August 07, 2017

ABA and Brennan Center release new manual on judicial diversity

CHICAGO, Aug. 7, 2017 —The American Bar Association Judicial Division and the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law today released Building a Diverse Bench: Selecting Federal Magistrate and Bankruptcy Judges, a manual that provides guidance on how courts can increase diversity among federal magistrate and bankruptcy judges. 

While the federal judiciary overall has become more diverse, magistrate and bankruptcy courts continue to lag behind. Federal judges appoint magistrate and bankruptcy judges, so the judiciary itself can address this problem.

Building A Diverse Bench: Selecting Federal Magistrate and Bankruptcy Judges focuses on simple changes that can strengthen the applicant pool and the candidates selected for judgeships. Recognizing the already heavy workload of federal courts, it outlines a set of best practices recommended by an advisory committee of federal circuit court, district court, magistrate and bankruptcy judges, as well as circuit executives, clerks of court and other court experts.

“Building public trust in our American justice system is crucial,” ABA President Linda A. Klein said. “The surest way to do that is to make sure our judiciary reflects the nation’s population, in all its diversity.”

The manual includes an assessment of the current state of judicial diversity and its value to the justice system. It includes best practices for every stage of a court’s selection process, including pipeline-building, recruitment, vetting, deliberations and voting.

“Judicial diversity is one essential, though certainly not the only, step in making our promise of equal justice a reality,” wrote Judge Frank J. Bailey of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts, and chair of the Judicial Division’s National Conference of Federal Trial Judges. “Judges must understand the wide variety of life experiences and views that make up our pluralistic society, and diverse colleagues assist judges in achieving that understanding.”

Kate Berry, author of “Building a Diverse Bench” and former counsel in the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, said: “Judges’ personal and professional experiences affect how they approach the cases that come before them. Bringing diverse perspectives to bear fosters decision-making that reflects the experiences of the whole population, resulting in better jurisprudence.”

See ABA policy on judicial diversity here.

See more on the Brennan Center’s Fair Courts work here.

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