Celebrating Impressive Civil Rights Attorneys: Natasha Merle and Nusrat Choudhury

Women’s history month might be over but it’s not stopping us from celebrating two groundbreaking women of color nominees for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York: Natasha Merle and Nusrat Choudhury 

When they’re confirmed, they’ll be part of the historic shift we’re seeing on our courts to include more women of color and civil rights attorneys. As a Black woman and a phenomenal civil rights attorney with public defense experience, Merle’s judgeship would add to the racial, gender, and professional diversity that is painfully lacking in our courts.  

Choudhury is also an exemplary civil rights attorney and would be the first Muslim woman, the first Bangladeshi American, and the second-ever Muslim American to serve as a federal judge. In addition to celebrating the immense qualifications and diverse backgrounds these women will bring to the bench, we are especially excited about their commitment to gender justice and to upholding the rights of people of color.  

Here’s what you need to know about Merle’s and Choudhury’s unstoppable work fighting for our rights: 

Natasha Merle  

Merle has time and time again fought for the rights of people of color and advanced racial justice in criminal justice, voting rights, and education opportunities. A testament to her diligence and legal acumen, Merle successfully advocated to the Supreme Court in Buck v. Davis on behalf of a death-sentenced individual to challenge an alarming and frankly horrific racially discriminatory death sentence imposed on Mr. Duane Edward Buck. In addition to fighting for the rights of people in the criminal legal system, Merle has defended voting rights for people of color experiencing voting disfranchisement. She is the lead attorney on the LDF et al. v. Trump et al., a lawsuit that challenges the former President Donald Trump’s creation of the problematic and racially discriminatory “Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.” Merle’s dedication to protecting the rights of people of color in the criminal legal system and to vote would add a vital perspective to the bench and reflect her commitment to equal justice for all

Nusrat Choudhury 

Choudhury has done crucial work to advance changes in the criminal legal system, policing, voting rights, reproductive health care, and gender equity. She is a leader in the fight for the rights of people of color as the Roger Pascal Legal Director at the ACLU of Illinois. Her powerful impact ranges from securing “public records about the FBI’s racial and ethnic mapping program” to challenging “the NYPD’s unjustified and discriminatory profiling of Muslims for surveillance.” Additionally, she has led efforts to challenge unlawful and unjust stop-and-frisk policies targeting people of color for surveillance without evidence of wrongdoing. Choudhury has spent her entire career advancing criminal justice reform and she is instrumental to the fight for equal rights and justice for allespecially for women and girls and people of color. 

Merle and Choudhury’s additions to the Eastern District of New York would continue breaking down the centuries of prejudicial barriers in our legal system that barred an abundance of qualified women of color and civil rights attorneys from joining the judiciary.  

Prior to Biden’s presidency, women of color made up only 4% of sitting federal judges despite being approximately 20% of the population as of 2021. Less than 2% of people who have ever served as federal judges were Black women and only 1.8% of federal appeals court judges have spent the majority of their careers working as civil rights attorneys. If we envision a court system that is fair, just, and reflective of our rich diversity, then that means aggressively confirming more women of color, civil rights attorneys, and public defenders to the federal bench to remedy past exclusion. We urge the Senate to swiftly confirm Merle and Choudhury so we can continue our onward fight for a fair and impartial judiciary committed to equal justice for all.