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Michigan attorney is first Muslim Arab American woman to stand before Supreme Court

Fadwa Hammoud’s appearance at the Supreme Court is one of several important firsts for Muslims in the American legal system in recent months.

In this June 29, 2020, file photo, the Supreme Court is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

(RNS) — Fadwa Hammoud made history this week when she became the first Muslim Arab American woman to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“When we talk about the Supreme Court bar, it’s a mirror looking down at the entire legal profession,” Hammoud said in an interview last week, “We collectively lose when our Supreme Court bar is not as diverse as our nation.”

Hammoud’s appearance was to argue in the case of Brown v. Davenport. The case concerns the 2007 conviction of Ervine Davenport for murder in Michigan. Davenport was shackled for the duration of his trial but, no reason for him being shackled was listed in the court records. His lawyers say his shackling prejudiced the jury against him.


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Fadwa Hammoud. Courtesy photo

Fadwa Hammoud. Courtesy photo

Hammoud’s career has been one of historic firsts. She became the first Arab American Muslim solicitor general in 2019, when Attorney General Dana Nessel appointed Michigan’s 12th solicitor general. She moved to Michigan from Lebanon at age 11, eventually graduating from Fordson High School in Dearborn. The school is also noteworthy for being a public school with a majority-Muslim population. A 2011 NPR report noted that 90% of the school’s population was Muslim. Robert Saleh, who became the NFL’s first Muslim head coach earlier this year, is also an alumnus of the school. Hammoud graduated from the University of Michigan, Dearborn, and later graduated from the Wayne State University Law School. After holding a United States District Court clerkship, she held a number of roles as a prosecuting attorney in Michigan’s Wayne County.


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Hammoud’s appearance at the Supreme Court is one of several important firsts for Muslims in the American legal system in recent months. In June, Zahid Quraishi became the first presidentially appointed Muslim American judge to a federal court. The New Jersey-born former military veteran also holds the distinction of being the first person of Asian American heritage to sit on the federal bench in New Jersey.

Harvard Law Review elected its first Muslim president, Hassaan Shahawy. In the position, the Los Angeles-born Egyptian American follows the prestigious footsteps of multiple Supreme Court judges and one former president of the United States, Barack Obama.