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Arenda L. Wright Allen

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Arenda L. Wright Allen
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Current Court Information:
United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia
Title:   Judge
Position:   Seat #4
Station:   Norfolk, VA
Service:
Appointed by:   Barack Obama
Approval vote:   96-0
Active:   05/11/2011 - Present
Preceded by:   Jerome Friedman
Personal History
Born:   1960
Hometown:   Philadelphia, PA
Undergraduate:   Kutztown State College, B.A., 1982
Law School:   North Carolina Central U. Law, J.D., 1985
Military service:   U.S. Navy 1985 - 1990, Reserve 1992 - 2005

Arenda L. Wright Allen is a federal judge for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. She joined the court in 2011 after a nomination by Barack Obama. Prior to nomination, she was the Supervisory Assistant Federal Public Defender in the Federal Public Defender’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.[1]

Early life and education

Allen received a B.S. from Kutztown State College in 1982 and a J.D. degree from North Carolina Central University School of Law in 1985.[1][2]

Military service

Allen served in the U.S. Navy, JAG Corps from 1985 to 1990. She later served in the JAG Corps Reserve from 1992 to 2005.[1]

Professional career

  • 2006-2011: Supervisory Assistant Federal Public Defender
  • 2005-2006: Assistant Federal Public Defender, Eastern District of Virginia
  • 1991-2005: Assistant U.S. Attorney, Eastern District of Virginia
  • 1990-1991: Assistant U.S. Attorney, Western District of Virginia[1]

Judicial Career

Eastern District of Virginia

Nomination Tracker
 Candidate:Arenda L. Wright Allen
 Court:Eastern District of Virginia
 Progress:Confirmed 161 days after nomination.
ApprovedANominated:December 1, 2010
ApprovedAABA Rating:Substantial Majority Qualified, Minority Well Qualified
ApprovedAHearing:February 16, 2011
ApprovedAHearing Transcript:Hearing Transcript
ApprovedAReported:March 10, 2011 
ApprovedAConfirmed:May 11, 2011
 Vote: 96-0

On December 1, 2010, President Obama nominated Allen to the seat on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia vacated by Jerome Friedman.[2] President Obama had this to say about the nominations made on December 1, 2010: “These outstanding candidates have shown an unwavering commitment to justice throughout their careers. They all have long and distinguished records of service, and I am pleased to nominate them to continue serving the American people on the District Court bench.”[2]

Allen received a rating of "Substantial Majority Qualified, Minority Well Qualified" from the American Bar Association. She had a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 16, 2011, and you can find her hearing transcript available here.[3]

Allen's nomination was returned to the President at the end of the 111th Congress. President Obama resubmitted the nomination on January 5, 2011. Allen's nomination was confirmed on May 11, 2011, by a vote of 96-0.[4]

Notable cases

Challenge to Virginia ban on same-sex marriage (2014)

     United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (Bostic v. Rainey, et al, 2:13-cv-00395-AWA-LRL)

On February 13, 2014, Judge Wright Allen struck down Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage, based on the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. In her 41-page opinion, Wright Allen wrote that "[g]ay and lesbian individuals share the same capacity as heterosexual individuals to form, preserve and celebrate loving, intimate and lasting relationships," and that "[s]uch relationships are created through the exercise of sacred, personal choices -- choices, like the choices made by every other citizen, that must be free from unwarranted government interference." The ban was approved by voters by 57% in 2006.[5][6][7][8]


In the underlying case, Timothy Bostic and Tony London, a committed gay couple, applied for a marriage license on July 1, 2013, but were denied because they were a same-sex couple. Bostic and London filed suit on July 18, 2013, alleging that their Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process and equal protection had been violated by Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage, as enacted through state statute and constitutional amendment. In September 2013, Carol Schall and Mary Townley, a lesbian couple married in California whose marriage was unrecognized by Virginia, were added to the case as plaintiffs. Later that month, on September 30, 2013, the American Foundation for Equal Rights joined the case, with David Boies and Ted Olson, the same lawyers who argued California's Proposition 8 case before the Supreme Court, signing on to represent the plaintiffs.


In January 2014, Virginia's Attorney General Mark Herring announced that he would refuse to defend the state's ban, having concluded that it was unconstitutional. Wright Allen heard oral arguments on the case on February 4, 2014, where Olson argued that Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage was "excluding [gay and lesbian citizens] from the most important relation in life,” while lawyer Austin R. Nimocks, arguing for the defense, claimed the law "celebrate[d] the diversity of the sexes."[9][10][11][12][13]

See also

External links

References

Federal judicial offices
Preceded by:
Jerome Friedman
Eastern District of Virginia
2011–Present
Seat #4
Succeeded by:
NA