Jessica Clarke becomes a judge in the Southern District of New YorkClarke oversaw the investigation into the NYPD’s response to protests over George Floyd’s death
(Reuters) – The US Senate on Thursday cleared the way for a civil rights attorney in the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James to become a federal judge in Manhattan after Republican opposition helped delay her confirmation by more than a year.
The Democrat-led Senate voted 48-43 to confirm Jessica Clarke, President Joe Biden’s fourth confirmed trial nominee for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York.
As chief of James’ civil rights office, Clarke helped enforce fair housing laws and led the investigation into the New York City Police Department’s response to large-scale protests following the death of George Floyd below the knee of a Minneapolis police office in May 2020.
This led to an ongoing lawsuit alleging police used excessive force against protesters and a July 2020 report recommending reforms aimed at addressing public concerns about policing in the city .
Biden nominated her in December 2021 on the recommendation of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, New York’s senior Democratic senator, who on Thursday praised “her talent and commitment to the rule of law.”
“She’s a great civil rights advocate,” he said in the Senate. “I am sure that she will make an excellent member of the Bundesbank.”
Prior to joining James’ office, Clarke served in the United States Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division from 2010 to 2016 and worked at the law firm of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel until 2019.
Her role in the investigation following the Floyd protests led to Republican opposition to her confirmation, with some questioning a recommendation in James’ 2020 report that the city should decriminalize minor crimes to “prevent negative contact with police, particularly in… communities of colour”.
Clarke contributed to this report but declined to answer written questions from senators as to whether the recommendations reflected their philosophy.
Her nomination failed to get to a full Senate vote in the previous Congress after a bipartisan vote occurred in the Senate Judiciary Committee when the Senate was equally split between the parties.
After Democrats tightened their control of the Senate in last year’s election, Biden re-nominated them in January, and the Judiciary Committee advanced their nomination by an 11-10 vote last month.
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