President Biden nominated Eunice Lee to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on May 12. Lee has spent her career as a public defender in New York City and, if confirmed, will be the only judge on the circuit with experience as a public defender. She will also be only the second Black woman to ever serve on the Second Circuit.
Eunice Lee graduated summa cum laude from Ohio State University in 1993 and received her J.D. from Yale Law School three years later. She was a 1993 recipient of the Earl Warren Shearman and Sterling NAACP Scholarship. While in law school Lee interned with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Shearman & Sterling, People for the American Way, and the Civil Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in addition to serving as a research assistant to Justice F.L. Norcott of the Connecticut Supreme Court.
After receiving her law degree, Lee clerked for Judge Susan Dlott of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio and for Judge Eric Clay of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
Eunice Lee’s career has been immersed in criminal appellate work. She spent over two decades with the Office of the Appellate Defender (OAD) in New York City, becoming a supervising attorney in 2001 after just three years with the organization. She also served as the OAD’s director of recruitment and outreach while supervising and training staff and pro bono attorneys. Most recently, Lee joined the Federal Defenders of New York in 2019 as a staff attorney.
In her career, Lee has represented over 380 indigent clients in both federal and state appellate courts, focusing primarily on post-conviction relief. She has represented clients in numerous habeas proceedings in federal court, one of the most frequent types of cases heard by federal courts of appeal.
Lee has worked to ensure that indigent defendants are represented in court and that her clients’ constitutional and statutory rights have been protected throughout the entire criminal process. Recently, Lee successfully argued for
the compassionate release of a client who had a heightened vulnerability to the COVID-19 virus. United States v. Gargan, Docket No. 18-cr-723 (S.D.N.Y. 2020).
Professional Activities and Accolades
From 2003 to 2019, Lee served as an adjunct professor at New York University School of Law where she designed and taught the Criminal Appellate Defender Clinic. In 2014, Lee helped to draft the New York State Office of Indigent Legal Services Appellate Standards and Best Practices. Lee also has given multiple presentations and trainings to criminal defense attorneys and student attorneys on the importance of preserving objections to a judge’s rulings during criminal proceedings, a necessary element in appealing any decision.
Lee is a member of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys (ALAA), the union representing Legal Aid and Federal Defenders attorneys. Lee is also a member of Metropolitan Black Bar Association and served on the Committee on Professional Responsibility of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York.