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Is Justice Blind?

OPB | Aug. 7, 2009 9 a.m. | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 8:56 p.m.

Judge Sonia Sotomayor was confirmed as the 111th justice of the Supreme Court today — the first Hispanic and the third female to serve on the court. Meanwhile, Senator Ron Wyden has been criticized for recommending five straight, white men to open federal judgeships. After the outcry from the legal community he added one more, Washington County Circut Court Judge, Marco Hernandez. But concern remains. Mark Johnson wrote on Blue Oregon:

I applied for these appointments, and I was not granted the courtesy of an interview. Based on my qualifications and the makeup of the committee, I presume that the reason is either (1) because I have represented unpopular causes on behalf of my community or (2) because I am “too gay.” I hope that the other candidates will speak up as well. In the meantime, I hope that “Ron” will do what he should have done when he received the committee’s recommendations, which is to reject them and start over.

In response to the criticism, Wyden’s chief of staff Josh Kardon said:

Senator Wyden had nine appointments to the judicial election committee, and six of his nine choices were women and people of color…. [A]fter devoting well over a hundred hours each to the task, they voted for the individuals who they believed were best qualified for the federal bench. No one was more disappointed to see no women, no minorities, and no representatives of the GLBT community merge from this process than Senator Wyden…. Senator Wyden is 100% committed to fighting for equality for all of America’s people, and recognizes that the struggle for equality must continue every day at every level of public and private enterprise. He has chosen precisely four federal judges over the course of his career. Of those four, one was the first African-American judge ever appointed to the Oregon bench and two were the first two women appointed to the Oregon bench.

Apart from Senator Wyden’s decisions, how important is diversity among judges? Have you ever stood before a judge and felt that race or gender or sexual orientation played a factor in understanding or decision making? Or do you believe that the law is blind to these factors? How important is diversity among our judges?

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