New York, California Seek Public Defenders and Civil Rights Lawyers for Federal Bench

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A new poll from Data for Progress and The Lab shows that voters in New York and California—two states with large numbers of federal judicial vacancies—overwhelmingly support their senators recommending more civil rights lawyers and public defenders for the federal bench, reports The Appeal. In New York, 65 percent of likely voters, including 84 percent of Democrats support prioritizing public defenders and civil rights lawyers for judicial appointments. The numbers are similar in California,  with 64 percent of likely voters, including 81 percent of Democrats, supporting.

Across the country, federal judges with backgrounds in public defense or civil rights are under-represented, and the number of federal judges with backgrounds in corporate law or prosecution are disproportionately high. The disparity undermines fairness and public confidence in the courts, a problem that White House counsel Dana Remus acknowledged in a letter last month asking Democratic senators to prioritize professional diversity when they recommend judicial nominees. With Democratic senators, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and 21 judicial vacancies between them, New York and California will be critical states as President Biden begins making nominations to a judiciary that has been dramatically reshaped by former President Donald Trump. Until now, senators from both states have exacerbated the significant underrepresentation of public defenders and civil rights lawyers on the bench. See also: Public Defenders Suffer From ‘Stress of Injustice’: Study

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