Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Diversity on the Bench' Category

Lack of Diverse Maryland Judicial Nominees Questioned

Concerns are being raised about the lack of diversity among candidates for two openings on the Anne Arundel County, Maryland circuit court.

The Capital Gazette reports that no minority candidates are on the list of 11 that was sent to Gov. Martin O’Malley, and proponents of a diverse bench note that it has been 10 years since an African-American served on that court.

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Though Senate Confirms Many Judges, Some Nominees Left in Limbo

The Senate adjourned this week after having confirmed the most federal judges in a two-year Congress since 1980, the Washington Post reported. At the same time, opposition left some judicial nominees in limbo.

One was Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Michael Boggs, according to RH Reality Check. He had encountered outcries from leading Democrats and some groups supporting them over  past positions taken by then-legislator Boggs on volatile issues including the Confederate flag, abortion rights and marriage for same-sex couples (see Gavel Grab).

Another was Jennifer May-Parker, nominated for the Eastern District of North Carolina, according to the Greensboro (N.C.) News & Record. Her nomination became stalled after Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., blocked it through an arcane Senate procedure called the “blue slip” (see Gavel Grab), without publicly explaining his reason. Read more

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Will Senate Wrap Up Work By Confirming 12 More Judges?

CapitolflagIn the final days of its lame-duck session, the Senate could confirm as many as 12 judicial nominees, the Associated Press said. If that happens, President Obama will have won confirmation of 88 judge nominees this year, more than any president since 1994.

“He’s changed the face of the judiciary,” said scholar Russell Wheeler of the Brookings Institution. “Whether or not that will have a long-term impact, I think, is another question.”

In November 2013 the Democrat-led Senate voted to change its rules to eliminate filibusters of cabinet nominees and federal judges other than Supreme Court justices. The change has meant that these nominees require only a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than an effective supermajority of 60 votes, for confirmation. Since the rules change, the Senate’s confirmation of judges has accelerated. Read more

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Brown’s Nominee Would Increase Diversity on California High Court

KrugerGov. Jerry Brown has announced he will nominate Leondra Kruger, a U.S. Justice Department official who has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, to sit on the California Supreme Court.

Kruger is 38 and would be the youngest appointee to the court in its history, a law professor told the Los Angeles Times. She is African American and would be the sole African American on the state’s highest court.

If confirmed, Kruger would join Brown’s two other appointees, who are 44 and 42, in bringing down the court’s age considerably. In addition they figure into Brown’s “emphasis on diversifying the state’s bench,” the San Jose Mercury News reported. Kruger would be the second African American woman to serve on the court. Read more

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Florida Judge Apologizes Over Election Night Statement

6a00d83451b26169e201bb079e549f970d-800wiMiami-Dade Judge Jacqueline Schwartz made remarks through her spokesman on election night about having defeated a “nondescript Hispanic.” Now she is retracting, apologizing, and saying she will ask for the courts to “participate” in judicial diversity training, according to a Miami Herald blog.

The Cuban American Bar Association said earlier in a letter to the judge that it found her remarks “troubling” and “incompatible with your duties as a judge and with the dignity of judicial office.” After Judge Schwartz defeated lawyer Frank Bocanegra for reelection, she said through her campaign manager that voters had “gone past the days when any nondescript Hispanic could go on the ballot and defeat any Anglo sitting judge.” Read more

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Lithwick: High Court’s ‘Thoroughbreds’ Lack Diversity of Experience

Supreme_Court_US_2010What’s the recipe for choosing members for a Supreme Court that will deliver the soundest kind of justice? In an intriguing New Republic essay, Dahlia Lithwick suggests that a key ingredient is diversity of experience, and that it sorely lacking on the current court.

The current justices are brainy, Ivy League-trained, cloistered and removed from many realities facing the American public, she writes. Over the years, a selection process for its members has developed that “discourages political or advocacy experience and reduces the path to the Supreme Court to a funnel: elite schools beget elite judicial clerkships beget elite federal judgeships. Rinse, repeat.”

The result? Lithwick says it is “nine perfect judicial thoroughbreds who have spent their entire adulthoods on the same lofty, narrow trajectory” and a number of “confounding” opinions. Lithwick concludes: Read more

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Commentary: Senate Should Confirm Judges in Lame-Duck Session

Capitol_domeAfter Republicans campaigned on the notion of ending gridlock in Washington, it would be wise for Senate Republicans to help confirm judicial nominees — and expand diversity on the bench — in the lame-duck session, an advocate contends.

“The Senate should move quickly to diversify North Carolina’s all-white district court bench and confirm the first black women to Georgia’s federal bench. African-American nominees to district courts in California, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Texas should be confirmed by the end of the session,” Leslie Proll urged in a commentary at The Root.

Proll is director of the Washington, D.C., office of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

Meanwhile the Associated Press reported, “Democrats’ hopes to confirm Obama nominees limited.”

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Justices Raise Concerns of Diversity on the Supreme Court


“I do think we should be concerned that virtually all of us are from two law schools,” says U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, according to  an Associated Press article.

All nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court attended either Yale or Harvard University, leading to Thomas’s concern over “such a strong Northeastern orientation.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor broadened the concern to include the lack of diverse legal experience, saying that most of the justices come from big law firms and few from middle courts.

“We need diversity of not just life experience, but legal experience,” Sotomayor said. Their remarks came at an event at Yale honoring alums on the Supreme Court. For information about the benefits of diversity see Justice at Stake.

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Opinion: Consider Diversity in Filling Appeals Court Vacancy

11th Circuit

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 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.

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New York Report: 'Judicial Diversity: A Work in Progress'


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.”

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