Updated Thursday: President Joe Biden tapped Nancy Abudu, deputy legal director at the Southern Poverty Law Center, for the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance her nomination to the full Senate by an 11-10 party-line vote Thursday.
Committee member Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, slammed Abudu as “entirely unfit to serve” and as a “partisan activist,” as demonstrated by her affiliation with the SPLC.
“Again, the Biden administration has nominated a partisan activist to a post rather than a sound-minded jurist,” Cruz told The Daily Signal in an email statement. “Nancy Abudu’s extremist views permeate every facet of her career as she and the SPLC actively work to denounce and demean conservatives, religious organizations, and even sitting members of the Judiciary Committee.”
“If Democrats were actually interested in assessing her ability and fitness to serve as a judge, her nomination vote would be 0-100,” Cruz added. “She is entirely unfit to serve the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.”
1. Who is Nancy Abudu?
The daughter of immigrants from Ghana, Abudu was born and raised in Virginia, graduating from Columbia University in 1996 and Tulane University Law School in 1999.
Abudu helped challenge Arizona’s felon voting rights restoration law in 2009, and she represented the League of Women Voters of Florida in a lawsuit challenging Florida’s redistricting plan in 2016. The courts ruled against her in both cases.
In 2017, she represented an abortion facility in challenging a 24-hour waiting period added to Florida’s abortion consent law in 2015. The Florida Supreme Court ruled in her favor, upholding an injunction blocking the waiting period.
2. What is the SPLC and when did Abudu join it?
The SPLC is a left-leaning activist group and pro-bono litigation outfit notorious for its “hate group” accusations against mainstream conservative and Christian organizations.
As I explain in my book “Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center,” the SPLC took the program it used to bankrupt organizations associated with the Ku Klux Klan and weaponized it against conservative groups, partially in order to scare donors into ponying up cash and partially to silence its ideological opponents.
After the SPLC fired its co-founder amid a racial discrimination and sexual harassment scandal in 2019, a former staffer claimed that the SPLC’s accusations of “hate” are a “cynical fundraising scam” aimed at “bilking northern liberals.” Critics across the political spectrum have voiced opposition and alarm at the “hate group” smears.
In 2012, a terrorist targeted the Family Research Council’s headquarters in the nation’s capital, entering the lobby with a semiautomatic pistol and then shooting and wounding a guard. The man told the FBI that he found the conservative organization on the SPLC’s “hate map” and intended to kill everyone in the building. The man later pleaded guilty to committing an act of terror and received a 25-year prison sentence. The SPLC condemned the attack, but has kept the Family Research Council on the “hate map” ever since.
Abudu joined the SPLC in February 2019, amid the scandal leading to the SPLC co-founder’s firing.
3. What does Abudu do there?
In a questionnaire for judicial nominees, Abudu told the Senate Judiciary Committee that, “as the Director for Strategic Litigation, I have taken on significant managerial responsibilities, including overseeing all of the organization’s legal programmatic work which, in addition to voting rights, includes immigrants’ rights, criminal justice reform, children’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and special litigation related to hate groups.”
Abudu did not respond to a request for comment to elaborate on this litigation.
4. Extreme statements on voting rights
Abudu has made extreme statements concerning voting rights, which might endanger her confirmation.
After the death of George Floyd in June 2020, Abudu compared felons’ loss of voting rights to the system of race-based chattel slavery.
“Our current criminal justice system is one of the most inhumane examples of how racial discrimination operates and can ruin people’s lives forever,” she wrote on the SPLC website, claiming that America’s society is “separate and unequal” from “neighborhoods, schools, jobs and—perhaps most horrifying—in our prisons and jails.”
“When you add laws that prohibit people with a criminal conviction from voting, it’s practically the same system as during slavery—Black people who have lost their freedom and cannot vote,” Abudu argued. She did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment on whether she stands by this comparison.
Abudu called on Congress to pass HR 4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would give Justice Department bureaucrats the power to veto changes in state election laws. In August 2021, she noted that “as HR 4 moves to the Senate, some senators have already committed to doing everything in their power to oppose the bill—up to and including leveraging a legislative tool popular with pro-Jim Crow senators of the past—to prevent its passage and to further erode the fundamental right to vote.”
“To protect the future of American democracy, the Senate may need to make the body majority-rule by abolishing the filibuster. So be it,” she added, making it clear that her reference to a tool “popular with pro-Jim Crow senators” involved the filibuster rule.
While pro-Jim Crow legislators did indeed use the filibuster to block legislation they opposed, Democrats used the same rule to block the police reform bill proposed by Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., when Republicans held the Senate majority in 2020.
Abudu did not respond to a request for comment on whether she meant to connect opposition to HR 4 with Jim Crow.
5. Soros Equality Fellows
On LinkedIn, Abudu “liked” a post celebrating the 2021 Soros Equality Fellows.
According to the Open Society Foundations website, the fellowship “seeks to support emerging midcareer professionals whom we believe will become long-term innovative leaders impacting racial justice.” Liberal billionaire George Soros, the fellowship’s namesake and the founder of the Open Society Foundations, has faced hefty criticism for his funding of radical liberal organizations and causes.
Abudu did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment on her activity regarding the Soros Equality Fellows.
Note: This story has been updated to reflect the vote on Feb. 9.
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