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Through his first six and a half years in office, President Obama has dramatically improved the demographic diversity of the federal judiciary. He has already nominated more than twice as many women (145) than did President George W. Bush in his entire eight years (71). Forty-two percent of Obama’s judicial nominees have been women, while the next best president, President Clinton, nominated just 29% women. Obama has also nominated more than twice as many non-white judges than President George W. Bush, and has named 13 LGBT nominees, far more than any other president. Only one openly gay nominee had been confirmed to a lifetime judgeship before President Obama took office. Without question, this historic effort to make the judiciary reflect the diversity of the American people has been essential to creating fair courts.
But a truly diverse judiciary is one that not only reflects the personal demographic diversity of the nation, but is also comprised of judges who have been advocates for clients across the socio-economic spectrum, seeking justice on behalf of everyday Americans. As this report details, the federal judiciary is currently lacking in judges with experience (a) working for public interest organizations; (b) as public defenders or indigent criminal defense attorneys; and (c) representing individual clients—like employees or consumers or personal injury plaintiffs—in private practice.
Now it’s time to broaden the bench. Importantly, the responsibility for this change extends beyond the President and the Senate, and lies with all those interested in the health of our justice system. To increase the professional diversity of our courts, Alliance for Justice calls upon:
- Lawyers with public interest backgrounds to seek out and apply for federal judgeships;
- Advocacy groups, lawyers, and others who work on judicial nominations to actively recruit judicial candidates with public interest and civil rights backgrounds;
- State judicial selection commissions and Senators to encourage lawyers with professionally diverse backgrounds to apply for judicial vacancies, and, in recommending nominees, to consider whether a candidate’s experience would add needed professional diversity to the judiciary;
- President Obama to make professional diversity a priority, and to work with home-state Senators to ensure that professional diversity improves across the entire federal judiciary.