez's hand
Associated Press

Last night, I had the thrill of watch­ing the U.S. Senate confirm Myrna Pérez, the director of our Voting Rights and Elec­tions Program, to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. I won’t lie — I had goose­bumps. 

For 15 years at the Bren­nan Center, Pérez fought passion­ately for voting rights. During that time, a fierce litig­ator, she won protec­tions for the right to vote for hundreds of thou­sands of fellow citizens. She also docu­mented misguided policies, such as flawed voter purges and harsh voter ID, that make it harder for too many to vote, partic­u­larly voters of color. She and her team were deeply involved in the drive to enact auto­matic voter regis­tra­tion, a break­through innov­at­ive reform now in place in seven­teen states and the District of Columbia.

Her confirm­a­tion to the bench is a big deal.

It helps blaze a path for other nomin­ees who come from civil rights, voting rights, or public defender careers. In state and federal courts, there is a lack of profes­sional diversity on the bench, with former prosec­utors overrep­res­en­ted. Pérez, for example, will be the first prom­in­ent voting rights attor­ney on a federal appeals court since civil rights icon Thur­good Marshall. Of course, her join­ing the court enhances other forms of diversity as well: she will be the first Latina on the Second Circuit since Sonia Soto­mayor was confirmed to the Supreme Court in 2009.

In fact, the focus on strength­en­ing the judi­ciary — on expand­ing the notion of who should sit on these senior courts, and indeed on the cent­ral­ity of the judi­ciary, is a new and very welcome devel­op­ment.

Senate Major­ity Leader Charles Schu­mer played a cent­ral, indis­pens­able role in this nomin­a­tion. We cannot thank him enough for recom­mend­ing her for a federal judge­ship, for his tire­less work fight­ing for her nomin­a­tion, and his compel­ling words at Perez’s hear­ing and on the Senate floor yester­day. It reflects a break­through in judi­cial diversity.

And it is note­worthy, too, and very encour­aging that the Biden White House has given these nomin­a­tions the prior­ity they deserve. Past Demo­cratic pres­id­ents — includ­ing Bill Clin­ton and Barack Obama — devoted less capital to judi­cial nomin­a­tions, espe­cially at first. Now Pres­id­ent Joe Biden looks likely to have a signi­fic­ant impact on creat­ing a judi­ciary that is diverse, excel­lent, and commit­ted to justice.

During her time at the Bren­nan Center, Pérez protec­ted and expan­ded demo­cratic rights for millions of our fellow citizens. Now as federal appeals court judge, she will solemnly serve and uphold the Consti­tu­tion and equal justice under the law in the states of Connecti­cut, New York, and Vermont. 

As citizens, we’ll be fortu­nate to have her service on the Second Circuit. And for the Bren­nan Center as an organ­iz­a­tion, we regard this as a reminder of the import­ance of our work on behalf of demo­cracy and the Consti­tu­tion — and our commit­ment to carry­ing on Pérez’s work and her commit­ment to rigor and excel­lence.

For more on Myrna Pérez and her path­break­ing work at the Bren­nan Center, click here.