October 17, 2011

Openly Gay Alumna Confirmed as Federal Judge

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Despite staunch opposition from Republicans, the U.S. Senate confirmed President Obama’s nomination of an openly gay Cornell alumna, Alison Nathan ’94, J.D. ’00, to become a federal judge last Thursday.

Nathan will be the third openly gay woman to serve as a judge on the federal court, according to a press release by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who recommended Nathan to Obama in February. She will serve on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Nathan served as a senior adviser to Obama’s LGBT advisory committee and is “a member of and strong advocate for the LGBT community,” the press release stated.

Narrowly passing by 48 to 44, the vote gathered near-consensus support from Democrats while failing to attract a single “yea” from Republicans.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, voiced concern over Nathan’s “activist viewpoint,” according to congressional records. Sessions criticized Nathan for appearing to have a “belief that American judges should look to foreign law in deciding cases.”

In his support, Schumer cited Nathan’s “world of experience.” She has worked as a litigator for WilmerHale, clerked for a Court of Appeals judge and Supreme Court Justice and served as an Associate White House Counsel.

She is currently special counsel to the solicitor general of New York and has appeared in the “Top 50 Litigators Under 45” list compiled by The American Lawyer.

In response to Sessions’ criticism of Nathan’s stance on foreign law, Schumer presented a statement by Nathan that read, “If I were confirmed as a United States District Court Judge, foreign law would have no relevance to my interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.”

In a press release, Obama called Nathan “a distinguished individual who has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to justice throughout her career.”

Nathan was editor-in-chief of the Cornell Law Review during her time as a student.

Original Author: Dennis Liu