Gavel Grab

Cathy Allen, LWV Advocates Judicial Diversity in Washington State

At a League of Women Voters hosted event entitled, “Why are we voting for judges anyway,” political consultant Cathy Allen advocated for a more diverse bench in Washington State. The event was held on May 19th in Bellingham. Allen, the president of the Connections Group, works to increase the number of underrepresented groups in office, including judicial office. You can read the Bellingham Herald’s report on the event here.

Allen stated that elections can produce a more diverse judiciary, but the electorate must be more engaged in judicial races. After raising the issue of voter drop off on the races listed lower on the ballot, Allen said, “It’s not so important to tell people to vote for you…as is it to tell people to finish their ballot.” Cathy Allen has been instrumental to Justice at Stake’s judicial diversity pilot program currently underway in Washington State, leading a number of How To Be a Judge trainings for the program. For more information on JAS’s work on judicial diversity, visit our website here.

Whatcom County, the county that serves Bellingham, has never had a woman judge serve on its Superior Court. There is a chance this will change in November; two women, attorneys Carrie Coppinger Carter and Deborra Garrett, and one man, District Court Judge David Grant, are running for an open seat on that court.

In other diversity news, the San Francisco Gate reported that California Governor Jerry Brown appointed three diverse candidates to the state’s courts, two of whom were firsts for their courts. Judy Johnson, former Executive Director of the California State Bar, was appointed to the Contra Costa County Superior Court. Miguel Marquez was appointed to the Sixth District Court of Appeals; once he is confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments, Marquez will be the first Latino to serve on that court, which hears appeals cases from Santa Clara, Monterey and Santa Cruz counties. Those counties serve a Latino/a community that is almost 40% of the population. Halim Dhanidina was appointed Los Angeles County Superior Court. Dhanidina is the first Muslim to be appointed to a California State court; she said her appointment sends a message to Muslim Americans that “access and power within the system are achievable goals.”

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