The letter discussed in this release is available online at http://bit.ly/1fiRbq2

 WASHINGTON, D.C., March 27, 2014: More than 30 labor, civil rights, environmental, good government and other groups today released a letter urging Senators to support candidates for the federal judiciary who bring diverse professional experiences to the bench.

 An event in February hosted by Alliance for Justice and 13 other organizations brought to light the need for more federal judges who have experience working on behalf of the public interest, whether as public defenders, attorneys who represent individuals like employees or consumers, civil and human rights advocates, or lawyers at public interest organizations.   President Obama’s 2014 judicial nominees will help to meet this need, as three-quarters of them – nine out of 12 – have experience as criminal defense lawyers or plaintiffs’ attorneys.

“President Obama’s 2014 nominees are an important step toward bringing a balance of backgrounds to the federal judiciary,” said AFJ President Nan Aron.  “Today, we join more than 30 other organizations in urging Senators to use their vital role in the nominations process to help President Obama keep up the good work.”

The letter explains the value of professional diversity on the bench:

When a judge decides whether a claim is “plausible,”  or whether a witness is “credible,” or whether police officers, when they stopped and searched a pedestrian, acted “reasonably,” her determination is necessarily influenced by the nature of her work as a lawyer up to that point. Thus, when judges have varied professional backgrounds, they are equipped to understand the views of each litigant before them, and to render more informed, thorough decisions.

And it zeroes in on the key role of Senators, noting that

…the professional diversity of the president’s district court nominees depends largely on the selection process of each home state senator, and the candidates they recommend to the White House for nomination.

The letter urges Senators to:

  • Actively recruit and encourage lawyers with professionally diverse backgrounds to apply for judicial vacancies in their home states;
  • Consider whether a candidate’s experience would add needed professional diversity to the judiciary before making a recommendation to the president;
  • Consider professional diversity when assembling judicial selection commissions, and select commissioners who themselves have public interest experience; and
  • Support nominees both in their home states and in other states who have worked in the public interest and advocated for civil and human rights.

The letter is signed by:

AFSCME

Alliance for Justice

American Association for Justice

American Association of University Women (AAUW)

Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC)

Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance

Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law

Brennan Center for Justice

Center for Justice and Democracy

Common Cause

Communications Workers of America (CWA)

Defenders of Wildlife

Earthjustice

EarthRights International

Equal Justice Society

Equal Rights Advocates

The Feminist Majority

Human Rights Campaign

Justice at Stake

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

MALDEF

National Association of Social Workers (NASW)

National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC)

National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW)

National Education Association

National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA)

National Women’s Law Center

People for the American Way Foundation

Sikh American Legal Defense & Education Fund (SALDEF)

The UAW

Voices for Progress

Alliance for Justice (www.afj.org) is a national association of over 100 organizations, representing a broad array of groups committed to progressive values and the creation of an equitable, just, and free society. Through our justice programs, we lead the progressive community in the fight for a fair judiciary, and through our advocacy programs, we help nonprofits and foundations to realize their advocacy potential.