Frustrated by the lack of centralized information on the process for becoming a federal judge, a coalition of legal groups has created its own booklet about the process.
With an electronic version and an initial printing of 10,000 copies, the legal groups are planning to distribute the booklet to law schools and young lawyers. The booklet explains the mechanics of the White House nomination process and the rigors of Senate confirmation, and it lays out the varied paths taken by six federal judges.
The legal groups, including several minority bar associations, are focusing on members of minority groups to try to diversify the next generation of judges.
“This is not something they teach you in law schools,” said Tina Matsuoka, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, one of the groups involved. Matsuoka, speaking at an event at Jones Day’s Washington office Tuesday night, said the booklet would be “immensely helpful” in answering questions for young lawyers.
D’Arcy Kemnitz, executive director of the National LGBT Bar Association, said young gay and lesbian lawyers face particular pressure not to become judges. She cited questions over whether former federal judge Vaughn Walker should have recused from a case over same-sex marriage in California because Walker has been in a longtime relationship with another man.
“We think these kinds of products are going to bring [potential judges] forward,” Kemnitz said of the booklet.
A smattering of other resources is available for aspiring judges. The American Judicature Society runs a Web site about judicial selection on the state level. The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s Web site briefly explains its process and houses materials related to recent federal nominations. The conservative Federalist Society gathers information related to nominations debates. And in 1996, Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, offered his ideas on the subject (PDF) in The National Law Journal.
Other groups involved in the latest effort include the American Constitution Society, which serves as a networking forum for liberal lawyers, and Justice at Stake, which works on judicial diversity and other issues. “There’s been a very poor job of reaching out to people at the beginning of their careers,” said Caroline Fredrickson, executive director of the American Constitution Society.
The booklet can be found here.