Archive for the 'Diversity on the Bench' Category
Sen. Marco Rubio’s withdrawal of support for the nomination of Judge William Thomas to the federal district court in Florida (see Gavel Grab) is facing questioning by the state NAACP branch and members of local bar associations.
“We oppose any practice or ideology that would unjustly block a qualified candidate from serving his country due to political pressure or discrimination,” said Adora Obi Nweze, president of the state branch and the Miami-Dade branch of the NAACP, according to the South Florida Times. Nweze called Judge Thomas “a well-qualified nominee for the federal appellate court” who is “poised to make history.” If confirmed, Judge Thomas would become the first openly gay African American man to sit on the federal bench.
Rubio, a Florida Republican, has raised questions about Judge Thomas’s fitness to serve as a federal judge. Under Senate traditions, his withdrawal of support effectively blocks Senate Judiciary Committee consideration of the nomination.
Gov. Dannel Malloy of Connecticut has a vacancy on the state Supreme Court for the fourth time in his administration. Greenwichtime.com reported that the governor is noted for being particularly mindful of diversity on the bench and will likely nominate a minority candidate to succeed Flemming Norcott Jr. Norcott, the second black justice appointed to the state’s high court, is retiring.
Since taking office in 2011 Malloy has nominated the first Latina justice, the third black justice, and the first gay jurist, who is one of only seven LGBT state Supreme Court justices in the United States.
A spokesman for the governor is quoted saying, “The governor has always been deeply committed to nominating highly qualified, experienced individuals of diverse backgrounds to serve on the bench… He will be considering additional candidates over the coming months, and will announce them accordingly.”
Justice at Stake is also contributing to the work of increasing diversity on the bench. In coordination with partners, Justice at Stake is engaged in a five-year multi-state effort to promote diversity on the state bench by building a pipeline for future judges of diverse backgrounds. More information on this work can be found here.
A nonprofit group called Advocacy for Action is speaking out to urge concrete steps to increase diversity on the federal and state benches in Georgia.
On the Fulton County Superior Court, the group notes, African-American judges have declined from 44 percent in 2002 to 30 percent last year. And while the state’s black population is 31 percent, African-American judges make up only 19 percent of the active federal judiciary in the state.
“The goal of a representative judiciary is far from being realized in the courts which most directly affect the people of Georgia. To the contrary, the State’s historic progress in the direction of a representative judiciary has stalled and, in some cases, it has been reversed,” Advocacy for Action states in a blog of the Southern Regional Council. Read more
President Barack Obama nominated Theodore Chuang and George Hazel for federal judgeships in the U.S. District Court of Maryland yesterday. If confirmed, Chuang would be the first person of Asian descent to serve as a federal judge in Maryland as well as the first Article III judge of Asian descent in any court covered by the Fourth Circuit.
In a statement from the executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA), Tina Matsuoka stated, “Mr. Chuang is exceptionally qualified to serve on the federal judiciary in Maryland. We also applaud President Obama’s ongoing commitment to nominating qualified Asian Pacific Americans to serve on the federal courts.” A press release from NAPABA noted that if all nominees are confirmed by the Senate, the number of Asian Pacific American federal judges will be more than tripled during the Obama Administration.
The Blog of Legal Times wrote that Chuang has been deputy general counsel at Homeland Security since 2009, having previously worked in the House committees on Energy and Commerce and Oversight and Government Reform as investigative counsel.
Chuang’s nomination is a milestone for diversity on the bench. Justice at Stake is currently engaged in a five-year judicial diversity pilot project to build a pipeline for future judges of diverse backgrounds, and to encourage fairness in judicial selection in Maryland and other states. For more information on this ongoing project, read more here.
On the 32nd anniversary of now-retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s taking the oath of office for the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Ruth Ginsburg has written a personal tribute to her trailblazing colleague. It also addresses diversity on the bench, without using that phrase.
In Politico, Justice Ginsburg salutes the ways in which Justice O’Connor has opened the doors for — and inspired — others, her direct and respectful manner on the court, and the ways in which Justice O’Connor “has done more to promote collegiality among the court’s members, and with our counterparts abroad, than any other justice.”
The piece was written for a Politico series called “Women Rule.” In 1981, Justice O’Connor became the first woman in history to sit on the Supreme Court. Justice Ginsburg spotlights the following remark by Justice O’Connor from 1990 about women moving into seats of power:
“For both men and women the first step in getting power is to become visible to others, and then to put on an impressive show. … As women achieve power, the barriers will fall. As society sees what women can do, as women see what women can do, there will be more women out there doing things, and we’ll all be better off for it.”
Remarking on her time on the court with Justice O’Connor, Justice Ginsburg notes, “In the 12½ years we served together, court watchers have seen that women speak in different voices, and hold different views, just as men do.” Read more
Harvard law professor David Jeremiah Barron was nominated by President Obama to sit on the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He previously served as acting assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, according to the Blog of Legal Times.
When he was at the Office of Legal Counsel, Barron co-authored a secret legal memorandum “that opened the door to the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki,” according to a New York Times report in October 2011. An armed drone attack killed U.S.-born Muslim cleric al-Awlaki in Yemen.
The White House also announced the nominations of Mark G. Mastroianni and Indira Talwani for District Court judgeships in Massachusetts. The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association hailed the nomination of Talwani, saying she would, if confirmed, become only the second female Article III judge of South Asian descent nationwide, and the first person of Asian descent to serve as federal judge in Massachusetts. NAPABA is a JAS partner organization.
The Senate has voted 98-0 to confirm Todd Hughes, deputy director of the U.S. Justice Department’s commercial litigation branch, to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. He will be the first openly gay judge to sit on a U.S. appeals bench.
Hughes’ confirmation was noted as a milestone for judicial diversity.
“I am proud that today the Senate is finally taking this critical step to break down another barrier and increase diversity on our Federal bench,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to USA Today.
The Alliance for Justice applauded his confirmation, saying the group has pushed for “a federal judiciary that reflects the full diversity of America and a confirmation process that evaluates candidates based on their legal expertise, not how they look or who they love.”
According to the Washington Post, White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler wrote in a blog post that the confirmation marked “yet another ‘first’ among President Obama’s judges,” and she added: “We look forward to the ‘seconds’ and ‘thirds’ who will come after Todd Hughes and his fellow ‘firsts’ currently serving on our courts.” Read more
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has withdrawn his earlier support for President Obama’s nomination of Judge William Thomas for the federal district court in Florida.
Judge Thomas would have become the first openly gay African American man serving on the federal bench if confirmed. But Rubio’s withdrawal of support means that the nomination is effectively blocked, according to the New York Times, which quoted supporters of the judge as contending politics, not qualifications, apparently drove the Republican senator’s stance.
A Rubio spokeswoman said questions had surfaced regarding the jurist’s “fitness” to serve on the federal bench, and they included questions about “his judicial temperament” and “willingness to impose appropriate criminal sentences.” The Times article examined in detail Rubio’s concerns about sentencing in two criminal cases, including one in which the prosecutor and the circuit’s administrative judge had defended Judge Thomas’s conduct as fair and lawful.
“As much as I would like to think that politics has nothing to do with this, it looks as if it does,” said Yolanda Strader, president of the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. Bar Association, an organization of black attorneys. “It would be unfair to prevent a well-qualified judicial nominee from proceeding with the nomination process because he is an openly gay black male.” Read more
President Obama’s latest group of nominees for the federal bench includes an Arizonan who would make history if she were confirmed.
Diane Humetewa of the Hopi Tribe (photo) would become the first female Native American to serve on the bench, according to the Arizona Republic, and the sole active member of a native American tribe to serve at the current time. (One senior federal judge is part Native American and learned of his heritage when he was already on the bench.)
Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond who tracks judicial nominations, told the newspaper that diversity on the bench can help deliver better decisions. “You have people with different life experiences … and it’s good to have people whom if you have a disproportionate number of minorities who end up in the criminal-justice system, it gives confidence in the system,” he said.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., praised the selection of Humetewa and three other nominees announced by the White House for federal judgeships in Arizona. The nominees were selected after White House consultation with McCain and fellow Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona. Read more
U.S. District Court Chief Judge Roslyn Silver is the first woman to hold the top federal judicial post in the District of Arizona. Court officials have announced that she will step down from her position on September 3rd and be replaced by Judge Raner C. Collins. A report from kpho.com notes that Collins will be the first African American chief judge in the district.
Silver was appointed to the federal bench by then President Bill Clinton in 1994. The Associated Press reported that Silver assumed her current position as chief justice after Chief Judge John Roll and five others were killed in the 2011 Tucson shooting that wounded former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 12 others.
The district has not received a new judgeship since 2002 and has six judicial vacancies out of 13 current positions. Ten additional judgeships have been recommended for the district by the Federal Judgeship Act of 2013. Vacancies coupled with budget cuts that have created additional challenges that Collins will have to handle in his new position.
Justice at Stake is currently engaged in a five-year judicial diversity pilot project to build a pipeline for future judges of diverse backgrounds in Arizona as well as in other states. More information on this work can be found here.