tv Federal Judges Discussion at Center for American Progress CSPAN October 6, 2019 4:51pm-6:01pm EDT
>> monday, the discussion on impact of a popular election on a residential campaign. next, a look into the lack of diversity in federal judges and .ow it impacts this is one hour and 10 minutes. >> good morning everyone. i am the executive vice president of external affairs at the center for american progress. i want to thank each and every one of you for joining this very important event. we are here to discuss a fundamental issue that strikes at the heart of our democratic values. if we truly believe that all americans deserve equal
treatment in the eyes of the law then we must ensure that our legal decisions are made by thats with backgrounds represent the experiences of all americans. study after study have shown that diverse groups solve problems in a more thoughtful and innovative way and arrive at more efficient and effective decisions and solutions. surprise that diversity among our federal judges in terms of their race and ethnicity, their gender, their sexual orientation, their gender identity, or religious affiliation and a professional background else produce a stronger justice system. it places greater power in the hands of people better understand the struggles of communities that have suffered discrimination and whose voices have been pushed to the margins
of our society for too long. it is crystal clear that our current judicial system fails to capture the breadth of the american experience. new report that i hope you all have copies of released just this morning by daniel roos, jake, and grace, finds that 80% of sitting federal judges are white and that more than 60% are white males. there is a disturbing lack of racial diversity on federal benches and fewer than 1% of all federal judges identified as lgbtq. it is true that some presidents in recent history took action to address these trends. most notably, president barack obama and his administration. but since entering the white
house, president donald trump has worked tirelessly to undermine and overturn such efforts. the trump administration, enabled by mitch mcconnell and senate republicans, has managed to confirm 152 of trump's judicial nominees, who are overwhelmingly white and male. 73% of trump's appointees have been male and more than 80% have been white. if progressives want to fully advance the causes we care so deeply about from protecting the rights of immigrants and people with disabilities, to expanding affordable health care and reforming our criminal justice system, that we must improve the diversity of our federal courts. that is why cap is so proud to host today's event and welcome an esteemed panel of experts
were committed to achieving this mission. with that, i have the great pleasure of turning the program over to chris kang, the cofounder and chief counsel at demand justice, who will moderate our conversation. [applause] chris: all right. welcome to this very important conversation on diversity in our judiciary. i would like to introduce our esteemed panel.
directly to my right is dean danielle holley-walker, dean and professor of law at howard university school of law, which, i'm sure you know, is the oldest historically black law school in the united states. she focuses her teaching on the federal court and inequality among education, among other subjects. prior to joining the howard faculty, she was associate dean and distinguished professor of law at the university of south carolina. to her right, we have andrea senteno, the regional counsel at the mexican american legal defense and education fund, also known as maldef. she has been responsible for maldef's work with immigrant detention, administrative relief, and legislative proposals. to her right, we have professor ganesh sitaraman, professor of law and director at vanderbilt. he recently wrote an article titled, "how to save the supreme court."
in 2017, he served as an acs academic advisor. he is also a senior fellow here at cap. last but not least, sharon mcgowan, chief strategy officer in legal director at lambda legal, an organization committed to achieving full rights for lgbtq individuals and people living with hiv. she served in the obama administration at the department of justice. she received awards for her role of convincing the administration to stop defending the so-called defense of marriage act among many other initiatives. we have a very esteemed and, appropriately enough, diverse panel here, with a lot of experience.
studying the courts, looking at how the courts fit into our democracy. on the one hand, we probably all understand why we are here and why it is important. on the other hand, it is probably worth talking about why diversity on the federal bench is so important. i think that maybe one great way to think about this conversation is with sharon, because the supreme court will be considering cases on tuesday regarding whether or not people can be fired based on sexual orientation or gender identity. less than 1%, probably about a dozen of our judges in the
federal bench, identify as being lgbtq. i think that is a good way to think about the impact of diversity on our courts. sharon, do you want to get started with why we are here? sharon: thank you very much. as i was telling our fellow panelists, we are in the countdown to the opening of the supreme court's term. we will have in argument on whether title vii, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, will also be determined to prohibit discrimination against gender identity. it is important to think about
diversity within this context because this case is very much a straightforward statutory construction case. this is about whether or not the term sex covers discrimination. when i am fired for having a wife but my male coworker is not, or if i can lose my job because my boss found out i transitioned or was assigned a different sex at birth. in many ways, we would argue it shouldn't matter who is sitting in the chair when you are looking at terms in statutes or principles that are often well ingrained into our jurisprudence. but what we know is that who sits in the chair does matter. one way in which it plays out in cases like the ones that will be heard on tuesday is that we have a lot of work to do about who lgbt people are, particular who transgender people are. we see people and the others making radical or divorced from facts arguments about who transgender people are, who the lgbtq community is. we have to assume that we have
to do that work in a way that if we had a full range of views, it might not be as necessary. when we think beyond the supreme court, to the courts of appeals where the overwhelming number of these cases are decided, there is an important moment of determining not just whether rights will be adjudicated fairly but also whether they will be treated with the respect they deserve. wave after wave of judicial nominations often just being rubberstamped. we have individuals who are not even willing to commit that they will refer to litigants in the courtroom by the appropriate
gender pronouns. we have appointments who are unwilling to confirm on the record that brown v. board of education was correctly decided. we know the precedents of even more recent vintage than cases like brown v. board of education. having individuals that are even capable of affirming some of the key precedents that have allowed us to make diversity and inclusion in our country is a sign of the precarious times we are in. chris: that is an interesting point. you don't have to be an lgbtq person yourself to understand the discrimination, just like you don't have to be a woman to understand these rulings coming down. but i think it is important to build the confidence in our democracy.
the other thing, we talk about diversity. just having this conversation expands already the conversation around diversity which centers around gender, race, now sexual orientation, gender identity. there is not enough data yet around religion or people with disabilities. the other aspect that is important or overlooked when we think about diversity is professional diversity. we think about having a judiciary that represents the breadth of american people but also of the legal profession, having more professional diversity is important as well. i know, ganesh, you have done some thinking about this. ganesh: thanks first to cap for having us today and putting together this great report.
it has some really arresting the statistics over time and just looking at the present. in terms of other kinds of diversity, we often talk about it but don't think through other ways we might think about diversity. we have a supreme court that does a pretty good job of representing the different boroughs of new york city but not the different regions of the country. a supreme court does a great job of representing harvard and yale law school. it doesn't do a great job of representing the rest of the country. we have a supreme court in federal courts that do a great job of representing corporate lawyers, prosecutors, but not a great job of representing workers, labor, consumers, public defenders. those parts of -- those discussions are less part of the background of people who get to the federal bench. he might ask why it is important
to have people from the west, the south, people who were public defenders, people who maybe had a different path to law school. part of it is that every judge brings a lot of background to cases, to thinking about facts, and brings an expertise of a lifetime of work to different sectors. we want a federal bench that has a lot of experience with different areas of the law, has been thinking about and hearing different kinds of arguments. that is good for the rule of law, good for the kind of deliberation we want on courts and among judicial panels or within the supreme court. that is something we are lacking in need to think more about with appointments going forward. christopher: when we think about how we get a more diverse
judiciary, to say president trump is turning the clock back would be generous as he has the fewest people of color nominated since president reagan and has not yet confirmed a single african-american or hispanic judge to the circuit court. he is reaching record numbers of circuit court judges. none of them have been african-american or hispanic. i think maldef and the african-american leadership in particular have taken a role in noting the need for diversity, saying they would oppose all circuit judges until president trump nominated an hispanic judge to the circuit court. and he has now done that. andrea, i wonder how you came to that position and what you will do now that donald trump has nominated a single latina to the
court? andrea: thank you for having me here. all of us are involved in our courts every day so making sure our courts are representative of america is important to everyone, historically underrepresented groups. -- not just to minorities and other historically underrepresented groups. for the national hispanic leadership agenda, a coalition of 45 latino national organizations across the country who are invested in everything from civil rights to the environment to health care, we look at the issues that we care about, which are the issues that everybody cares about. the fact that this particular president has been so terrible on his record of nominating
individuals from diverse backgrounds across all boards was just so absurd and unacceptable that we reached a point -- really, for us, the breaking point was that there was a retirement in the fifth circuit. the fifth circuit at the time had the highest proportion of latinos living in the circuit. today, the fifth circuit is almost 30% latino. and there are no -- no -- circuit judges on the fifth circuit that are latino. that hit a point where we felt it was incredibly important that we stake out a position that articulated how absurd this is. we took the position that we would oppose all circuit court judges until and when the president nominated and confirmed, the senate confirmed, a well-qualified hispanic judge. the reason we said
well-qualified, if you read the report, there is a good summary of the need for diversity on different fronts. descriptive versus substantive is what i think it characterizes it as. making sure you're able to say we have x percent latino or hispanic judges on the bench. looking at the judiciary as a whole, it is incredibly low compared to the general population for latinos. 6.6% of all federal judges are latino and we are over 18% of the population. the circuit court judges, the number gets far worse, particular with this president and who he is nominated. looking at both descriptive and substantive representative for
our communities. well-qualified is important for us. we look at the record. if they have not been a judge before, we look at the entirety of it we want descriptive diversity but we want to have substantive representation as well. we need to make sure that nobody -- not many -- nominee understands civil rights law, employment cases, the importance of the challenges that workers face when they come to the court seeking to enforce their rights, that they understand voting rights, immigration law. all of these things are so important for our community. particularly for maldef as an organization that litigates, we need to know that the nominees
being put forth and confirmed are qualified and competent to handle the cases. we are invested and not just descriptive representation, we need to make sure the judge is being put up are not just being put up as tokens but that they will be good, neutral arbiters of justice. that is how we will review the record of the recent nominee, barbara lagoa, for the 11th circuit. that's a positive sign. it is shameful it is taken in this long. that has taken him this long. -- has taken him this long. it is shameful that we don't have more nominees. that is not to say that even if she is confirmed, the work is done. this administration has a lot of work to do, and the country has a lot of work to do, to reach representation for all judicial positions.
christopher: conservatives often defend the record of president trump and even before that, president george w. bush, who was a little bit better but still nowhere near where he should've been. they say that the most important thing to them is judicial -- they state is not their fault they are not putting forward jute -- diverse judges, because they say that the most important thing to them is judicial philosophy, which they say they mean original-ism, adhering to a constitution that excluded women and people of color. to the extent that they are outcome-driven, can you blame them for having such a non-diverse judiciary? what will be the long-term outcome if only one president's nominees represent the diversity of this country and the other's doesn't? i will throw it out to anybody for thoughts on that.
sharon, i know you have thoughts on everything. sharon: i share your view that this has been an issue that has galvanized the right wing. they have had a long term game plan on this. it is not a coincidence that there are not necessarily binders full of women and people of color who are espousing their political philosophy. as you say, it is one that is not necessarily even consistently applied or genuine in its own terms because i think it is informed by certain outcomes is trying to achieve. i think what that means is that we need to make sure that when we are talking about diversity on the bench, we are challenging the narratives that i think we
have seen and i find particularly troubling, that anybody who is coming from a straight white male background should automatically be viewed with some skepticism because they might be an activist, they might have an agenda. judge vaughn walker, who was not out as an openly gay man when he was confirmed, but came out when he was on the bench, and they have now had somebody in this administration challenges -- challenge his ability to sit for a case on lgbt rights saying that he would inherently be biased. we saw justice baker motley face the same. i think inherent racism, homophobia, sexism comes into play. if you are white, male, straight, you were neutral. if you are not those things, you are presumptively biased, have an agenda. i think that plays out to the diversity of professions as well. the idea that somebody like ruth bader ginsburg comes out of a
background of aclu women's rights advocacy. no matter how well-established those cases now are in jurisprudence. we see what happened to a number of nominees in the obama administration, taking on clients that raised issues in the justice system inherently became questions that they were unable to be fair and impartial administers of justice. who can be fair, who is capable of being a good judge, and we need to think about the way that tracks along racism, homophobia, sexism, et cetera. danielle: one thing the report does a good job of bringing up is this notion that being a judge is the pinnacle of many
careers and our profession is doing a bad job of increasing diversity. we are at a point that the lack of diversity in the judiciary, yes it is about judicial philosophy, but at its core, it is about a lack of racial diversity and other kinds of diversity in our profession in general. right now, only about 14.5% of all lawyers are nonwhite. that means our judiciary is likely to do better than that if -- unlikely to do better than that if we have a profession that better reflects the diversity of the united states. only about 8% of all lawyers are african-american. same statistic for asian american. about 5% of all lawyers are hispanic. that means our profession is one that is not diverse. at the top of the profession including law firm partners and judges, we will see a tremendous lack of diversity. one of the things the report really does is talk about lack of diversity in the judiciary.
you cannot talk about it in isolation. there is no way to talk about it without talking about it in the legal profession. until we address the systemic problems in our profession, we will never get to a point where we have a diverse judiciary. taking about why this is so critical, there are whole slots of our society and fabric, when you have the eroding of basic democratic institutions like the judiciary, you end up with chaos. we are seeing the results of that in racial diversity and other kinds. i think it is very key to establishing to litigants and even people who do not find themselves in the court system,
you will see when you ask young people how they feel about going into our current criminal justice system, they express almost no confidence in what is happening in a core institution in our democracy until we address them at all these various levels at the top of the profession, we will not see that confidence grow. without that, we are in serious jeopardy. christopher: i will stick with you because it is your job on how to get the law students at your school to the highest levels. what are you doing it howard to sort of lift these lawyers up? danielle: this is my sixth year at howard.
before that, i talked at -- taught at predominantly white institutions and i attended a predominantly white law school. one thing i recognized is 50% of african-american lawyers graduated from an hbcu. 80% of african-american judges went to a historically black college or institution. we don't think about those fundamentals when we talk about diversity in the judiciary. a lot of times, we will take judicial education, recruiting of judges, everywhere except for the place you can actually find the people who can fill those slots. we ignore the institutions that have a track record of producing diverse visuals.
-- individuals for this profession. i would say the same about hispanic serving institutions. pipeline programs are important in general. we have a program at howard where we are partnering with the federal judiciary to do recruitment fairs where they talk about how you pipeline into the federal judiciary at howard, so actually at the law school, inviting them to come there to do general panels that are for everyone but to do them at sites where you are likely to get a diverse group of lawyers. another thing is to educate people about what are considered the prerequisites to being a judge. a lot of law students do not understand that aspect. the importance of judicial clerkship, networking with organizations like acs to make sure they are thought of in that same group of people being recruited for the judiciary. making the pipeline very clear.
i would really encourage, and i think what we see in the report, is to ask ourselves the hard question. if we are to recruit more lgbt judges, what are the places we can find people to recruit? if we consider these same patterns for recruitment, we will never change the outcomes that we see in this report? the only way is to look at our fundamental way of doing all forms of recruitment in the profession. christopher: i think that is great in terms of sort of building on the big, systemic issues we have to think about. there are a lot of striking statistics that come out of this report, but one that was compelling to me is we think about the usual markers of becoming a judge. one thing we are familiar with is a clerkship your first year out of law school, which intuitively i think to be dominated by white and male lawyers.
ganesh mentioned in particular the supreme court, but i think overall our courts are dominated by lawyers who went to these top 14, top 20 law schools. 68% of white students graduate from the top 30 law schools, compared to only 10% of hispanic and asian-american students and 5% of black students. when we think about how we are cutting down when we think about resumes and the most important thing is what law school you went to in whether or not you clerked, you are eliminating 90% of -- 95% of black lawyers, 90% of asian and hispanic lawyers. it was striking to me in the obama white house how important
a clerkship was. i admit i never did one. for those who did, we put the right amount of emphasis on the clerkship? it is the thing you do right out of law school. for your experience, is that a helpful indicator for becoming a judge or being a successful judge down the line? ganesh: i will start as a professor, saying, to any students out there considering applying for a clerkship, i encourage it. at the same time, i think people do put too much emphasis on clerkships in terms of, can you be an excellent jurist without having done a clerkship? of course you can. we have amazing jurists, some who have never done a clerkship. lawyers who spent years litigating cases, maybe they did a clerkship, maybe they did not. the reality is that no one is becoming a judge the year after they finish their clerkship.
they will spend a decade, two decades working as an attorney. sharon: you can be out of school for about five minutes and then you go to the ads boot camp and become a judge. [laughter] ganesh: we can look to that to see who is qualified, what kind of skills they have as lawyers that they would bring to the bench. i think there is a bit of an overemphasis. the things you did when you were younger should matter less and less as you get older because you have done a lot more things in the interim. the other thing i would add, a big component of how we should
think about who should be judges, where we get the pool of judges, is by encouraging people to apply and think about how the structures are for who gets to be a judge. there is a lot of variation state-by-state, senators by senators. in some cases, the selection of judges is almost who people know, who people are friends with, within their social networks. on the other hand, there are commissions to come together, take applicants, consider who they are. part of what we need to think about is, what are the systems we are designing to figure out who needs to be a judge? if we are relying on informal networks you will get a different system rather than an open application process. at the same time, we need to do a good job of encouraging people, if we have an open
system, to apply. one of the problems is people think, that is not something i could do. if you don't have the fancy degree, fancy clerkship, you might preemptively take yourself out even though you are actually extremely qualified and would bring the kind of commitment to rule of law values we want to see in our judges. part of it is really encouraging people as well to see that this is a possibility. sharon: i agree with that and i am sorry to have jokingly interjected. but my point is a serious one. the other side is putting forward the people they want on the bench. the extent that there is that self-selection of, i am not sure i am ready, we need to be encouraging the young leaders to be thinking about this as a profession. i also think it is important to
recognize that not only are there things like clerkships that have -- being inside chambers gives a lot of experience but there are other ways. this is the kind of place where economic barriers come into play. people talk about the financial burdens they begin their long careers with, the way he their long careers with, the way it channels them into different professions. i think we should also be thinking about state courts is -- as another pipeline that can potentially be enhancing diversity on the bench where there are easier access points or more varied access points as a way to make sure we are building.
it will not happen overnight. it really is something that is going to require a long-term investment before we see the kind of returns that are commensurate with where we are as a nation. christopher: i want to pick up on ganesh's point in encouraging people to apply. my experience helping president obama picking judges, interviewing them, one of the questions we would ask, why are you applying to be a judge? why are you here today in particular? disproportionately, women and people of color would say, because somebody told me to apply, somebody encouraged me to apply. this proportionately, white men said, i've been thinking about this since my conlaw class or since i read "to kill a mockingbird" in high school. it is part of to dream what you see.
when the judiciary is 80% white or 60% white male, you are conditioned from a young age. how can lawyers do a good job of proactively encouraging people to apply? andrea: from my perspective as a nonprofit lawyer, reading the report, i think 4% of people who work in the public interest are represented in the federal judiciary, which is incredibly sad. knowing that, there are obviously wonderful lawyers in all sectors, but the nonprofit sector is very underrepresented. there are some amazing, amazing people who dedicate their lives
to public interest work outside of the government. so looking at that, looking at the community that i have here as a latina lawyer, doing work that i know most of the time i will be in the minority when it comes to what room i sit in, the importance of bar associations can be helpful here. they work that the hispanic national bar does. the hispanic bar association of the district of columbia. i think it is really important in providing that kind of connection to professionals, judges, people who have done this before and have that knowledge base for attorneys looking for their next step and want to prepare themselves for potentially seeking a judgeship. what are the types of judgeships that will be interesting to me? do i want to be a magistrate judge? what is that workload like?
bar association's, of course in addition to law school, can be helpful in filling some of the knowledge gap. danielle: i can't agree more about the bar associations. the national bar association, the washington bar association, all of them are incredibly important to that recruitment effort. i think that we do have to think of all of these things as systemic. we can't do one-off programs, panels, things. what we need to do is have a more comprehensive and systemic way to address the issues of lack of diversity. for example, just the beginning foundation, a foundation for african-american title iii judges, they have a program for middle school students. middle school students take four weeks of classes all based in the law. a little mini torts class, a moot court competition. we hopefully will have a day when lawyers of color will be
able to say, the first time i thought about entering the judiciary was not only when i was in conlaw, but maybe when i did moot court in high school. i think the report points very well to this notion that every single effort we are engaged in, also, if we have failed up to this point, we have been going at the diversity and inclusion effort in our profession now for 50 years. if we are still at the point where we see the dismal record that is reflected in this report, we really have to sit back and ask ourselves, are we starting to late?
are we starting in college? that is too late. we need to be starting in middle school, high school, encouraging people from marginalized communities to come into the profession and reach for the highest parts of the profession. that is something that i think unless you do it from a systemic way very early, we will never be able to address this successfully. christopher: i think the other systemic piece we have to think about is that the entire process is a political one. as was said earlier, if you worry straight white male, you -- if you are a straight white male, you are seen to be neutral. if you are not, you are seen to be activist. that is certainly true if you look at the huffington post, they did a photo spread at one point of the judges nominated by there was onea
straight white man and the rest were diverse. that was not an accident. one of the reasons the fifth circuit doesn't have latino judges is having to overcome the obstruction by senators cornyn and cruz. they couldn't find hispanic judges they were willing to support. that goes on and on in terms of public defenders, and plaintiff lawyers and public interest lawyers, it seems to me, is where a lot of lawyers of colors go. they don't all go to the clerkship, corporate law partner track. that is why we are making a commitment not nominate any more corporate law partners. thank you, i will take the applause.
as a way of shaking it up, as a way of trying to upend the systemic biases within our system. i know you are not generally political practitioners, but the political side of this, how we can get senators, candidates, eventually a democratic president, to prioritize a more diverse judiciary with diversity encompassing everything we hope it could? sharon: i certainly would hope that those who did not have the lightbulb go off before now would recognize what is at stake. however much longer this administration lasts, we are looking at a federal judiciary that has now been stacked for -- with people who have been appointed who could serve for 30 or 40 years. we will have a trump judiciary for generations.
part of this is about recognizing the need to walk and chew gum at the same time. whatever issue you care about most, the federal judiciary should be the plus-one you are bringing to any party. i think, to the point that danielle was saying about different perceptions of credibility with respect to the judiciary, it is interesting the extent to which i think people still, while having skepticism about the judiciary in certain areas, still are holding on to hope that somehow the article iii judges will save us from the worst of this administration. we have seen injunctions but, again, we can't count on the courts to protect us if we haven't protected the court. part of it is placing it in a higher order of priority when progressive values are driving the agenda.
it is interesting that we are now looking at a 51 vote margin. that could result in greater willingness to put forward the public defender or nonprofit advocate, because there is this perception that i have to go with someone who is a least common denominator nominee. part of it will be about requiring progressives to actually have the same amount of courage of their convictions as the other side and not be afraid to put forth nominees that have records of advancing the constitution that includes all of us as opposed to individuals who have made their careers on the back of denigrating workers, eliminating protections for people of color, undermining the humanity of lgbtq people. part of this is having the courage of the convictions of our people that we have seen on the others.
andrea: i will just say, obviously, the appointment and confirmation of judges should be a nonpartisan commitment, confirming excellent judges, period. that being said, because of the structure of our system, hopefully what we see and what we can work to promote is this idea with the electorate, how much power they have and the accountability, holding elected officials accountable. you do have a role to play. for latinos, like i said, we are over 18% of the population but school-aged children, we are one in five. the face of the american electorate is going to get a lot more diverse. more latino but pairing that with the racial composition of the country, much more diverse as a whole. we need to say that we are holding our elected officials
accountable for promoting our interests in all parts of the government, and that includes the judiciary. if we are not seeing a judiciary that is representative of us, we need to remember who is responsible for that. we need to be calling offices, raising this with our senators, with the administration, whatever administration that is. even if we have a new administration in 2021, that administration is going to have a lot of work to do to catch up
and institute the structural change that has been talked about here. also remembering that this is about educating voters or the public about being engaged on this issue. danielle: i want to throw out one more idea about networking in politics. a lot of minority students or sexual orientation minority students, we encourage them not to be political because of the challenges around being seen as neutral, the challenges -- but that is where you make connections. if you don't go to fundraisers, don't get behind candidates, no one knows who you are. even if you are well-qualified, you don't have the political connections. i think we need to address encouraging that. i would jump on the bandwagon in terms of discouraging law firm partners. a lot of people who have been
appointed who are diverse candidates, especially african-american, come from big law. i think we should take on a commitment to not have nominations from harvard and yale. i say that as a graduate from both. let's make a firm commitment for the next democratic president appointing no judges from harvard and yale. i can guarantee you, based on the statistics you just said, we will have a much more racially, sexually, ethnically diverse population. that is one of the problems. i love president obama, one of my favorite people in the world, but is nominees of color looked just like the white nominees on paper. they went to the same schools, judicial clerkships.
that means you are narrowing it down. i hope the next democratic president will say, i refuse to follow this playbook, and change the entire paradigm of who they think is qualified. christopher: suddenly, no corporate lawyers seems very conservative. i actually am going to thing about that. that is fascinating. i want to make sure we have time for folks in the audience who might have questions for our delightful panel here. why don't we go down the -- >> i noticed one thing you didn't address his economic diversity. most lawyers tend to be very well-off people judging very poor people. how do we address that issue?
ganesh: it is a great question. it ties partly to the questions of professional diversity, what kind of backgrounds people come from. that can be both their own personal experiences but also the kind of work they do. we have lots of lawyers who do excellent work whose primary role is to represent poor people, working-class people, and we see few of them on the bench. there are few labor lawyers, public defenders on the bench, few people who work at nonprofits focused on those communities on the bench. you can spend a lot of time, you can be an excellent lawyer, really understand the intricacies of the legal system, and that brings a lot to the table. if you think about it, if you are a criminal defendant and every judge in the entirety of the judicial system had spent their whole career as a prosecutor, you would ask, do you really think you will get a fair shake?
there is a lot that comes from diversity of experience and backgrounds. if everyone has the same background, it's hard to believe anyone can get some -- a fair shake. it's why a lot of how polarized the courts are becoming as well. what we really want is to preserve the legitimacy of our courts and have a system with strong rule of law. people with lots of different backgrounds, experiences, and that gets to the economic piece of it as well. christopher: great. why don't we go to the next question? and to have a strong rule of law, and that means people with lots of different backgrounds with lots of different experiences. >> why don't we go to the next question. >> i would like to ask, what is the role of visiting the alliance of building the bench or alliance for justice, these organizations are for liberal judges, what roles do they have?
ganesh: i will not speak on behalf of alliance for justice, but i do know alliance for justice are building their network, trying to identify candidates to potentially be nominated by the next democratic president. i think that in some ways, they are formalizing this very informal sense of encouraging people to run or to throw their hat in to become a judge. i think part of this is is if we rely on the current infrastructure, it is, it is very circular. pick up the phone and you ask a judge, who do you think might be good to serve on your court? they will think back to former law clerks, and they think of their former partners or the prosecutors who they see in their court often, and they don't necessarily think about the people who are doing a lot of the other work who don't share the same social circles.
i think acs has been doing this work for some time. i am a little bit biased being on the order of advisors there, but the alliance for justice, as well, and they are partnering with other organizations to build these networks and start planning ahead, so that when there are vacancies coming up, we are not looking around for the first time saying, do you want to do it? how about you? but that we have been grooming people and hopefully it is a longer-term process than just looking for immediate vacancies. great question. >> i have a question about as we seek equity and justice by diversifying the judiciary, how do you think it plays out when you are kind of asking diverse people to uphold a system that itself is systematically discriminatory and racist? why should it result from a more diverse judiciary and set up overhauling the entire system? -- instead of overhauling the entire system? danielle: that is such a great question, and honestly, when i try to encourage students to get
clerkships, they say, that would require me to participate in a system i feel is fundamentally unjust and a racist system, so you are asking me to become a part of that system. i think what i always say is there is no way around it but through it, right? it is unlikely that you are going to build structural change completely from the outside of existing institutions, right? you have to understand the existing institutions. you have to be willing to participate in those institutions, understand them, and through that, create more avenues for structural change. but it is very unlikely that without understanding our current institution -- and i'm not saying you commit to doing that for the rest of your career. but i do think there is a lot to be learned from that system, and we all have our roles to play. while some people who are crusaders for justice, like judge damon keith, who recently passed away, he was a crusader for justice, who was a federal judge for most of his career. i give them examples of constance baker motley and
justice sotomayor, who are truly people who are interested in the progress and civil rights of all people, but they are doing it from inside the system, and that is possible. your classmates may be doing it from other places, more like what you see people on this stage doing, but there is a role for people who are interested in the structural overhaul of this system the playable inside the system. sharon: and i think the same critique could be made into lawyering positions, as well. i know the justice department i joined in 2010 was defending don't ask, don't tell, and i had to sort of make that choice when i was leaving an lgbt advocacy organization, it was i prepared
to put that part of my lawyering life on the shelf, knowing there was other work i would be able to do in that role? as it turns out, the right people, in the right place, at the right time, can often change institutions in radical and dramatic ways, but it does require sort of a personal decision about where your lines are, and what gives you value and satisfaction in terms of how you are using your professional life. and to the extent, certainly, that positions of lawyering within the government is a different timeline of judiciary, as well, and it should also be in the front and center. ganesh: in addition to the point that there are different roles for different people, and you might have preferences, it will take people on the outside and the inside to make progress. the other thing i would say is, you know, there are a lot of benefits for people who are on the outside to go on to the inside, and people on the inside to spend time on the outside.
you get to see what it is like in these other roles, what the constraints are people face. if you are an advocate on the outside, and you've had experience inside government, you have a better experience about the constraints and challenges people face. that will make you a better advocate on the outside. if you are in government, there is a benefit if it is the kind of thing that you feel there is interest in both, you don't have to see this as a choice of one or the other. there are examples of people who have done both. >> hi, i am a student from the university of pennsylvania. so you guys mentioned that the lack of legal diversity, and also the lack of diversity on judicial panels is a systemic
issue, and you mentioned the the program with middle school students. that still seems like a one-off solution, in my opinion, so what are some ways that are state governments can be accountable and try to affect change in this area? andrea: as i look at that issue, to me, it comes down to much bigger changes about our society and access to education, access to services that are necessary to live a healthy, productive life. part of it is that, i think, a lot of our students, a lot of minority students are not getting access to quality education in a way that sets them up for the pipelines of these different types of
professions. yes, it may be a one-off program just focuses on a middle school here and is not sufficient for the entirety, but part of it is we are looking at the issue of who is getting the access to the type of information that is needed to know, ok, one to be a lawyer, these are the types of things i need to do -- i want to be a lawyer, these are the types of things i need to do, or the concepts of, i want to be a lawyer, where does that come in? justice sotomayor said she did not see herself in the role she is in today until it happened. so if you don't see diverse judges or lawyers, it will be very hard for you, early on, to see yourself in that profession. for me, i did not meet a lawyer until i had already graduated from college. i did not see myself as a lawyer until sometime after that, and when i met those lawyers, i think i met like one lawyer color, so by the time i went to law school, i knew one lawyer of color and that was it.
i think part of it is, you know, as we increase diversity in the profession, it is about access education to have those fundamental building blocks to go onto an ever profession it is that you want to do. in this case, the legal one. but also increasing diversity in the legal field so people can see in your own community where you live that there are actually lawyers of color, judges of color, and that that is important. christopher: why don't we take one last question? >> it was mentioned that we would have trump judiciary for generations. how do you see this impacting the way social justice is executed in the courts and on
behalf of organizations that focus on impact litigation, such as maldef, and how the following generations will use this for change? danielle: i can answer this on. we have talked about this a lot, whether it is maldef, or other legal organizations, we know with an increasing number of federal judges being confirmed by this president that it is something that needs to be taken into account. not all of these judges will necessarily be cut from the same cloth. there are a bucket of judges that we may have gotten under any other administration, and then there are the extra special ones who have been appointed, not in spite, but because of their records of antiworker advocacy, anti-lgbt advocacy. we have people with troubling records around immigration and race. they will be in the mix. frankly, we have always known they were out there from any
judge, so i think we always had to be aware in moving forward with cases that you could always potentially wind up with a judge. for example, there was one judge in the northern district of texas who is not a trump appointee, but became the home-field advantage for everyone who wanted to strike down an obama administration policy that enhanced equity or diversity in our country. in that sense, there will be strategic calculations that need to go into litigation. but the other thing i say to people's we need to remember in communities. to the extent that part of the work we are doing is creating social norms and expectations on what the law should mean, that, inherently in my view, who create some amount, however some -- of subconscious on a check on , what any individual judge prepares themselves to do, knowing they have to be in their church, grocery store, or at their little league game the next week. i think part of what we need to do is to remember how important
it is to demand fairness and integrity within the court, but not assume those are little ecosystems that don't actually interact with the rest of our country, and to make sure we are creating an environment of political and social accountability because that is the thing that i fear may be the best tool that we have, and in some way, it gives me hope it is the best tool we have to check what might otherwise be this potential to engage in ideological excess or individuals who are appointed in an environment that is suggested that no matter how troubling your record may have been, you are now sort of sitting in the seat and get to do whatever you want. we have to create another environment in which there are other social norms which check those excessive impulses. christopher: i think your question is exactly right, what are we going to do? it starts with not accepting the status quo. from our perspective, and i know
from other groups, as well, republicans stole a supreme court seat from president obama and they gave it to neil gorsuch. and then republicans rammed through brett kavanaugh without a fair process. the number nine on the supreme court is not a magic number. it has been changed to times -- it has been changed seven times before. we think that we need to add two seats. some people say four. some people have different plans for how to change the supreme court, but these are the kinds of things that we cannot resign ourselves to the fact that we will have trump judiciary in , addition to stealing obama's seat, publicans blocked him from appointing 50-60 judges. we should seriously look to expand the lower court, as well, because that is the way we are going to get some greater balance in the shorter term, in addition to the step-by-step measures. with that, i don't know if anybody has any parting thoughts. i suspect we have already run over our time, but i did want to give folks if they had any parting thoughts from anything
that they did not get a chance to say during the response to a question or otherwise. if not, thanks to the center for american progress for this opportunity and for this incredibly important report. i know that there is a follow-on report on professional diversity coming, which was part of the conversation here, and it will be an important part of any conversation on diversifying our courts. i look forward to seeing that report and all of you back here for the panel that i'm sure will ensue to go with that report. thanks to all of you for joining us. have a nice day. [applause] [indiscernible chattering]
tonight, the smithsonian institutions representative on managing the u.s. economy. >> the supreme court ruled that a tomato is a vegetable and not a fruit because of tariffs. any botanist will tell you a tomato is a fruit. put a tarrifff on vegetables and not fruits. vegetables of pointed out that the tomatoes he was bringing in were a fruit and he didn't have to pay a tarriff.
eventually the supreme court ruled that tomatoes are vegetables. interesting ruling. " tonight at 8:00 eastern on q&a." c-span's "washington journal" live every day with news and policy issues that impact you. coming up monday morning we will discuss the trump impeachment inquiry with american conservative union chair. cofounderd justice will be on to talk about the supreme court and progressive court reform. we will talk about ohio's role in the campaign 2020 battleground state. to watch "washington journal" live at 7:00 eastern monday morning. join the discussion.