Senate approves Trump's first black female judge nominee

Keith Laing
The Detroit News

Washington — The U.S. Senate approved Thursday President Donald Trump's first black female judge nominee after his selection was delayed.  

U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephanie Dawkins Davis of Flint, a former federal prosecutor for 18 years who Trump appointed in March to sit on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, was unanimously confirmed by voice vote. 

Stephanie Dawkins Davis

Dawkins Davis earned a voice vote, which is unusual and may attest to the confidence the senators have in her abilities, said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond who follows federal judicial appointments.

By contrast, 11 of the 13 judicial appointees this week had roll call votes in the Senate, Tobias said. 

U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, and Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, applauded the Senate for confirming Dawkins Davis. 

“We worked very hard to confirm Judge Davis because she is exceedingly qualified with an impressive background,” Stabenow said in a statement. “She is a Magistrate Judge, has served in both the civil and criminal divisions of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit, and has overseen community and law enforcement initiatives. She will be an excellent addition to the federal bench.”

“I was proud to support Judge Dawkins Davis’ confirmation,” Peters added. “She is a highly respected member of the Michigan legal community, qualified jurist and will serve our state well as a District Court Judge.”

Dawkins Davis was the first African-American woman nominated to a federal judgeship since former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Wilhelmina Wright was tapped by President Barack Obama in 2015.

Until Dawkins Davis, Trump had nominated no African-American women to the federal bench, Tobias said. Trump has nominated five black men as judicial nominees, only one of whom has been confirmed, he said. 

Republicans had blamed politics for unnecessarily delaying Davis' nomination.

Davis was appointed a magistrate judge in January 2016 and assigned to the Flint federal courthouse.

One of her most high-profile cases involved arraigning Amor Ftouhi in the 2017 terrorism and stabbing attack at Bishop International Airport. Ftouhi was later convicted and faces up to life in prison.

Davis, a native of Kansas City, Kansas, started her career in 1992 as a civil defense attorney at the firm Dickinson Wright PLLC before joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District in 1997.

Davis, 51, started at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit around the same time as future U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade, who appointed Davis as her executive assistant U.S. attorney after taking office in 2010 — a post Davis held through 2015.

Twitter: @Keith_Laing