Sunday, September 25, 2011

Women on the Federal Bench

Sandra Day O’Connor sworn in, September 25, 1981.
Today is the 30th anniversary of Sandra Day O'Connor being sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice.

The appointment of the first woman to the Supreme Court was very big news back in 1981, when I was a law student. But most of today's law students have always had at least one woman one the Supreme Court. Today's 1Ls are starting law school with three female justices on the Court. (Beloit's Mindset List annually offers reminders of how a younger generation's experience differs from the last's.)

So I thought this might be a good occasion to offer some stats about the representation of women on the federal bench. I'm using a fascinating database from the Federal Judicial Center, The Biographical Directory of Federal Judges.

First, how many women did Justice O'Connor join when she was sworn in?

51 women had been been commissioned before Sept. 25, 1981. Only 23 were still serving. (That is, their commission date was before that date, but their termination date was after it.)

And what were the corresponding numbers for men?

2023 men had been commissioned, and 619 were still serving.

President Reagan made history by appointing the first woman to the Supreme Court. What was his record throughout the federal courts?

court women men
U.S. Supreme Court 1 3
courts of appeal 6 77
all federal courts 30 334

An important part of the historical context is that women were a minority in the legal profession. 1972 was the first year when women were over 10% of law school enrollment nationally, so in the 1980s there'd wasn't as large a pool of experienced female lawyer from whom to select judges as there is today.

Speaking of today, what is the makeup of our federal bench now?

All Sitting Federal Judges (including those on senior status)

Race or Ethnicitywomen men
African American 38 81
American Indian 0 1
Asian American 6 10
Hispanic 23 56
White 208 861
Total 278 1015

Photo credit: National Archives Today's Document blog, Sept. 25, 2011.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Future of Miranda

The UW School of Law presents The Future of Miranda: A Dialogue

  • The Hon. Betty B. Fletcher, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit   
  • Professor Emeritus Yale Kamisar, University of Michigan School of Law
  • Oregon Attorney General John Kroger
With commentary by Todd Maybrown, Partner, Allen, Hansen & Maybrown, PS
Wednesday, October 19, 2011, 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.  Room 138. Reception to follow in Room 115
The landmark case of Miranda v. Arizona launched one of the best-known aspects of criminal procedure, the Miranda warnings before custodial police interrogation. The controversial case and the rights it vouchsafed have been under siege for decades. The scope of Miranda and availability of remedies are increasingly constricted. Please join our distinguished panelists for a discussion about the past and present of Miranda.
CLE Program: 1.5 credits approved.
This event is free and open to the general public.
The cost of CLE credits is $15.
RSVP here.
Contact Kathy Kline at (206) 543-8881 or email.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How Do Lay People React to Judicial Decision-Making?

A new study looks at how lay people respond to the judicial reasoning. Dan Simon & Nicholas Scurich, Lay Judgments of Judicial Decision-Making (July 18, 2011), J. Empirical Legal Stud. (forthcoming 2011), available at

This exploratory study examined lay people’s evaluations of judicial decision-making, specifically of the judicial decision-making process and the judiciary’s legitimacy. Seven hundred participants were presented with three judicial decisions, which were portrayed as following on the heels of solid and appropriate legal procedure.

Each decision was accompanied by one of four types of reasoning. Participants were asked to evaluate the acceptability of the decisions, focusing on the manner in which they were made and the legitimacy of the decision-maker, regardless of their outcomes. The study yielded four findings.
  • First, lay people’s judgments were highly contingent on the outcome of the judges’ decisions. Consistent with the theory of motivated reasoning, participants found the decisions highly acceptable when they agreed with the judges’ decision, but deemed them relatively unacceptable when they disagreed with them.
  • Second, participants were indifferent to the modes of reasoning when they agreed with the outcomes of the decisions, but were differentially sensitive to the modes of reasoning when the judges’ decisions frustrated their preferred outcomes.
  • Third, when participants were sensitive to the modes of reasoning, they gave higher ratings of acceptability to decisions that openly admitted to good reasons on both sides of the case as compared with decisions accompanied by reasons that supported one side of the case exclusively. Giving no reasons at all was found to be more acceptable than giving a single, curt reason.
  • Fourth, the findings replicated the coherence effect. Implications for the legitimacy of the judiciary are discussed.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sealing Cases - Federal

Judicial Conference Urges Restraint In Sealing Civil Cases, BLT: The Blog of Times, Sept. 13, 2011.

The policy-making body of the federal judiciary approved a new standard today that instructs judges to limit sealing entire civil cases to only extraordinary circumstances. The Judicial Conference of the United States said the new policy emphasizes that sealing an entire case should be the last resort. Judges should first explore narrower alternatives, such as blacking out information or sealing particular documents, the panel said.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Federal Rules Go Mobile!

Wouldn't it be great to have the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Federal Rules of Evidence, or the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure with you without toting the bound books? Now you can: CALI and the Legal Information Institute have released Federal Rules Ebooks, with the rules and official comments, in a format compatible with iPhone, iPad, and Nook. (Kindle support is coming soon.)

The books are free, but you are encouraged to donate to the Legal Information Institute, a nonprofit based at Cornell that puts a lot of resources into making law accessible.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

New California Law Prohibits Jurors' Social Media Use

New California Law Prohibits Jurors' Social Media UsE, Citizen Media Law Project, Sept. 1, 2011.

California has adopted a new statute which clarifies that jurors may not use social media and the Internet – such as texting, Twitter, Facebook, and Internet searches – to  research or disseminate information about cases, and can be held in criminal or civil contempt for violating these restrictions. 

The new statute, 2011 Cal. Laws chap. 181, expands the state's existing jury instructions which currently, at the start of trial and prior to any recesses or breaks, admonish jurors not to discuss the case they are sitting on with each other or anyone else before deliberations. The current instructions make no specific mention of electronic research or communications.

Juror Held in Contempt, Gets Community Service for Effort to Friend Defendant on Facebook - News - ABA Journal

Juror Held in Contempt, Gets Community Service for Effort to Friend Defendant on Facebook - News - ABA Journal, Aug. 29, 2011. The headline summarizes it; I'll just add that it was a civil case, the young juror was male, and the defendant was female.