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Archive for the 'Diversity on the Bench' Category

Analysis: Ginsburg, O’Connor Have ‘Judged in a Different Voice’

The author of a new book about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor writes in Slate that these jurists have “judged in a different voice” because of their life experiences as women.

“The law is not different for men and for women, and Justices O’Connor and Ginsburg were not morally different from their peers. But they had life experiences as women. And their lives made their work different,” contends Linda Hirshman.

Citing the justices’ records and questions asked in oral arguments, Hirshman says the two “brought a woman’s understanding to the job of judging.” Read more

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Judicial Diversity Including LGBT Judges is Urged

In  California and New York, advocates are urging enhanced judicial diversity through selection of judges who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

New York Assemblywoman Deborah Glick is calling for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to name a LGBT person to the Court of Appeals, the highest court, according to WSHU Public Radio. “Representing the full diversity of New York State, it would be appropriate to have an openly LGBT jurist on the court of Appeals,” Glick said.

In California, according to a San Diego Source article, a coalition of LGBT bar associations has recommended establishing a state LGBT judges association, mentorship initiatives, and ways to expand the strong applicants in the pipeline for judgeships. The article, “Local attorneys seek greater judicial diversity,” is available through searching by Google.

Justice at Stake believes that diversity on the bench improves the quality of justice and builds faith and confidence in the legitimacy of the courts. You can learn more from the JAS web page on the topic.

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Obama Legacy on Bay Area Bench Includes Diversity

President Obama has not exactly transformed the federal bench in the San Francisco area with his 11 appointments out of 14 full-time judgeships there, but he has surely left his stamp, according to a San Jose Mercury News article.

The region’s federal judges “are a generally young, demographically diverse group that will be deciding Silicon Valley tech showdowns, civil rights challenges and major federal criminal law questions for the foreseeable future,” the newspaper said. 

Of the Obama appointees, seven are minority. They include Lucy Koh in San Jose, the court’s first Asian-American appointee; Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, the first Latina; and Vince Chhabria, the first Indian-American. Read more

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Push for Diversity Joined With Urging Judicial Confirmation

Some Florida defenders of fair courts who are critical of U.S. Senate delays in confirming federal judicial nominees also say the stalling impedes diversity on the bench.

A Daily Business Review article (free registration required) focuses on three vacancies in the Middle and Southern districts of Florida, which have been designated judicial emergencies. President Obama nominated former Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Mary Barzee Flores for one of these judgeships on Feb. 26. She has not had a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee yet. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican, has not submitted a “blue slip,” a procedure permitting the panel to hold a hearing.

Ileana Cruz, president of the Miami-Dade chapter of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers, said, “We support the confirmation of Mary Barzee Flores’ nomination and hope to see the last blue slip released and a hearing scheduled as soon as possible to continue improving the diversity of our federal bench.” Read more

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Gender Gap: 36 Percent of Highest State Court Judges are Women

From the nation’s first woman elected as a justice of the Ohio Supreme Court in 1923, gender diversity has increased to women comprising 36 percent of all justices on states’ highest courts.

That gender gap data from the National Center for State Courts, a Justice at Stake partner organization, was cited by a Washington Post article as a sidebar to a political dispute over a judgeship in Virginia.

According to the article, “Women justices are in the majority on what the NCSC calls ‘courts of last resort’ in nine states: Washington, Tennessee, California, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Wisconsin, Arkansas and Massachusetts. Courts in 20 states were led by woman chief justices as of May of this year, the center reports.”

Justice at Stake believes that diversity on the bench improves the quality of justice and builds faith and confidence in the legitimacy of the courts. You can learn more from the JAS web page on the topic.

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Gov. Dayton Appoints Hudson to Minnesota Supreme Court

Judge Hudson

Judge Hudson

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has appointed Court of Appeals Judge Natalie E. Hudson to replace Justice Alan Page on the state Supreme Court, the Minnesota Star Tribune reports. Thanking the governor on Tuesday, Hudson gave the following statement:

“I promise to do what I have always done as a judge, and that is to read the record carefully, read the briefs carefully, to listen carefully at oral argument, to be as prepared as I possibly can be and most of all to treat all of those that come before our court with the utmost respect and dignity that they deserve.”


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Happy Anniversary to Our Female Supreme Court Justices!

ladiesofthecourt2This is an important week for U.S. Supreme Court Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who “will celebrate the anniversaries of their entrance onto the highest court in the land,” reported Huffington Post. They were all confirmed as Justices during the first week of August.

Justice Kagan, the youngest one on the court, will be celebrating five years as Supreme Court Justice on Wednesday .”It’s a very cool thing to be a smart girl, as opposed to some other, different kind. And I think that made a great deal of difference to me growing up and in my life afterward,” Kagan told NPR during her tenure as U.S. solicitor general.

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Congressional Questions Highlight Bias Against Public Defenders

In an illuminating op-ed for the Huffington Post, Nan Aron, President of Alliance for Justice, outlines the importance of professional diversity in the judiciary, and the obstacles to achieving it. Only 14 percent of President Obama’s judicial nominees have been public defenders, and 3.2 percent have worked as civil rights lawyers. The professional discrepancy is blatant when compared with the 41 percent that have been prosecutors and the 72 percent who have worked as corporate attorneys.

Last week, Republican Senator Jeff Sessions’ line of questioning aimed at Paula Xinis highlighted the problem, Aron argues. Xinis, the nominee to the the District Court of Maryland, is a public defender and civil rights lawyer. Sessions’ “line of accusatory questions” suggested that her career path would make her biased to defendants on the bench. “The questions were absurd and unfounded,” Aron says, “but they could not be dismissed as such,” because they represent a much larger problem. Aron explains:

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Judicial Diversity to Make Gains in the States

Minnesota_quarter,_reverse_side,_2005Gov. Mark Dayton of Minnesota acknowledged that diversity on the bench is an important factor, as he prepared to choose from among three  women recommended for an open seat on the Minnesota Supreme Court, according to Twin Cities.

These three finalists are Appeals Court Judge Margaret Chutich, Appeals Court Judge Natalie Hudson and Minneapolis City Attorney Susan Segal. They were recommended by the state’s Commission on Judicial Elections. Although Dayton “isn’t required to pick one of the three names the selection committee forwarded to him,” he has used the Commission’s suggestions “as his guide in past appointments,” reported the same source.

If Dayton selects one of the women, two out of seven members of the Minnesota Supreme Court would be female.  He said he was conscious of “the fact that when Justice Wright departs there will be only one woman.” Justice Wright has been nominated for a federal judgeship.

Meanwhile, in Virginia, Gov. Terry McAuliffe named Judge Jane Marum Roush to the state Supreme Court, according to Augusta Free Press. Justice at Stake advocates for diversity as an essential element of a fair and impartial court system.

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Efforts to Diversify Federal Bench Gain Ground in NY

The Buffalo News reports a welcome increase in diversity among a pool of finalists for a seat as a magistrate judge on the federal bench in New York state.  The recommendations were made by a justice-scalesmerit selection committee charged with recommending candidates for one of three openings on the bench.  Unlike federal judges holding higher offices, magistrate judges do not require presidential nomination or U.S. Senate confirmation.

Noting that the federal bench in Buffalo is currently all male as well as all white, the paper reports that the five finalists include three women, one of whom is African-American.  Filling the vacant posts within the court system is urgent, the paper adds, noting: “The openings are significant because Buffalo’s federal courts are among the busiest in the nation and there’s a tremendous backlog of cases. One of the consequences is that the median civil case here now takes five years to reach trial.”

Justice at Stake advocates for diversity as an essential element of a fair and impartial court system.

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