As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares for the historic moment when three women appear together for the first time on that bench, another court across the ocean will mark a similar moment because of a newly-elected American judge.
The United Nations Security Council and General Assembly on Thursday elected Joan Donoghue, principal deputy legal adviser to the U.S. Department of State, to be a judge on the International Court of Justice.
When Donoghue takes her seat next week, she will join Xue Hanqin of China, elected in June. It will be the first time in the court’s history that two female judges will serve simultaneously.
Donoghue, a senior career attorney, will take her judicial oath on Sept. 13 during a public sitting of the court, commonly known as the World Court, in the Peace Palace in The Hague. Chosen by secret ballot, she will fill the remainder of the term left vacant by the resignation on Monday of the court’s American judge, Thomas Buergenthal. She will serve until Feb. 5, 2015.
State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh and former State Department Legal Adviser John Bellinger served on the national committee that selected Donoghue as the U.S. nominee to replace the retiring Buergenthal.
Donoghue began her legal career as an associate with Covington & Burling after graduation from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. She first joined the State Department in 1984. As principal deputy legal adviser, she managed a bureau of 265 attorneys and support staff. In prior service at the department, she served as deputy legal adviser and as assistant legal adviser for several offices, including those responsible for economic affairs, African affairs, oceans and environment, and diplomatic law and litigation.
In addition to her service at the State Department, Donoghue served as the deputy general counsel of the Department of the Treasury from 1999 to 2000. She also was associate general counsel and then general counsel and corporate secretary of Freddie Mac from 2001 to 2005.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a written statement, called Donoghue “judicious, fair, an extraordinary international legal counsel, and an excellent choice for the Court.” Donoghue, she added, has “long experience” in international law and dispute resolution.
“She has won the confidence of senior officials in both Democratic and Republican Administrations,” said Clinton. “She sees the hardest issues, and asks the toughest questions. Joan will be sorely missed.”