May I Approach? Courts and the Power of Inclusion

July 1, 2020

Launched in July 2020, May I Approach? is Building the Bench’s virtual conversation series highlighting the importance of experiential and demographic diversity for America’s courts.

Upcoming May I Approach? Events

Overcoming Stigma and Bias
on the Path to Judicial Diversity

August 12, 2020 at 7:00 PM ET

Alliance for Justice’s Building the Bench Initiative is partnering with The Coelho Center for Disability Law, Policy & Innovation, and the South Asian Bar Association of North America to present the next segment of its signature virtual discussion series, May I Approach?: Courts and the Power of Inclusion.  Join us at 7 PM EST/4 PM PST on August 12, 2020, for “Overcoming Stigma and Bias on the Path to Judicial Diversity,” a conversation about the difficult journey to the bench for people with disabilities and religious minorities, two highly stigmatized groups in American society.   

This second installment of “May I Approach?” will be moderated by Samuel Bagenstos, the Frank G. Millard Professor of Law at the University of Michigan School of Law. Confirmed panelists include

  • Justice Hamid Dhanidina of the California Court of Appeals, the first Muslim American appellate court judge; 
  • Justice Helen Whitener of the Supreme Court of Washington, one of the nation’s few judges with a declared disability;
  • Michael Waterstone, Dean of the Loyola Law School. 
  • Anthony “Tony” Coehlo, Former U.S. Representative 

Watch Previous May I Approach? Discussions

The Impact of Black Women as Appellate Judges
July 1, 2020

Currently, only eight Black women sit as justices on state supreme courts. In the entire 230-year history of Article III Courts, only eight of 794 federal appellate judges have been Black women. Five of those eight were nominated by Democratic presidents, and none of them by President Trump. Senate Republicans blocked two more of President Obama’s appointees, and President Trump instead filled those vacancies with white men. As Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby notes in her historical review of Black female judges, “Black women judges came to the ‘judicial’ table much later than Black men (by more than eighty years) and also much later than white women (by almost sixty years).”

  • The Honorable Justice Adrienne Nelson, the first African American to sit on the Oregon Supreme Court
  • Danielle Holley-Walker, Dean of the Howard University School of Law
  • The Honorable Bernice B. Donald, United States Circuit Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, and the first Black woman elected judge in the state of Tennessee
  • Melissa Murray, Professor & Faculty Director of the Birnbaum Women’s Leadership Network at NYU School of Law, and co-host of the Strict Scrutiny Podcast

Click here for highlights or watch the full discussion: