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The Importance of Diversity in the Courts to Ensure Respect to the Rule of Law

Over the past 12 years, the League of Women Voters has worked tirelessly for to ensure that the U.S. Judiciary is fair, impartial and more diverse. In fact, following the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the U. S. Supreme Court in 2009, the League began a concerted effort to promote the importance of diversity in the courts as a means to protect and preserve the trust in the court system. Over the past four years, the League conducted educational campaigns the Kansas and South Carolina to promote gender and race diversification in our judicial system.

This summer, Americas Quarterly published an article entitled “Women in Robes: Judges, Gender and Justice” that while global in scope, echoed much of the work that the League has carried out in targeted states such as sponsoring community forums with senior judges, promoting high school discussions around the importance of a diverse court, and ensuring that the process for the selection of judges is transparent. This article also reminded me of a report issued by the Brennan Center for Justice in 2010 entitled “Improving Judicial Diversity.” The Brennan report focused on the need to improve judicial diversity in the court system of the United States.

Together these two publications echo the same premises:  is a diverse court more likely to bring a different perspective to the bench?  Is a diverse court more likely to represent better the interest of a diverse community? And most importantly, is a diverse court more likely to further equality of opportunity, enhance the court’s legitimacy, and strengthen the rule of law? This week the League of Women Voters Education Fund, together with the Inter-American Dialogue, and the International Association of Women Judges, is sponsoring a conference entitled “Women and the Rule of Law: The View from the Americas.” Nine female judges from Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, and the United States will discuss the state of diversity in their respective countries and the impact that they have had – if any – in furthering respect for the rule of law and for the ideal that courts deliver justice fairly and impartially to all.

Stay tuned for a blog post following the conference to report back on the outcomes of our discussions!