A busy spring is kicking the butt of Change of Venue. There are just too many great events.
By way of explanation: Change of Venue is my attempt to have some lighter lifting on Fridays. A photo or two, a humorous (and maybe nonlegal) story, in, out, hello, weekend!
I mean, you like that too, right?
Well, yesterday I attended a powerful panel discussion on the topic of diversity on the bench. And I thought I should share what was said and ask for your thoughts.
Sponsored by the Arizona Advocacy Network and Justice at Stake, the event at the Carnegie Center in Phoenix was a kickoff to the groups’ efforts to address some judicial challenges in 2014. Here are a few of the day’s high points.
It is always a privilege and pleasure to hear Ruth McGregor speak. The former Arizona Chief Justice was the keynote speaker, and she delivered some compelling statistics about the lack of diversity on the bench, nationally and locally.
But before you presume she’s in favor of a simple numbers game, understand that the quality of judicial decisions is her goal—and that of many engaged in the creation of diverse benches.
As Justice McGregor said, “Diverse experiences can be used in appropriate circumstances to better understand the case at hand.”
And yes, Justice McGregor has data. She cited studies from Tufts and Columbia that examined group decision-making. Here’s what they found.
In Tufts’ mock juries: “Diverse groups discuss significantly more case facts than non-diverse groups; and diverse groups exhibited significantly fewer inaccurate statements.”
Also at Columbia: The presence of even one female participant in a group increased the probability of a different decision. That’s one woman.
What are the results for judges? “Diversity may yield a more careful, more accurate and broader discussion of issues.”
“The presence of diverse voices,” Justice McGregor said, “broadens discussion and analysis.”
Would judicial results be different? We cannot say that. But “at least the discussion would be different,” she said.
She urged attendees to consider how certain blots on legal history may have been decided if there had been even a tiny bit of diversity on their judicial panels. Consider Korematsu, Bowers v. Hardwick, Plessy v. Ferguson. Would those rulings have been the same if one of the judges had been Japanese American, gay or lesbian, or African American? Can you doubt it?
Justice McGregor also urged listeners to try their hand at an online Implicit Association Test. Try one here!
Kudos also to moderator Lisa Loo, who strolled among the audience, tossing queries to panelists. And the panelists—Linda Benally, Judge Roxanne Song Ong and James Christian—offered excellent summaries of the challenges faced by diversity advocates.
(I reported from the event on Twitter, and you can see below how talented a moderator I found Lisa to be. Click the link to see the photo:)
— Tim Eigo (@azatty) February 27, 2014
Judge Song Ong said something that made me think of the old proverb about when it’s best to plant a tree. So here is a Change-of-Venue-style image to consider:
Have a great—and diverse—weekend.Follow @azatty