by Off The Sidelines | October 11, 2011
Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings for several judicial nominees including Ronnie Abrams, President Obama's nominee to the US District Court for the Southern District of NY. Kirsten -- who had recommended Ms. Abrams for the post -- was on hand to introduce her at the hearing and she used the opportunity to make the case for more women on the bench.
There is no question that Ms. Abrams is extremely well qualified and well suited to serve as a federal court judge. I strongly believe this country needs more women like her serving in the federal judiciary – an institution I believe needs more exceptional women.
Over the last several years, the number of women in the federal judiciary has stagnated – hovering at roughly 500 – less than a third of the federal bench.
While it’s true that women have come a long way in filling the ranks of the legal world, we still have a long way to go to equality.
I believe it is incredibly important that we do – because when we reach equality on the federal bench, we can come closer to full equality and justice throughout our legal system.
The New York Times in an editorial over the weekend, echoed Kirsten's concern:
More women have joined the bench in the last three decades, but progress in that arena has been slow as well. While three women are on the Supreme Court, as of last year women made up only 22 percent of the federal judiciary and 26 percent of state judges. No state has equal representation of women on the bench.
The good news is, thanks to many of President Obama's nominations, we are making progress on this front. Marcia Greenberger of the National Women's Law Center provides this update:
Recently, the Senate confirmed six judicial nominees, four of whom were women: Nannette Jolivette Brown to the Eastern District of Louisiana, Nancy Torresen to the District of Maine, Marina Garcia Marmolejo to the Southern District of Texas, and Jennifer Guerin Zipps to the District of Arizona. Not only did the confirmation of these women bring the total number of women confirmed to the federal bench during the Obama Administration to 50 (47% of all confirmed nominees), but two of these nominees broke glass ceilings in their jurisdictions -- Judge Brown will be the first African-American woman on the Eastern District of Louisiana, and Judge Torreson will be the first woman to sit on the district court of Maine.
Greenberger notes that, while these firsts are important, so are the seconds, thirds and fourths, because...
When almost half of law students are women, it is more important than ever that women be fairly represented in the federal judiciary. Furthermore, the increased presence of women on the bench improves the quality of justice: women judges can enrich courts' understanding of how best to realize the intended purpose and effect of the law that the courts are charged with applying.
When our federal courts are diverse, they are more reflective of the diverse population of this nation. When our courts are diverse, people around the country may have more confidence that the court understands the real-world implications of its rulings.