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Monday, July 09, 2012

Vacancy #2 on Supreme Court 2012 - Gender is a qualification

Maureen Hayden of CNHI had a column Sunday in the New Albany News & Tribune headed: "State’s highest court needs a female." At least one, as she concludes:

Here’s the closing argument I’d make, borrowed from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg in an early 2009 interview with The New York Times, when after the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor she was the only woman on the nation’s top court: It just doesn’t look right.

Here’s her full quote (taken from the Times story, which also described what Justice Ginsberg was wearing during the interview, right down to her earrings): “My basic concern about being all alone was the public got the wrong perception of the court. It just doesn’t look right in the year 2009.”

So it’s 2012 already. Time for the Indiana Supreme Court to start to look less male and more right.

The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette Sunday ran "An open letter to Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels: Court cries for the view of a woman." Some quotes:
For the third time in your eight-year tenure, you’ll have the opportunity to fill a vacancy on the court, one of only three state supreme courts with no female judges. In each of your last two appointments, you chose eminently qualified jurists, but you did not seek to improve the perspective of the court by appointing a woman.

We trust that your decision in each case was based on a sincere desire to select the most qualified among three finalists but respectfully suggest that the quality of the female candidates among the finalists was equal to that of the male candidates selected and that the current lack of female representation on the court casts an unfortunate perception of bias. A democratic society demands fairness and equality in its judicial system, and equal access to justice.

Matters before the state’s highest jurisdictional court are a reflection of society. Decisions involving domestic violence, child support, custody and the treatment of women in the courts cry for a female perspective to ensure those matters are addressed in the best manner.

Fortunately, you once again have an opportunity to add that perspective. The 22-member applicant pool for the vacancy includes 16 women. Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull is among the impressive candidates.

When Justice Frank Sullivan steps down this fall, a woman should join Chief Justice Brent Dickson and justices Robert Rucker, Steven David and Mark Massa on the bench. The only qualification the current court lacks is a perspective none of the four can offer.

ILB: Which brings to mind this exchange between former JNC attorney member John Trimble and federal Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson at the ISBA “Demystifying” seminar in June:
In answer to a question about whether the JNC takes diversity into account, Mr. Trimble said that CJ Shepard's position was the JNC looked for the "most qualified," but that diversity was important to the JNC.

Judge Magnus-Stinson responded that Gov. Bayh considered diversity to be a qualification.

The FWJG editorial just quoted includes individual photos of the five justices. As of today there is no official group photo of the currently constituted Indiana Supreme Court, and within the next few months it will become out-of-date with the loss of J. Sullivan and the appointment of his replacement. But there is this "qetting ready for their closeup photo" of the justices being prepped for their official photo. The justices are the five men in black robes.

Now contrast the 5-man Indiana Supreme Court photos with these photos of the supreme courts of our sister states (in all of which, interestingly, the justices are elected):

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 9, 2012 09:31 AM
Posted to Vacancy #2 on Supreme Court 2012