On January 19, 2022, President Joe Biden nominated Nusrat Choudhury to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York to the seat vacated by Judge Josephy Bianco. A dedicated civil rights and civil liberties attorney, Ms. Choudhury has spent her career advocating for equal justice under the law. If confirmed, Ms. Choudhury will become the first Muslim American woman and the first Bangladeshi American to serve as a federal judge.
Nusrat Choudhury was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1976. She earned her B.A. from Columbia University in 1998 and an M.P.A. from Princeton School of Public and International Affairs in 2006. Also in 2006, she graduated with her J.D. from Yale Law School. Between college and law school, she worked as a Development Associate for Women’s Prison Association & Home, Inc. and for Spence-Chapin Services to Families & Children, both in New York City. She spent her summers in law school interning abroad, including working with the Office of the High Representative in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, CARE India in New Delhi, India, and at the International Criminal Court, Office of the Prosecutor, in Den Haag, Netherlands.
After law school, Ms. Choudhury clerked for Hon. Denise L. Cote on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York and then for Hon. Barrington Parker, Jr. On the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York. In 2008, Ms. Choudhury joined the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as a Marvin M. Karpatkin Fellow. In that role, she supported the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program in a variety of federal constitutional and statutory matters at the trial level, including conducting legal research, preparing and taking depositions, and factual investigations. In 2009, she joined the ACLU’s National Security Project as a Staff Attorney in New York City. In that role, she worked on eight federal court lawsuits, one immigration court lawsuit, and one administrative appeal. All her cases involved constitutional rights issues, including due process, equal protection, freedom of religion, and protection against unreasonable search and seizure. Additionally, she argued motions before federal district and circuit courts.
In 2013, Ms. Choudhury returned to the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, first as a Staff Attorney before being promoted to Senior Staff Attorney and eventually Deputy Director. There, she worked on federal constitutional and statutory issues impacting racial justice in federal and state trial and appellate courts. This included challenging unlawful stop-and-frisk, racial profiling, and other practices that disproportionally harmed people of color. She also argued cases before the United States Court of Appeals for the Court Circuit and drafted amicus briefs filed before the Supreme Court of the United States. In this role, Ms. Choudhury also conducted extensive settlement negotiations and successfully resolved four class-action lawsuits prior to trial.
Ms. Choudhury joined the ACLU of Illinois as Legal Director in 2020. As Legal Director, she managed a team of 16 and oversees the ACLU of Illinois’s legal docket, including 25 active cases. Her team focuses on policing, legal system reform, and jail conditions. She also serves as counsel of record and the leader drafter of amicus briefs submitted to the Supreme Court of the United States, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and the Illinois Supreme Court.
The following cases are representative of Ms. Choudhury’s legal career:
Freedom of Information Act
In ACLU of Michigan v. FBI, the ACLU brought a claim under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) after the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Department of Justice failed to disclose public records about the FBI’s authority to identify, collect, and map data regarding the racial and ethnic communities in Michigan, including the location of concentrated ethnic communities and ethnic businesses. The ACLU asserted that the FBI did not respond to its request for public records regarding these activities in a timely manner, did not adequately search for the records in question, and withheld information related to the request. The FBI, in response, requested the case be dismissed because it was not the proper defendant. The district court ruled that the FBI was the proper defendant, but that the agency had not acted improperly. This decision was affirmed by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
In Laif v. Holder, Ms. Choudhury represented 17 United States Citizens in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the federal government’s redress procedures for people listed on the “No Fly List.” Several of Ms. Choudhury’s clients were stranded abroad due to their placement on the No Fly List and others were similarly separated from their families, jobs, and schools. Pursuing a claim under the Fifth Amendment’s right to procedural due process, her clients specifically challenged the government’s failure to provide notice and a meaningful opportunity to contest their placement on the list. The clients stranded abroad also brought claims under the Fourteenth Amendment and the Immigration and Nationality Act. After the district court dismissed the case for failing to include the Transportation Security Administration in the suit, Ms. Choudhury’s team appealed the decision, which was reversed by the Ninth Circuit. In 2013, the district court granted partial summary judgement to the plaintiffs, ruling that they have a constitutionally protected interest in travel and their reputations and their inclusion on the No Fly List violated those rights. Ms. Choudhury withdrew from the case due to transitioning to a new job. In 2014, a District Court judge struck down the government’s procedures for individuals challenging their inclusion on the No Fly List as unconstitutional and ordered the government to create a new process.
In Collins v. Milwaukee, Ms. Choudhury represented a class of plaintiffs after the number of annual traffic and pedestrian stops by Milwaukee police tripled. The plaintiffs, nine people of color who had been stopped and frisked by police officers between 2007 and 2015, asserted that the city’s stop and frisk policies were not based on reasonable suspicion of unlawful activity and or that the individuals involved were armed and dangerous. Instead, they argued, the stop and frisks were motivated by race and ethnicity in violation of the Fourth Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment, and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The parties reached a settlement in 2018 which required Milwaukee to reform its stop and frisk policies, report and collect data on police encounters, and improve police training, among other agreements.
Brown v. Lexington County was one of four cases that Ms. Choudhury litigated addressing practices that disproportionately impacted people in poverty. In this case, she represented seven people who were jailed as a result of their inability to pay traffic ticket or misdemeanor violation fines. Claiming violations of the Fourth Amendment, the Sixth Amendment, and the Fourteenth Amendment, the plaintiffs alleged that they were incarcerated without being provided pre-deprivation hearings, representation by counsel, or any consideration for their inability to pay the fines. The case is ongoing.
In Dembele v. Prim, No. 1:20-cv-2401 (N.D.Ill.), Ms. Choudhury represented two immigrants detained in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody, both of whom had medical conditions that make them more are risk for death or severe complications from COVID-19. The plaintiffs sued federal and local officials for violating the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause for detaining them in crowded and unsanitary conditions and for failing to make sufficient efforts to detect and stop the spread of COVID-19. After the case was filed, ICE released one plaintiff and he withdrew his claim. The district court partially granted the other plaintiff’s motion for preliminary relief. He was released from detention and was deported several months later. In 2022, he voluntarily dismissed his claims.
Professional Activities and Accolades
From 2017 to 2018, Ms. Choudhury was a member of the American Bar Association’s Section on Civil Rights and Social Justice and Presidential Task Force on Building Public Trust in the American Justice System. During that period, she also served on the Board of Directors of Whistleblower Aid. She is a member of the Asian American Bar Association of Great Chicago, the Illinois State Bar Association, and the South Asian Bar Association of Chicago.