United States Senate Majority Leader, Charles “Chuck” Schumer on Wednesday announced the confirmation of a Jamaican-American to serve as a district judge on the prestigious United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (EDNY).
Schumer said he forwarded the name of Bronx-born and Brooklyn resident, Orelia Merchant, whose father is a first-generation Jamaican-American, for the EDNY to the Biden administration and championed her nomination.
Merchant is on one of the most diverse rosters of judicial picks by the Biden administration. The Senate confirmed her by a 51-48 vote.
US Sen. Lindsey Graham, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, was the sole member of his party to vote for Merchant.
“Orelia E. Merchant, my fellow Brooklynite, brings extensive judicial and leadership experience to the table,” Schumer told Caribbean Life. “As Chief Deputy Attorney General in New York, she is responsible for managing 8,000 active cases and 250 attorneys in prosecution and defense of actions and complex cases in state and federal court.
“She brings professionalism and integrity with her every day in her work, and I am proud to have championed her nomination to the EDNY bench,” he added. “Ms. Merchant is a brilliant legal mind, and her confirmation helps ensure that the bench of the Eastern District better reflects the diversity of the people it serves.
“I am confident she will bring remarkable legal talent and experience, and her fervent commitment to the public good to the federal court,” Schumer continued. “Ms. Merchant has dedicated herself entirely to serving her community and making sure the law applies equally to all people. She will follow the law where it takes her, in the pursuit of fair and impartial justice.”
Merchant — whose husband, Karim Camara, is a former New York State Assemblyman and pastor at Abundant Life Church in Brooklyn — is the chief deputy attorney general for state counsel and a member of the New York State Attorney General’s executive leadership team.
She oversees 8,000 active cases and manages 450 employees, including 250 attorneys, in prosecution and defense of actions and complex cases in state and federal court.
Prior, she served in the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and as Assistant Regional Counsel for the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Region 5, in Chicago, Illinois.
She also served as a Special Assistant United States Attorney in the Eastern District of Louisiana in both the Civil and Criminal Divisions.
Merchant will join the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York upon receiving her judicial commission and taking her judicial oath.
The United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York is one of 94 US District Courts. They are the general trial courts of the United States federal courts.
Merchant is a graduate of Dillard—a prestigious historically Black university in Louisiana — earning a Bachelor of Science degree in physics and mathematics.
She holds a Master’s degree in marine science from the College of William and Mary, a public research university in Williamsburg, Va.
Merchant earned her Juris Doctorate (law degree) from Tulane University Law School in New Orleans, La.
Tulane University said in a statement on Wednesday that Merchant had worked in the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic and was “among a group of students who took on the cause of Black residents in Convent, La., who suffered health impacts from chemical plants in their community.”