The Utah State Bar supports The Salt Lake Tribune’s recent efforts to highlight the importance of a diverse Utah judiciary. (See “Ethnic, gender diversity is for the benefit of all,” on June 29 and “Can Utah diversify its judicial bench? Jury’s still out,” on July 9.)
Lawyers, who represent clients from all aspects of society, have a uniquely clear view of the importance of the background of judges who decide their clients’ cases. Perhaps the question becomes, then, what is our profession doing to promote a system of justice that reflects, in the words of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, “a cross section of America.” The answer is a great deal.
First, Utah lawyers are actively encouraging lawyers from diverse backgrounds to apply for the bench. Women Lawyers of Utah has developed a program to provide mentoring to its members applying for judicial vacancies. To help demystify the application process, Women Lawyers of Utah offers seminars and pairs applicants with someone who has experienced the nomination process.
Second, the Utah Minority Bar Association is also fully engaged in promoting diversity in Utah’s judiciary. Like Women Lawyers of Utah, the Utah Minority Bar Association actively seeks qualified candidates from its membership and encourages those lawyers to apply for bench openings. The Utah Minority Bar Association also recommends qualified members of the minority bar to serve on judicial nominating commissions. Understanding that there is more it can do, it has recently created a Judicial Advocacy Committee to evaluate additional action to address this critical issue.
In our own organization, the Utah State Board of Bar Commissioners, lawyers have elected diverse leaders to make policy for lawyers across Utah. Of our 15 voting Bar Commissioners, nine are women. The Bar Commission also enjoys guidance from ex-officio members from the Utah Minority Bar Association and Women Lawyers of Utah and LGBT & Allied Lawyers of Utah. In short, the Bar Commission looks more like the rest of the state, which represents a substantial step toward promoting diversity in other areas of our judicial system.
The ranks of Utah lawyers are steadily growing with immensely qualified, diverse law school graduates from the J. Reuben Clark Law School and the S. J. Quinney College of Law and elsewhere. Clearly, our bar swells with talented lawyers from varied backgrounds educated within and without the state who will for years to come be ready to assume a position on the bench.
Gov. Gary Herbert deserves many accolades for his efforts to appoint women and minority lawyers to the bench, having appointed 20 women and four minority lawyers to the bench during his tenure. I’ve appeared before many of Herbert’s appointments, and I can attest to their strong qualifications and to the fact that the governor has appointed the most qualified applicants possible in every instance.
Herbert’s success in his judicial appointments, the Bar’s efforts to promote diversity on our bench and the steady number of diverse, qualified new lawyers graduating from our law schools is a sure sign of great things to come. Utah is exceedingly well-positioned to ensure that its state court looks more and more like the state it is intended to serve.