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Archive for the 'Diversity on the Bench' Category

Three Nominated for Federal Trial Bench in Texas

For the federal trial court in Texas, where judicial vacancies have been described at a “crisis point,” President Obama has nominated three individuals.  The Dallas Morning News said the White House had reached an apparent deal with the state’s Republican U.S. senators.

The  nominees are U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman of San Antonio, Texarkana lawyer Robert Schroeder III, and Sherman Magistrate Judge Amos Mazzant III. Pitman, if confirmed, would become the first openly gay federal judge in Texas.

“Any nominations are critically important, as Texas desperately needs to have as many of its nine district and two circuit vacancies filled,” Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor, told the newspaper. “The judges are overwhelmed by crushing case loads and too few judicial resources.” Read more

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Media Spotlight on Lack of Judicial Diversity in Florida



Florida’s news media is continuing to hammer away in opinion and news reports about a lack of judicial diversity in the state. In the latest instance, the Ocala Star-Banner reports, “Bar president dismayed by lack of judicial diversity.”

The Star-Banner article zeroes in on the retirement of a judge from the 5th Judicial Circuit. More than 30 judges have jurisdiction there, but since the retirement of Judge Sandra Edwards-Stephens last year, not one of them is a minority.

“We can’t have a state that is becoming more diverse in its population that has a judiciary going in the opposite (direction),” said Eugene Pettis, outgoing president of the Florida Bar. The article says he has brought his concerns to Gov. Rick Scott’s attention, and a task force of the Bar has recently issued a report on ways to enhance Florida’s judicial diversity. Read more

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Retiring Delaware Justice: She Wasn’t Taken Seriously for Top Post

JusticeBerger.tifThe uneven playing field that women face in Delaware’s state judiciary is exemplified by the failure of Gov. Jack Markell to take her seriously as a candidate for Chief Justice, says a trailblazing associate justice who is retiring early.

Justice Carolyn Berger, the only woman on the Delaware Supreme Court, told the News Journal:

“Women have made some progress on the family court, superior court and court of common pleas. But family court is the only court ever to have a woman chief judge. The court of chancery has had no women judges for the past 20 years, despite the fact that several well-qualified women have applied in the past. And I’ve been the only woman on the supreme court. Many other states have more than one woman justice, and in several jurisdictions, women justices outnumber male justices.” Read more

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Editorial: A Path to Greater Judicial Diversity in Florida

When dozens of seats on judicial screening commissions become vacant next month, Florida Gov. Rick Scott ought to name more minorities to the panels in order to ultimately help diversify the state’s judiciary, a Sun-Sentinel editorial contends.

The governor ought to heed a recent report by a Florida Bar task force, highlighting the few women and minorities who are state judges, and take advantage of a list of diverse candidates for the judicial screening commissions who were recruited by the Bar, the editorial says: Read more

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President Obama Praised for Diversifying Federal Judiciary

An article on titled “Openly Gay Federal Judges Are Obama’s Most Enduring Gay Rights Achievement” highlights the importance of diversity on the bench.

The article noted that President Barack Obama has added a lot of diversity to the federal judiciary, including Judge Darrin Gayles who was confirmed 97-0. He becomes the first openly gay African American man to serve in the federal judiciary.

“This is really an astonishing achievement. For most of the 20th century, gay people were driven from government jobs and vilified as too perverted and aberrant to work in even the most low-level positions. Today, they populate the most esteemed positions the government has to offer,” the article stated.

See Gavel Grab for more on Tuesday’s historic confirmations.

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Senate Confirms Diverse Judges, JAS Notes Milestones

CapitolflagNoting the U.S. Senate’s historic confirmation this week of three judges of diverse backgrounds, Justice at Stake said a diverse bench serves all and strengthens public confidence in the judiciary.

“Justice at Stake believes all Americans deserve a diverse and fully staffed judiciary, which sends the message that all people can expect to receive fair and timely treatment in court,” JAS Deputy Director of Federal Affairs and Diversity Initiatives Liz Fujii said in a statement.

The following judges were confirmed on Tuesday: Darrin Gayles, who is the first openly gay African American man to receive a lifetime appointment as a U.S. federal judge, will serve on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida;  Salvador Mendoza will be the first Hispanic judge to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington; and Staci Yandle will be the first African American to serve on U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois and the first openly gay Article III judge in Illinois. Read more

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Historic Nomination Announced for Massachusetts High Court

ADP_5114.JPGMassachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has nominated Geraldine S. Hines, an appeals court judge, for elevation to the state’s Supreme Judicial Court. If confirmed, she would become the first black female to sit on the state’s highest court.

Patrick has appointed 158 judges who now sit in Massachusetts courthouses. Eighteen percent belong to minority groups. That’s a significant increase, the Boston Globe reported, from 2008, when 10.2 percent of his judicial nominees came from minority groups, and he received criticism from a number of people including Hines.

Meanwhile, a lack of diversity on the local bench in the Jacksonville, Fla. area was spotlighted by a lengthy Florida Times-Union article. ”Number of black judges in Jacksonville area low, concerning many,” the headline stated. Read more

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Milestone for Diversity on U.S. Bench in California

Judge Chhabria

Judge Chhabria

When Vincent Chhabria took the oath of office as a judge this week, he became the first person of South Asian descent to sit on the federal court in California, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Chhabria formerly worked on the staff of the San Francisco city attorney.

A sports fan, Chhabria offered his own version of the comparison of judges to umpires. He noted that an umpire often will give some leeway on the close calls to a pitcher who shows command of the strike zone. That would not be his practice, he said: Read more

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Latest Confirmed U.S. Judges Will Expand Diversity

New judges confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Tuesday will expand gender, racial and professional diversity in the federal court system.

On a 58-35 vote, Richard Boulware, a federal public defender, was confirmed to the U.S. District Court for Nevada. He will be the first African American male on the federal bench in Nevada, the Las Vegas Sun reported.

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Editorial: A ‘New Course’ Needed for Judicial Diversity in Florida

When Florida Gov. Rick Scott makes dozens of appointments to judicial nominating commissions this month, he needs to alert the new members to the importance of judicial diversity, a Tampa Bay Times editorial declares.

florida-state-flag“The governor, who previously has played partisan politics in choosing commission members, needs to set a new course and make clear to his appointees to the Judicial Nominating Commissions that a diverse judiciary is in the interest of all Floridians,” the editorial says. It draws heavily from a Florida Bar task force report that documented declining judicial diversity in Florida.

“The legitimacy of the judicial system rests on its ability to reflect the society it serves,” the editorial says. It then cites the current data underscoring why it says Scott must do better: “Florida’s judiciary is 84 percent white in a state that is 57 percent white. The state is 23.2 percent Hispanic and 16.6 percent black, but the judiciary is only 8.8 percent Hispanic and 6.6 percent black.”

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