LaFonda Willis ’20 has accepted an offer for a one-year judicial clerkship with Judge Bernice Bouie Donald of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit beginning August 2022.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is a federal court with appellate jurisdiction over district courts in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee. Rulings from the Sixth Circuit may only be appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States. Clerkships with Appeals Court judges are highly prestigious and competitive positions, typically available only to a small percentage of top graduates of law schools across the country. Willis said she is “thrilled to be heading to the Sixth Circuit,” a court that decides “some of the most critical issues of our time.”

Judge Donald is the first African American woman to sit on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Willis called Judge Donald “one of the most accomplished and trailblazing judges in the federal judiciary” in which only 10 percent of sitting judges are African American and only 27 percent are women. Willis said she is “over the moon” that Judge Donald selected her, calling the Honorable Bernice Bouie Donald a “one-of-a-kind, super-star African American woman and judge who exudes confidence, humility, and grace.”

Willis graduated cum laude from UDC Law in May 2020 where she held several student leadership positions and participated in numerous legal internships around the country and externships at the United States Federal Trade Commission – Bureau of Consumer Protection and Harvard Law School. She received the Terri LeClerq Award for Best 1L Brief and was a Legal Writing Teaching Assistant and Mentor.

Since graduation, Willis remains active in the legal profession, including as Liaison for the American Bar Association, Section of Litigation – Woman Advocate and Minority Trial Lawyer Committees; Board Member of the National Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division; Member of the Judicial and Executive Appointments Committee for the National Bar Association’s Greater Washington Area Chapter (GWAC) Women Lawyers Division; Board Member of the American Constitution Society – Washington, D.C. Lawyer Chapter; mentee with Young ITA (Center for American and International Law); and one of the first-ever Dispute Resolution Fellows at the American Bar Association – Section of Dispute Resolution.

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