On July 7, 2020, Justin Pierce was quoted in Bloomberg Law on the lack of black judges on the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. According to the article, it is the only federal U.S. appellate court that’s never had a black judge. There have also been only a small number of black law clerks in the Washington-based court’s 38 years.
That lack of black judges on the Federal Circuit has “historically been a blind spot for that court,” said Pierce, former chair of the IP section of the National Bar Association, the largest national network of black attorneys.
"To not have a sufficient number of African American law clerks, or to have a history of not having African American judges, it means that such a court misses out on the perspective of a major segment of the U.S. population," Pierce said.
The court’s patent-heavy docket plays a role in the low number of black attorneys. Just 1.8% of IP lawyers are black, according to 2017 data from the American Intellectual Property Law Association. The 1.8% figure compares with 5% of attorneys in the U.S., and 13% of the overall population.
The root causes of the low number of black IP attorneys include inequities in education that have "limited the number black students pursuing scientific, technical or engineering degrees,” Pierce said. Having a “technical background is a prerequisite, for example, to being able to prosecute patent applications," he said.
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