Comment: We need more LGBTQ judges on the federal bench


Today in California, where around 100 judges preside over federal trial and appeal courts, only two are openly LGBTQ.

LGBTQ Californians make up over 5% of the state’s adult population and over 11% of the state’s youth. Yet there is only one openly LGBTQ judge among the state’s 74 federal district court judges and only one among the 29 active 9th Circuit appellate judges. It’s time for our two Senators and President Joe Biden to address this lack of diversity on the bench.

Every day, federal judges make decisions that significantly affect our lives. They determine the scope of our fundamental rights, ensure fairness in criminal proceedings and sometimes make decisions that change the course of history.

While federal courts strive to be above the fray, their decisions are often viewed through the prism of partisan politics. But even when court decisions may be unpopular, they have more credibility when made by a justice system that reflects the full diversity of the nation.

While someone must lose in almost every court case, what is essential is that everyone feels that they have had their “day in court” – that their arguments have been heard and considered fairly. But it is difficult for people to have that faith when the judiciary does not have the prospect of a marginalized community that has often been denied equal rights under the law.

Many LGBTQ people who interact with the justice system do not feel they have equal access to justice. Studies in a number of states, including California, have consistently shown that LGBTQ litigants, witnesses and jurors report negative interactions with the justice system, including harmful comments and actions towards LGBTQ people. The way they are treated and the negative things they hear in courtrooms, as well as what they see – or don’t see – on the bench is changing the culture of the courtroom and the way it is. perception of justice.

Beyond the issue of public confidence in the legal system, diversity also improves decision-making. Research in the business world shows that having diverse teams in general can lead to more factual, prudent and creative decisions. LGBTQ-friendly policies and work environments lead to better engagement and job satisfaction, workplace relationships, health outcomes and productivity among LGBTQ employees – all victories for organizations.

And research has specifically shown that diversity in judicial decision-making affects the development of the law. A study of the results in civil rights cases found that plaintiffs were twice as likely to win if a female judge was on the appeal committee hearing the case, indicating that even though the committee was overwhelmingly male, male judges were likely to view a case differently if a female judge participated in the deliberations.

Indeed, despite the common representation of solitary judges proclaiming from the bench, the law is in fact shaped over time by many judges in conversation with one another. Whether reviewing precedents written by other judges, reviewing lower court decisions of appellate courts, or collaborating on panels, judges do not work in isolation.

Just as Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg referred to her experience as a 13-year-old girl to assess the damage caused by a strip search of a student at school, and Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s approach in matter of police arrests was briefed upon hearing her brother get the ‘talk’ that black and brown parents regularly give to their sons, LGBTQ judges will also bring their life experiences to the collaborative process that decides affairs and develops the law .

Sense. Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla supported the diversification of the federal judiciary in California this year, and the president appointed an exceptional group of candidates from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds from California to “ensure that national courts reflect the diversity that is one of our greatest assets as a country, ”as a White House statement recently noted. And yet, this statement did not name or celebrate any member of the LGBTQ community.

During the previous administration, the Senate confirmed 226 of President Donald Trump’s candidates for the federal bench, reshaping the courts for years to come. The Biden administration has worked to make federal courts more like America. Feinstein and Padilla should use future recommendations to address the blatant under-representation of LGBTQ Californians in federal courts.

– Special at the Los Angeles Times

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