Help Broaden the Bench

Tell your Senators you want federal judges with a wide range of professional experiences

Like all human beings, judges are the product of their background and experiences, including their professional lives before taking the bench. When a judge decides whether a claim is “plausible,” or whether a witness is “credible,” or whether police officers, when they stopped and searched a pedestrian, acted “reasonably,” her determination is necessarily colored by the nature of her work as a lawyer up to that point.

That’s why AFJ has been focusing on the urgent need for more professional diversity on the federal bench. It was the topic of our highly-regarded report and a forum featuring Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Senators play a crucial role in judicial nominations – and not just when those nominations reach the floor for a vote. By longstanding tradition, the president generally looks to home-state senators to recommend nominees, especially for district court vacancies. Moreover, under current Senate Judiciary Committee practice, no nomination gets a hearing unless both home-state senators allow it. So please tell your senators you want them to recommend judicial nominees with diverse professional backgrounds – including those who have worked as lawyers for public interest groups, litigated civil rights cases and served as public defenders.

Some senators set up screening committees to recommend judicial nominees. So please also tell your senators that if they have such a committee, the committee itself should be made of people with a wide variety of professional experience.

As The New York Times noted in an editorial about our report “…a judge’s experience and personal history are, at times, critical to how she or he approaches the job. Given that reality, the makeup of the judiciary should reflect as much as possible the public whose cases come before it.”