A recent article pointed out that the Oakland federal courthouse, in the Northern District of California, is home to six federal judges – three lifetime appointees and three magistrates – all of whom are women. Moreover, five of those six judges are women of color. This appears to be the first time a courthouse of this size has had an all-women bench, and stands in stark contrast to the overall representation of women in the federal district courts, which hovers around 30%.
Jeremy Fogel, the director of the Federal Judicial Center (on leave from the Northern District of California himself) noted that “It’s not just the courthouse and the majesty of the building, the dignity of the courtroom, that matters … but are people in various positions in the judiciary someone they can identify with? From the standpoint of appearances, [an all-women court is] a good thing.”
The article covers several of the judges’ paths to the bench, describes different ways that those judges balanced work and family responsibilities, and notes some of the judges’ efforts to mentor young female lawyers. The article also points out that “women also run the Oakland branches of the U.S. attorney’s office, federal public defender’s office and clerk’s office, contributing to the unique feel of the East Bay’s federal court community.” Within a federal judiciary that still has so far to go, the Oakland courthouse is a great example of increasing sorely needed diversity on the federal bench, to reflect the citizens it serves.