Archive for the 'Diversity on the Bench' Category
A vacant seat on the Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals constitutes a “judicial emergency,” and when a nominee is selected, top consideration should be given to promoting racial diversity, states an Al.com op-ed by Leslie M. Proll, director of the Washington, D.C. office of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc.
Alabama is allotted three seats on the 12-seat bench of the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, but the court has been short one judge from Alabama for over a year. Proll writes that for the past 123 years, there have only been white males representing Alabama on the federal appellate court. The Eleventh Circuit “has the highest percentage of African-American residents (25%) of any circuit in the country, yet only one of its twelve judges is African-American.” This correlates with a Pew Research Center poll that found 68 percent of African-Americans viewed the court system as unfair, but only 27 percent of white Americans held the same opinion.No comments
A report was issued by The New York State Bar Association (NYSBA), titled “Judicial Diversity: A Work In Progress,” with a press release by readMedia. Within the report are detailed numbers about how well the New York judiciary reflects the racial, ethnic, and gender composition of the state.
“Diversity matters,” the report begins. “But nowhere is it more important than in the judiciary, the branch of government charged with safeguarding our country’s constitutional democracy and dispensing justice to its citizenry.” The report provides a detailed breakdown of the data per judicial district as well as analysis for the possible reasons behind the lack of diversity in certain areas.
“Diversity long has been a goal of the State Bar Association,” said NYSBA President Glenn Lau-Kee, “This report highlights that achieving judiciary diversity indeed is a work in progress.”No comments
On September 14, Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice wrote an op-ed on why he believes Arizona has some the best judges (see Gavel Grab). Its merit selection system “results in a judiciary that is highly qualified and of diverse backgrounds,” he noted.
However, former president of the Hispanic National Bar Association Mike Martinez disagrees in a commentary published in azcentral.com.
The Arizona system “detects and excludes an identifiable group of attorneys from the judiciary,” says the commentary, contending “the exclusion of Hispanic attorneys is not happenstance, but the result of predictable political orchestration.” Read moreNo comments
The proportion of black judges in Florida has declined for the first time in over 25 years, reports a South Florida Sun Sentinel editorial. Only 6.5 percent of 974 judges are African-American, down from a high of 7 percent. Much of the blame has been pointed at Florida Gov. Rick Scott.
Out of 159 judicial appointments, Scott has appointed nine black judges. Of those nine however, six have been to “lower court benches that handle traffic and misdemeanor cases or compensation claims for job-related injuries.”
Scott’s immediate predecessor and present Democratic opponent Charlie Crist appointed 14 black jurists out of 180 appointments in the same time frame, and eight of those were for high court benches.
The “gold standard” was set by former Gov. Jeb Bush who appointed 22 black judges, again in the same time frame, according to the editorial.
“Florida remains a growing state with an increasingly diverse population. If the state courts want to maintain their legitimacy,” the editorial says, “especially among minorities and women, their makeup must keep pace with the people they serve.”
Florida Gov. Rick Scott is back in the media spotlight over his handling of diversity on the bench. A lengthy Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times article says Scott has appointed fewer African-American judges than did either of his two predecessors during a corresponding time period.
“What I’m focused on is making sure that the people I appoint understand that there are three branches of government and that they don’t get to legislate,” said Scott, a Republican. “They don’t get to pass laws, just like I don’t get to pass laws.”
“He has no interest in diversity,” said state Sen. Arthenia Joyner, a Democrat and Legislative black caucus member. “He wants to stack the courts with people who think like him. It’s that corporate mentality that he brought to the governor’s office.” Read moreNo comments
There is still room for greater diversity on the U.S. Supreme Court, after considering gender, race and ethnicity, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said in Oklahoma City last week.
“We don’t have one criminal defense lawyer on our court,” she said, according to a Wall Street Journal Law Blog post. In addition, there are no justices on the bench from solo practices or having big law experience, she said.
“The president should be paying attention to that broader diversity question,” Justice Sotomayor remarked. Read moreNo comments
Three of President Obama’s nominees for the federal district courts in Texas were praised at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing by the state’s two Republican senators, the Dallas Morning News reported.
The three include U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman of San Antonio, who would become the state’s first openly gay federal judge if confirmed. The three individuals were selected by the White House in a deal earlier this year with the Texas senators.No comments
The U.S. Senate voted 97-0 on Monday to confirm attorney Jill Pryor of Georgia for a seat on the Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, according to The Hill. President Obama first nominated Pryor in February 2012.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Pryor’s two-and-a-half-year wait before confirmation was “longer than any other currently pending judicial nominee,” and he blamed partisan politics.
Nonetheless, Leahy said, “This year the Senate has confirmed 61 nominees to the circuit and district courts and in doing so, it has hit an historic milestone for diversity on the Federal appeals courts. More women and people of color are serving on the federal appellate bench than ever before.”
Gov. Jerry Brown’s nomination of Stanford law professor Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, a Mexican immigrant to the United States, to the California Supreme Court was confirmed unanimously on Thursday by the state Commission on Judicial Appointments. The nomination next will appear before voters on the ballot in November.
Cuéllar received a rating of exceptionally well qualified from a state bar evaluating commission, according to a Los Angeles Times article. When the nomination first was announced, it sparked attention for the statement it made about diversity on the bench (see Gavel Grab).No comments
In her first address to a LGBT organization, Chief Judge Diane Wood of the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals discussed the importance of diversity on the bench and in the legal workplace.
“The courts benefit from diversity,” Judge Wood told Equality Illinois, according to the Windy City Times. “Every person’s experience is unique and it’s our duty to serve everybody. … If you have a diverse legal profession, you learn from the experiences of the people around you and from your clients.”
Judge Wood said about judges, “At the [S]eventh [C]ircuit we of course receive cases of different kinds. You write opinions and hope they’re correct. I can assure you that the right way to approach that is not live in an echo chamber…I need different viewpoints. I talk to colleagues. I talk to my law clerks. I try to read. We need diversity to avoid that echo chamber phenomenon.” Read moreNo comments