AFSCME congratulates Judge Nicole Berner on winning Senate confirmation

AFSCME President Lee Saunders congratulated Nicole Berner, a longtime labor lawyer and general counsel of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), on being confirmed to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

Berner started her new job Wednesday, one day after securing the green light. The U.S. Senate’s confirmation vote was 50-47. Berner was nominated by President Joe Biden in November.

Berner “has dedicated her career to ensuring the fair and just treatment of working people before the law, and her experience will be invaluable on the federal bench,” Saunders said in a press release. “With a rising wave of organizing spurring more cases involving workers’ rights, it is critical that we have judges like Nicole Berner who understand the importance of empowering working people with a voice on the job and a seat at the table.”

Berner is the first openly gay judge and first labor lawyer on the Fourth Circuit court, which is one of 12 regional appellate courts in the country and has jurisdiction over district courts in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Her appointment will bring much-needed diversity to the bench and better reflect the population served by the court.

In particular, her experience upholding labor rights will help ensure that workers receive equal justice. Many lawyers currently in the federal judiciary have prior experience representing corporations.

Biden has been steadfastly diversifying our federal benches. Berner is the 11th federal judge appointed and confirmed to a lifetime position during the Biden administration who identifies as LGBTQ, tying the record set during the Obama administration, according to CNN.

“We applaud the Biden administration’s commitment to defending workers’ rights and balancing the courts with judges from a diverse range of legal backgrounds,” Saunders said. “And we thank Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) for their support.”