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Archive for the 'Diversity on the Bench' Category

For Massachusetts High Court, a Historic Confirmation

Superior Court Justice Geraldine Hines will become the first African-American woman to serve on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. The Governor’s Council voted 8-0 to approve her nomination, the Associated Press reported.

Justice Hines, a Mississippi native, also has worked as a law professor and as a private attorney specializing in criminal defense and civil rights litigation. She was nominated for the state’s top court by Gov. Deval Patrick.

“Looking back on my humble beginnings as a child of the segregated South and all that Jim Crow represents, a flood of emotions washes over me,” Justice Hines said after she was nominated. A recent State House News Service has more about her background and views on judging.

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Retiring Florida Judge Cites Need for Judicial Diversity

1404759515000-118409161Chief Judge Belvin Perry of Florida’s Ninth Judicial Circuit has announced his intention to retire. Judge Perry, who is African American, said he has a major concern that Florida’s judiciary become more diverse and more reflective of the public it serves.

“My only concern is a concern that has been voiced by a number of people — that we have more diversity in the bench that reflects this community,” Judge Perry said, according to “And, that’s my major concern. That’s an issue that was worked on by the Florida Bar. And, we’ve had some recommendations. I was very encouraged by the governor’s last appointment of Judge Tanya Wilson to the bench. But, there’s still much to be done.” Read more

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First Cuban-American Chief Justice Takes Oath in Florida

-court090712gb15.jpg20120907“This is the way our judicial system should look,” Jorge Labarga said after taking the oath of office Monday to become Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court.

He is the first Cuban-American to become Chief Justice in Florida, and from the court’s dais, he extended his arms toward his six fellow justices, according to the Miami Herald. They include a white woman, an African-American man, an African-American woman, and three white men.

Justice Labarga was appointed to the circuit court by Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles in 1996, and to the Supreme Court by then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist in 2009. He was selected Chief Justice by his colleagues.

“Chief Justice Labarga is the first Cuban-American to ascend to chief justice, but he is also the first justice of Hispanic descent to ascend to chief justice,” former Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero said, according to The Sun-Sentinel. “This is a very proud moment for all Hispanics.”

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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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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