Judge Nusrat J. Choudhury of the Eastern District of New York, the first Muslim woman and first Bangladeshi American to serve as a U.S. federal judge, will be Princeton’s Class of 2024 Baccalaureate speaker. Choudhury earned her master’s in public affairs from the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA) in 2006.
Baccalaureate, an end-of-year interfaith service that is one of Princeton’s oldest traditions, is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday, May 26.
The Baccalaureate speaker was selected by the Committee on Honorary Degrees and approved by the Board of Trustees. The goal of Baccalaureate is to emphasize the value and importance of service to graduating seniors as they prepare for their lives beyond Princeton. The letter of invitation to Choudhury emphasized that her “record of advocacy in the public interest” and her “trailblazing appointment” as a federal judge make her an exemplar of what it means to be “in the nation’s service and the service of humanity.”
Prior to her appointment as a federal judge, Choudhury served as the legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois for more than three years and served for more than a decade in various roles at the national American Civil Liberties Union, including as deputy director of the ACLU Racial Justice Program and as a staff attorney in the ACLU National Security Project.
Over more than 14 years as an attorney, Choudhury handled dozens of complex and high-impact federal cases advancing constitutional rights on behalf of people who could not afford counsel. She led a series of pathbreaking lawsuits against the unlawful jailing of people who could not afford to pay fines and fees, spurring statewide changes to advance equal treatment of rich and poor in the legal system in Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina and Washington. She also brought cases in Milwaukee and New York City that led to landmark settlement agreements promoting safe, constitutional and effective policing and guarding against targeting based on race or religion.
Class of 2024 President Sydney Johnson said the class is honored to have Choudhury as their Baccalaureate speaker, adding that her example will inspire graduating students to “use our higher education to positively impact the lives of others.”
“Judge Choudhury has advocated for the protection of various demographics’ civil rights and influenced change across the legal system at a state and national level,” Johnson said. “This spirit of serving others has guided Judge Choudhury to the rank of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. It is this exact spirit our class must pursue and protect as we enter the next chapters of our lives.”
Before her tenure as an advocate at the ACLU, Choudhury clerked for Judge Barrington Parker Jr. of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and for Judge Denise Cote of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Choudhury received her J.D. from Yale Law School, her master’s in public affairs degree with distinction in international development from Princeton, and her B.A. summa cum laude from Columbia University. She is a recipient of the South Asian Bar Association of New York Access to Justice Award and of the Edward Bullard Distinguished Alumnus Award given by SPIA.
She was nominated by President Joseph Biden to serve as a district court judge on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in June 2023.