(Washington, DC) — The NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) applauds the U.S. Senate’s vote this afternoon to confirm James E. Graves, Jr. to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.  The Fifth Circuit is the federal appellate court for Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.  James Graves is the first African-American judge from Mississippi ever to serve on the Fifth Circuit. 

“This is a historic vote for the diversity of the federal courts,” states Leslie Proll, Director of LDF’s Washington Office.  “Although Mississippi has the highest percentage of African Americans of any state in the country, the state has never been represented by an African American on the Fifth Circuit.”  

The Graves confirmation represents important progress on judicial nominations.   In recent years, Mississippi has been “ground zero” in the battle over judicial nominations; some of the most contentious nominations during the Bush Administration came from this state.  According to Leslie Proll, “Today’s vote represents a sea change.  James Graves is truly a consensus candidate; he is strongly supported by civil rights organizations and the two Republican Senators from Mississippi, Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker.” 

LDF is hopeful that today’s historic vote signals the beginning of a bipartisan effort to address the vacancy crisis on the federal bench.  According to John Payton, LDF’s President and Director-Counsel, “With 100 vacancies to fill, the Senate should be confirming judges every week as part of its regular business.  We expect to see many judicial confirmations this session.  Nothing is more important to the administration of our justice system.”