Wednesday, July 06, 2005


Appointment of women judges: some facts

Jimmy Carter appointed 40 women judges [source: Federal Judicial Center Database] in his four years as president out of a total of 258 judicial appointments. That's 16%, which sounds low, until you consider that only 8 women had served as federal judges in all of U.S. history before Jimmy Carter (out of 1700 judges). Carter quintupled the number of sitting women judges though the qualified pool of women lawyers was small.

Ronald Reagan is now viewed as "the great father" since he died, but let's note that he appointed only 29 women judges in his eight years as president out of 358 appointments, a whopping 8% -- basically half as many as Carter, even as the pool of qualified women lawyers was increasingly dramatically throughout Reagan's eight-year presidency. True, there were probably more Democratic than Republican women judges to draw on, but there's no law saying that judicial appointments have to be partisan. Reagan was the first president in many years to adopt truly hardline partisanship in judicial appointments -- Carter had implemented a merit system which Reagan threw in the trash. So other than appointing O'Connor, Reagan's record on women appointments to the bench was pretty pathetic.

Other presidents: George HW Bush: 36 out of 187, or 19%. Barely exceeding Carter's rate of naming women judges when the pool of women to draw upon was much, much bigger.

Bill Clinton: 104 out of 367, or 28%.

And finally, "w": 45 out of 213, or 21%.

I think if we had data on the number of women attorneys age 40 or older for each of these periods, Carter's numbers would be outstanding, Clinton's would be good, George Bush senior, okay, and Reagan and "w" lousy.

BOTTOM LINE: If you check the figures for minority judges, the Republican record is far more pathetic. Basically, diversifying the federal bench has simply not been a priority for any Republican president since race and sex discirmination became illegal. Notwithstanding the showpiece appointments of O'Connor and Thomas (and perhaps "w's " next appointment of Alberto Gonzales or Janice Brown), the eyes of Republican presidents have always been fixed on the prize of highly partisan judicial appointments.


But if you keep score that way, we will get a Brown, Sykes or Gonzalez.
Whereas the white man waiting in the wings will be really nice? No, his name is Michael McConnell...
Not a big fan of his either, since I think we should keep religion out of our public policies, even if minor historical symbolism might be ok. But definitely not mixing religion and public spending, which I think he is a fan of (school vouchers). My feeling is my tax money should not be spent to finance other people's religious teachings, period. Especially if those teachings keep others from achieving equal civil rights in our society.

For example, on "gay rights"... wouldn't it be great if our civil laws in the U.S. didn't discriminate, even if religious denominations chose to? As it is, things might be fine in some towns, school districts, work places, if you can afford them. But we shouldn't privatize civil rights like this, available to some citizens, not others.

P.S. to both of us, I think it's spelled Gonzales. Sounds small, but it matters.
how bout picking judges because of their qualifications, not because they have ovaries
Anonymous #1, thanks for pointing out the "Gonzales" typo.

Anonymous #2, the reason why a federal judiciary should have diversity comparable to the country at large is illustrated by the very example I gave in my July 4 post, "Sandra Day O'connor, Jurist." It appears that her own experience with sex discrimination allows her to empathize with other women who have such experiences. But O'Connor, like a lot of people (including many judges, in my experience) has limited imagination when it comes to trying to put herself in the shoes of, say, a black person.
Point taken, but just because a female judge can understand the female point of view better doesnt make her the most qualified overall.. sure, it's a factor to consider.. but a blind analysis of "how many women did he hire v. how many the other guy hired" seems simplistic to the point of being misleading and pointless
great post, and I stand corrected. I posted yesterday about how disgusted I am at the appointments by the Democrats, but I like your numbers. I'll need to reconsider, but I still demand something better from liberals.
I read through your comment on my blog, and I just want to point out that I am complaining about the democratic record for all appointments, not just supreme court justices. I specifically say that I love RBG, I just wish they did better on all counts.

I agree, though, that I didn't know your numbers and I stand corrected. I will be less critical of my brothers and sisters of liberally goodness.
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