Tuesday, July 05, 2005


This is exactly what I was talking about

Jeremy Freese points out the obvious logical fallacy in today's NYT story, "O'Connor Leap Moved Women Up the Bench": O'Connor may have benefitted from, but did not cause, women's increasing success in the legal profession.

But the O'Connor-fawning I was afraid of is causing folks to forget their history. The Times story goes on:
Eleanor Smeal, who was the president of the National Organization for Women in 1981, said the O'Connor nomination was a turning point.

"At that time women were a very teeny percentage of judges," Ms. Smeal said. "We were begging male judges to give us our rights, and we wanted someone on the inside."
Shame on you, Eleanor, you should know better. When Jimmy Carter took office in 1977 there were 10 women federal judges. When he left, there were 48. (The Times story cites this fact without drawing any conclusions from it.) I'm pretty certain that Jimmy Carter appointed more women to the federal judiciary in four years than Ronald Reagan did in eight. I will check this and report back tomorrow. Again, there were no Supreme Court vacancies during Carter's presidency, but I think it very likely that he would have appointed a woman.


I agree with the larger point you are making about the valorization of O'Connor. Consider this, though:
in 1980, approximately 17% of all civilian judges were women, per the US Census. (See comment on Althouse for additional data.)

I'll leave it to the lawyers to decide whether 17% is small enough to be appropriately characterized as "teeny" or not. Note that in 1980, women comprised 42.5% of the paid civilian labor force.
Hey, Kim. I tried to click through to your blog but it didn't work. What's your URL?
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