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Former civil rights lawyer, 1st Black woman on the 11th Circuit will be graduation speaker

March 26, 2024 1:45 PM
Alina Hernandez ahernandez4@tulane.edu



Tulane Law alumna Nancy Gbana Abudu (L’99), who made history as the first African-American woman to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, will be the Tulane Law School graduation speaker, interim law Dean Sally Richardson announced.

Abudu, a law alumna of Tulane, was nominated by President Biden to the court, and was confirmed in the spring of 2023 by the U.S. Senate.

We are so excited to have Judge Abudu – a true Tulane trailblazer – join us as the graduation speaker this year,” said Richardson.  “Since she was a law student at Tulane, Judge Abudu has been dedicated to serving others and helping those that society all too often ignores. Her historic appointment to the Eleventh Circuit has allowed her to become a public servant dedicated to ensuring a fair and representative justice system for all.” 

The law graduation will take place Saturday, May 18 at 2 p.m. at the Devlin Fieldhouse in Tulane’s uptown campus.

"I am so honored to be the law school’s commencement speaker for this year’s graduating class, and I look forward to sharing in the students’ special day as they reflect on their achievements and chart their own career paths," Abudu said.  

Prior to joining the bench, Abudu was the Director of Strategic Litigation for the Southern Poverty Law Center and served as the organization's first deputy legal director for voting rights.  Her previous positions also include being the legal director for the ACLU of Florida, a senior staff counsel for the national ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, and an associate with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. 

Abudu's confirmation is historic; she is the first Black woman to serve on the court, which hears cases from Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. She also is just the third Black judge to serve, and the first person of color from Georgia to sit, on the court. Early in her career, Abudu served as a staff attorney for the Eleventh Circuit.

Abudu has extensive litigation experience, particularly in the civil rights arena. She has litigated federal and state cases around the country with a focus in the South, and has argued on behalf of individuals and communities on issues ranging from criminal justice reform, immigrants’ rights, LGBTQ protections, and other civil rights issues.  She has, however, dedicated the majority of her career thus far to pushing for  greater enforcement of the Voting Rights Act and other federal laws that protect the right to vote.