Amalya Kearse

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Amalya Kearse
Senior Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
Assumed office
June 11, 2002
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
In office
June 21, 1979 – June 11, 2002
Appointed byJimmy Carter
Preceded bySeat established
Succeeded byReena Raggi
Personal details
Amalya Lyle Kearse

(1937-06-11) June 11, 1937 (age 86)
Vauxhall, New Jersey, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
EducationWellesley College (BA)
University of Michigan (JD)

Amalya Lyle Kearse (born June 11, 1937)[1] is a senior United States circuit judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and a world-class bridge player.

Education and legal career[edit]

Kearse was born in Vauxhall, New Jersey[1] to physician Dr. Myra Lyle Smith Kearse of Lynchburg, Virginia, and postmaster Robert Freeman Kearse; her maternal grandparents were schoolteachers Clara Roberta Alexander Smith and Theodore Parker Smith.[2] She attended Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey. A philosophy major and 1959 graduate of Wellesley College with a Bachelor of Arts degree, she was the only black woman in her law school class at the University of Michigan Law School. She was an editor of the law review and graduated with a Juris Doctor cum laude in 1962. She entered private practice in New York City and rose to become a partner in the respected Wall Street firm of Hughes Hubbard & Reed. She was an adjunct lecturer at New York University Law School from 1968 to 1969.[3]

Federal judicial service[edit]

Kearse was nominated by President Jimmy Carter on May 3, 1979, to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, to a new seat authorized by 92 Stat. 1629. She was confirmed by the United States Senate on June 19, 1979, and received her commission on June 21, 1979. At the time, she was the first woman and only the second black person (after Thurgood Marshall) on the court.[1] She assumed senior status on June 11, 2002.[3]

Kearse was the author of the 1984 decision McCray v. Abrams, a case in which she developed a test that made it much harder for jurors to be struck because of their race.[4][5] The Supreme Court would develop a test similar to Kearse's in Batson v. Kentucky.

Supreme Court shortlist[edit]

In 1981, Kearse became the first African-American woman to be shortlisted for an appointment as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States; President Ronald Reagan eventually nominated Judge Sandra Day O'Connor of the Arizona Court of Appeals for the position instead.[6]

Consideration for United States attorney general[edit]

In 1993, Kearse was considered by President Bill Clinton for appointment as United States Attorney General; the job eventually went to Janet Reno.[citation needed]

Bridge career[edit]

Kearse is also known as a world-class bridge player. In 1986, playing with longtime partner Jacqui Mitchell, she won the World Women Pairs Championship, which earned her the title of World Bridge Federation World Life Master. She is also a seven-time U.S. national champion of the game.



  • Charles H. Goren Award (Personality of the Year) 1980




  • — (1990). Bridge Convention Complete (Revised and Expanded ed.). Louisville, KY: Devyn Press, Inc. p. 1121. ISBN 0-910791-76-7.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Goldstein, Tom. "Amalya Lyle Kearse; Woman in the News", The New York Times, June 25, 1979.
  2. ^ Moses, Sibyl E. African American Women Writers in New Jersey, 1836-2000: A Biographical Dictionary and Bibliographic Guide. Rutgers University Press, 2003. p. 99
  3. ^ a b Amalya Lyle Kearse at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
  4. ^ "Michael McCRAY, Petitioner-Appellee, v. Robert ABRAMS, Respondent-Appellant". Open Jurist. F2d (750): 1113. December 4, 1984. Retrieved October 23, 2021.
  5. ^ "Carter's Quiet Revolution". Slate. July 14, 2019. Retrieved October 23, 2021.
  6. ^ "41 years before Ketanji Brown Jackson, Amalya Lyle Kearse was considered for the Supreme Court". March 2, 2022. Retrieved April 7, 2022.
  7. ^ "Induction by Year" Archived 2014-12-05 at the Wayback Machine. Hall of Fame. ACBL. Retrieved 2014-12-21.
  8. ^ "Kearse, Amalya" Archived 2016-03-19 at the Wayback Machine. Hall of Fame. ACBL. Retrieved 2014-12-21.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
New seat Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
Succeeded by