Happy Women’s History Month: Federal Bench Edition

Happy Women’s History Month! One thing that is definitely worth celebrating is that, as we wait for President Obama to announce his nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, the “short list” of potential nominees is incredibly diverse — and includes a number of impressive female federal judges. Having such a pool of potential nominees to the Supreme Court is truly momentous.
Judges GavelWe also wanted to also take a moment during Women’s History Month to reflect on women’s representation on the federal bench overall. Great progress has been made, but there is much room for more. Currently, there are three female Justices out of eight (while Justice Scalia’s seat remains unfilled) on the Supreme Court, or almost 38%. Thirty-five percent of active federal appellate court judges are women, and 33% percent of active district court judges are women.
Those percentages could, and should, be higher. Currently, there are 4 female nominees who are ready for Senate votes, including Paula Xinis to the District of Maryland, Mary McElroy to the District of Rhode Island, and Susan Baxter and Marilyn Horan to the Western District of Pennsylvania. In addition, there are 9 female nominees who are waiting for action by the Senate Judiciary Committee: Mary Flores (Southern District of Florida), Inga Bernstein (District of Massachusetts), Clare Connors (District of Hawaii), Stephanie Gallagher (District of Maryland), Suzanne Mitchell (Western District of Oklahoma), Myra Selby (to an Indiana-based seat on the Seventh Circuit), Jennifer Puhl (to a North Dakota-based seat on the Eighth Circuit), Stephanie Finley (Western District of Louisiana), and Lucy Koh (to a California seat on the Ninth Circuit). These nominees to lower courts deserve a timely Senate process and a vote by the full Senate.
With 76 vacancies on the federal bench, we can’t afford keep to waiting. Whether it is the failure to timely process lower court nominees or the refusal to even meet President Obama’s eventual Supreme Court nominee, the current stonewalling by Senate leadership is without historical precedent, and doing great harm to the integrity of the judicial process and the judiciary. What better way for the Senate to celebrate women’s history month than to #DoYourJob on judges, and the Supreme Court.