Gender and the Law Prof Blog

Editor: Tracy A. Thomas
University of Akron School of Law

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Merchandising of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

ABA J, Supreme Icon: From Shirts to Action Figures to Movies and an Album, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has Become an Unlikely Pop Culture Icon

On the website Etsy, which sells crafts and vintage items, typing “Ruth Bader Ginsburg” into the search bar yields more than 1,000 results.

 

You can buy a birthday card with the associate justice’s image and the phrase “small and mighty” written in pink. There’s also a tank top bearing her stern visage and “I dissent” written underneath. There are posters of her as Rosie the Riveter, peg dolls of her in full judicial regalia and even prayer candles portraying her as “the Patron Saint of the Supreme Court.”

 

If Etsy isn’t your thing, you can find a Ginsburg action figure on Kickstarter, complete with gavel, pointing finger and her “iconic jabot,” a frilly, fancy-looking collar perfect for making “fashion and judicial statements.” The initial funding goal was $15,000. As of September, it had raised well over $600,000. “She is a rock star. She is an inspiration. She is constantly fighting. She is brilliant and fearless,” the introductory video to the Kickstarter page states. “She is an icon.”

 

The items aren’t all kitschy. There are plenty of posters, coffee mugs and shirts featuring inspirational and even strident quotes from her speeches and opinions. One oft-used line came from an interview she gave shortly after Sonia Sotomayor was nominated to the Supreme Court in 2009: “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.” Another popular one for product designers is: “Fight for the things you care about.”

 

That latter quote was from a 2015 luncheon at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University in Justice Ginsburg’s honor. Oftentimes, these products will leave off the last part of Ginsburg’s sentence, which was “but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” That outlook may explain why Ginsburg has become a cottage industry, generating countless products—none of which she has likely endorsed but has often been a good sport about.

 

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There is a music album inspired by her life story. There are websites and memes that celebrate her jurisprudence, her fiery dissents and her dedication to civil rights, gender equality and social justice. There’s even a recent documentary and an upcoming Hollywood film chronicling her long and storied career as a litigator fighting on behalf of gender equality.

October 17, 2018 in Judges, Pop Culture, SCOTUS, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Women Owned Law Firms Surge Amid Gender Disparity in the Profession

Women Owned Law Firms Surge Amid Gender Disparity in the Profession

Work-life balance is often pegged as the reason women leave traditional law firms. But for the growing number of women establishing their own firms, their departure is often rooted more deeply in gender inequality in the profession than in raising children or having more free time.

 

“If women were feeling valued, were getting properly rewarded for their efforts, were getting their fair share and it wasn’t a constant struggle to get your origination credit, and feel you are part of the team—then you would stay,” said Nicole Galli, who in 2017 co-founded a trade association, Women Owned Law, which has already grown to 200 members.***

 

By founding their own firms, women are crafting new game rules that provide for fair compensation, equal promotions, full inclusion and better career development opportunities.

 

“There are women further along in their careers—partners in firms—who’ve done everything ‘right.’ They leaned in. They figured out the work-life balance, as it is. They made it to a measure of objective success. They have books of business. They have clients. It’s still death by a thousand paper cuts. It’s still a struggle,” said Galli, managing partner in the Law Offices of N.D. Galli in Philadelphia.

 

Data shows a mass exodus of female attorneys who leave traditional firms before they reach the upper echelon. The National Association of Women Lawyers found in a 2017 survey that women make up 46 percent of associates but just 30 percent of non-equity partners. Only 19 percent of equity partners are women, the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession reported in January.

October 10, 2018 in Business, Equal Employment, Women lawyers, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Remembering Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Supreme Court Nomination and Opposition

Jill Lepore, Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Unlikely Path to the Supreme Court, New Yorker

God bless Ruth Bader Ginsburg, goats, bobbleheads, and all. But trivialization—R.B.G.’s workout tips! her favorite lace collars!—is not tribute. Female heroes are in short supply not because women aren’t brave but because female bravery is demeaned, no kind more than intellectual courage. Isn’t she cute? Ginsburg was and remains a scholar, an advocate, and a judge of formidable sophistication, complexity, and, not least, contradiction and limitation. It is no kindness to flatten her into a paper doll and sell her as partisan merch.

 

Doing so also obscures a certain irony. Ginsburg often waxes nostalgic about her confirmation hearings, as she did this September, when, regretting the partisan furor over Brett Kavanaugh—even before Christine Blasey Ford came forward—she said, “The way it was was right; the way it is is wrong.” The second of those statements is undeniably and painfully true, but the first flattens the past. What Biden was getting at, in 1993, was what the President himself had said, dismissing the idea of nominating Ginsburg when it was first suggested to him. “The women,” Clinton said, “are against her.” ***

 

And so when Clinton, eager to please, entertained names proposed by women’s groups, he learned that some of them refused to support Ginsburg, because they were worried that she might be willing to overturn Roe (which is not what she had written, but one gathers that the Madison Lecture was more often invoked than read). At one point, Clinton asked Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan to suggest a woman. “Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” Moynihan answered. “The women are against her” was the President’s reply. Moynihan called Martin Ginsburg and said, “You best take care of it.

October 3, 2018 in Judges, SCOTUS, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 27, 2018

UK Top Judge Says Women Judges Make Better Decisions

UK's Top Judge Justice Brenda Hale: Female Judges Make Better Decisions

One of the world's top judges says female judges improve the quality of judicial decisions.

 

And she admits, in an exclusive New Zealand interview with the Herald, it may be viewed as a "controversial" comment.

 

I was one of only six [female] law school students," the 73-year-old said.

 

"At that stage the first woman High Court judge in England had only just been appointed."

 

However, she said courts still don't have enough women serving on the bench.

 

"This is the most controversial," she went on to say. "Do women make different decisions from men? To which the answer is, having women on the court improves the quality of decision making," she said.

 

"It improves the quality of debate, it makes certain things much more difficult to say and do, counters sub-conscious biases, we all have them ... and just from time to time, having a woman's voice on a decision makes a difference."

 

She explained a woman's life experience allowed for better decision-making.

September 27, 2018 in Courts, Judges, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Historical Picture of Eleven Women Who Could Have (or Would Be) on the Supreme Court

Meg Penrose, The Way-Pavers: Eleven Supreme Court-worthy Women, Harvard J. Law & Gender (online) (July 2018)

Four women have served as associate justices on the United States Supreme Court. Since the Court’s inception in 1789, more than 160 individuals have been nominated to serve as Supreme Court justices. Five nominees, or roughly 3 percent, have been women. To help put this gender dearth in perspective, more men named “Samuel” have served as Supreme Court justices than women. Thirteen U.S. presidents have each nominated more people to the Supreme Court than the total number of women that have served on the Court. Finally, there are currently as many Catholics serving on the Supreme Court as the number of women confirmed in the Court’s entire history.

 

Women, once thought of as “one-at-a-time-curiosities” on the bench, now constitute nearly one-third of all state and federal judges. They occupy the highest posts on state supreme courts and can be found, in similar numbers, at the trial and appellate levels. If we limit our consideration to the current Supreme Court, women held one-third of the seats on our Supreme Court at the time of Justice Kennedy’s 2018 retirement. Yet, this number is deceptive since women on the highest court is a modern phenomenon.

 

Qualified women have been available for selection for many years—long before Justice Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman on the Supreme Court, or FWOTSC, as she refers to herself. It was not until a 1980 campaign promise by then-Governor Ronald Reagan to appoint the first female justice to the Supreme Court that a woman broke one of our government’s last gender barriers. Presidents prior to that time were complicit in allowing male members of the Court, among other influences, to stave off appointments of well-qualified women. So, women waited. But now, women account for four of the last thirteen Supreme Court appointments and five of the past seventeen nominees. Clearly, the numbers are increasing.

 

This Essay presents the second scholarly ranking of female jurists deserving of a seat on the highest court in the land. The list celebrates eleven judicial way pavers: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sandra Day O’Connor, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Florence Allen, Constance Baker Motley, Shirley Huftstedler, Patricia Wald, Cornelia Kennedy, Harriet Miers and, Belva Lockwood. Each of these women is, or was, Supreme Court-worthy. Yet only four of them actually occupy or have occupied a place on the Court.

September 27, 2018 in Legal History, SCOTUS, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Tracing Catharine MacKinnon's Equality Theory

Chao-Ju Chen, Catharine A. MacKinnon and Equality Theory in Robin West and Cynthia Bowman eds, Research Handbook on Feminist Jurisprudence (2018, Edward Elgar), Forthcoming

This chapter discusses Catharine A. MacKinnon’s theory of sex equality, its application as well as major strands of criticism. Beginning with a radical critique of liberal legalism, feminism and Marxism, MacKinnon conceived a hierarchy-centered theory of substantive equality, shifting the paradigm of equality thinking from questions of sameness and difference to the power structure of dominance and subordination. Drawing on feminist consciousness raising as method, her theory sees gender as an inequality and sexuality as the linchpin of gender inequality. It is also an engaged theory producing sex equality laws to address women’s sexual violations: sexual harassment as a legal injury and a form of sex discrimination; a harm-based civil-rights approach to pornography; an asymmetrical approach to the abolition of prostitution; and an inequality approach to rape as a gender-based crime. Against challenges from anti-essentialist and sex-positive critiques, MacKinnon’s theory embraces intersectionality as a method and pursues equality by resisting sexual oppression.

September 20, 2018 in Theory, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 10, 2018

Number of Women Arguing Before the Supreme Court has Fallen Off Steeply

 ABA J, Number of Women Arguing Before the Supreme Court Has Fallen Off Steeply

Justices Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and their male colleagues saw fewer women arguing before them in the 2017-18 term, and the fewest to participate in oral argument in at least seven years.

 

During the recently completed term, there were 19 appearances at oral argument by women, or about 12 percent of the total 163 appearances, according to statistics kept by Kedar Bhatia for SCOTUSblog. (There were 113 different advocates who argued for parties or amici in the 63 argued cases, with several lawyers appearing more than once.)

 

The 12 percent figure was a steep drop from the previous term (2016-17), when 21 percent of appearances at oral argument were by women. In the previous five years to that term, the participation rate for women ranged from a low of 15 percent to a high of 19 percent.

 

“The thing that’s most disturbing to me is the consistency in the data,” says Jennifer Crystal Mika, an adjunct professor at American University’s Washington College of Law in the nation’s capital, who has studied the issue of female advocates before the high court. “There has never been much more than 20 percent female advocates over the last 20 years.”

September 10, 2018 in SCOTUS, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Women Lawyers, Particularly Women of Color, Report Persistent Bias at Work in New ABA Study

NYT, Lawyers Say They Face Persistent Racial and Gender Bias at Work

Women and people of color in the legal profession continue to face barriers in hiring, promotions, assignments and compensation, according to a study released Thursday by the American Bar Association.

 

The survey, which proposes strategies for employers to eliminate the barriers, was conducted by the Center for WorkLifeLaw at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, for the bar association’s Commission on Women in the Profession and the Minority Corporate Counsel Association. *** 

 

The researchers had 2,827 lawyers fill out online surveys in spring 2016 about their experiences at work. The surveys were distributed by the bar association’s email list and other professional networks. The association has 400,000 members.

 

They found that many women and people of color felt they were held to a higher standard than white men. That feeling was most prevalent among women of color, who reported the highest levels of bias in almost every category.

 

About half of the women of color said they felt they had equal access to the kind of “high-quality” assignments that lead to exposure and advancement in an organization. Among white men, that number was 81 percent.

 

Women of all races said they had to walk a “tightrope” in their behavior. They reported pressure to behave “in feminine ways” and a backlash for exhibiting stereotypically male behaviors. They were more often saddled with “office housework,” like taking notes, ordering lunch or comforting a co-worker in distress.

 

In a law firm, that kind of work reduces billable hours, which can hurt compensation. And while it takes up time and energy and helps the organization, it often does not lead to career advancement. The report states that a lack of opportunities to take on challenging work also contributes to high attrition rates among women in law firms.

 

Many women said they felt they were paid less than their colleagues with similar experience. (Almost 70 percent of women of color said so, compared with 60 percent of white women and 36 percent of white men.)

 

And a quarter of female lawyers reported that they had experienced sexual harassment at work, including unwanted sexual comments, physical contact and romantic advances. Those episodes sometimes had career costs. About one in eight white women, and one in 10 women of color, said they had lost opportunities because they rejected sexual advances.

 

Among all respondents, about 70 percent said they had heard sexist comments, stories or jokes at work. And while the numbers were higher among women, lawyers of both genders felt that taking parental leave would have a negative impact on their career.

 

“You’ve got systemic barriers in place,” said Ms. Mayes, who is the chief legal counsel for the New York Public Library. “If you don’t think a woman with children should be promoted, if the woman has children of a certain age or expects to, that’s a huge impediment.”

 

According to the latest report from the bar association’s Commission on Women in the Profession, only 35 percent of active American lawyers in 2016 were women, and they earned less than their male colleagues. Of the top lawyers for Fortune 500 companies, just 26 percent were women. And while women graduate from law schools in large numbers, they made up only 32 percent of law school deans.

 

The report lays out methods and practices for organizations to counter bias, with an emphasis on using metrics to track and encourage fairness. They include abolishing questions about prior salary in job interviews, having boilerplate questions and policies for interviews and performance evaluations, and monitoring supervisors to ensure there are no consistent disparities by demographic group.

September 10, 2018 in Equal Employment, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 27, 2018

Deja Vu and the Gendered Origins of the Practice of Immigration Law

Felice Batlan, Deja Vu and the Gendered Origins of the Practice of Immigration Law: The Immigrants’ Protective League, 1907-1940, Law & History Rev. (2018)

This essay from Felice Batlan was written after she spent days protesting at Chicago's O'Hare airport in response to Trump's "Muslim Ban." The article is posted on Law and History Review's multi-media digital platform which provides hyperlinks to both primary and secondary sources making it freely accessible and ideal for classroom use.

Abstract:

Donald Trump’s administration has provoked crisis after crisis regarding the United States’ immigration policy, laws, and their enforcement. This has drastically affected millions of immigrants in the U.S. and those hoping to immigrate. Stemming from this, immigration lawyers and immigrant advocacy organizations are challenging such policies and providing an extraordinary amount of direct pro bono legal services to immigrants in need. Yet the history of the practice of immigration law has been largely understudied. This article addresses this history by closely examining Chicago’s Immigrants’ Protective League between 1910 and 1940. The League provided free counsel to tens of thousands of poor immigrants facing a multitude of immigration-related legal issues during a time when Congress passed increasingly strict immigration laws often spawned by xenophobia and racism. The League, always headed by women social workers, created a robust model of immigration advocacy at a time when only a handful of women were professionally trained lawyers. A close and thick reading of the League’s archival documents, manifests how the events of Trump’s immigration policies have a long and painful history. U.S. immigration law and its enforcement have consistently been cruel, inhumane, arbitrary, and capricious. Told from the ground up and focusing upon the day-to-day problems that immigrants brought to the League, one dramatically sees how immigration laws and practices were like quicksand, thwarting the legitimate expectations of migrants, and, at times, leaving people in an endless legal limbo. The League, in response, participated in creating what would become the practice of immigration law, engaging, and quickly responding to changing laws, rules, policies, and the needs of migrants.

August 27, 2018 in Courts, International, Legal History, Religion, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Judicial Phenomenon Ruth Bader Ginsburg Celebrates 25 Years on the Court

Joan Biskupic, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Now a Judicial Phenomenon, Marks 25 Years on the Bench

The documentary "RBG," co-produced by CNN, has made $13.5 million at the box office, according to comScore, and will be broadcast next month on the network. Oscar nominee Felicity Jones will play her in a feature film, "On the Basis of Sex," in December.
 
The justice said recently that she hopes to stay on the Supreme Court at least five more years, when she'll be 90. She has survived two bouts with cancer, colorectal in 1999 and pancreatic in 2009.
 
Ginsburg's celebrity might not have been predicted when President Bill Clinton chose her for the high court in summer 1993. Then a 60-year-old federal appellate judge, she was not Clinton's first choice. He was looking for a flashier appointee and initially tried to woo former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo to the bench.
 
Ginsburg, with her large-rimmed glasses, hair tied back in a short ponytail, presented the picture of seriousness. She spoke of taking "measured motions" as a jurist. Supporters portrayed her as a night owl who spent hours hunched over law books and legal briefs, tepid coffee and prunes at hand. Her daughter created a little book titled "Mommy Laughed," chronicling the few times it happened.
 
Once on the Supreme Court, Ginsburg was a sharp questioner and meticulous opinion-writer. She leaned in but without the attention-getting style of the first female justice, Sandra Day O'Connor, or gregarious longtime pal Antonin Scalia.
 
She was hardly a liberal in the mode of contemporary justices on the left: William Brennan, Thurgood Marshall or Harry Blackmun. But as the court changed over the years and became more conservative with each retirement, she found herself carrying the banner for the left.

August 14, 2018 in Judges, Legal History, Pop Culture, SCOTUS, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Women Lawyers Seen More Negatively then Men Lawyers for Anger and Assertive Behavior

Women Lawyers Held to Tougher Standard when it Comes to Anger

A new study says that women lawyers who display anger, assertive behavior, or self-promotion are going to be seen more negatively than a male lawyer seen acting the same way.

The findings come from a new survey by the Center for Worklife Law together with the American Bar Association Commission on Women in the Profession and the Minority Corporate Counsel Association.

The full report, a survey of nearly 3,000 lawyers, is slated for release in September but a detailed article in the ABA Journal laid out the specifics of the survey’s finding that emotions displayed by women lawyers receive different treatment than those of their male counterparts.

Survey results found that fewer women than men felt free to express anger at work when it’s justified.

Only 44 percent said they were free to do so compared to 56 percent of white men who felt that they could. Even fewer women of color – only 40 percent – felt they could show anger at work on an appropriate occasion.

The report is called “You Can’t Change What You Can’t See: Interrupting Racial & Gender Bias in the Legal Profession.”

The authors declined to comment on the report until its release date, but the anger display findings dovetail with other studies that show women lawyers persistently receive different treatment in similar circumstances.

Two years ago, the ABA addressed the frequent use of words like “honey” and “darling” directed at women lawyers in work settings such as depositions and courtrooms. The lawyers’ association adopted an ethics rule that it is professional misconduct to discriminate against or another lawyer in the course of practicing law.

August 14, 2018 in Business, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Book from Oral Histories of Women Lawyers

CSPAN, 20th Century Trailblazing Women Lawyers

20th Century Trailblazing Women Lawyers In 2005, the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession initiated oral history interviews with 100 senior women lawyers including former Attorney General Janet Reno and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Legal historian Jill Norgren discussed her book, “Stories from Trailblazing Women Lawyers: Lives in the Law,” which is based on the transcripts from these interviews. The Wilson Center and National History Center co-hosted this talk

And the book: Jill Norgren, Stories from Trailblazing Women Lawyers (NYU Press 2018)

In Stories from Trailblazing Women Lawyers, award-winning legal historian Jill Norgren curates the oral histories of one hundred extraordinary American women lawyers who changed the profession of law. Many of these stories are being told for the first time. As adults these women were on the front lines fighting for access to law schools and good legal careers. They challenged established rules and broke the law’s glass ceiling.Norgren uses these interviews to describe the profound changes that began in the late 1960s, interweaving social and legal history with the women’s individual experiences.  

In 1950, when many of the subjects of this book were children, the terms of engagement were clear: only a few women would be admitted each year to American law schools and after graduation their professional opportunities would never equal those open to similarly qualified men. Harvard Law School did not even begin to admit women until 1950. At many law schools, well into the 1970s, men told female students that they were taking a place that might be better used by a male student who would have a career, not babies.  

In 2005 the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession initiated a national oral history project named the Women Trailblazers in the Law initiative: One hundred outstanding senior women lawyers were asked to give their personal and professional histories in interviews conducted by younger colleagues. The interviews, made available to the author, permit these women to be written into history in their words, words that evoke pain as well as celebration, humor, and somber reflection. These are women attorneys who, in courtrooms, classrooms, government agencies, and NGOs have rattled the world with insistent and successful demands to reshape their profession and their society. They are women who brought nothing short of a revolution to the profession of law.

June 13, 2018 in Books, Legal History, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing Today on Sexual Harassment by Judges

Watch the hearing here on CSPAN Senate Committee Examines Workplace Misconduct in the Federal Judiciary, June 13, 2018

Joan Biskupic, CNN, Senate Judiciary Committee Takes up #MeToo in the Courts

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hear testimony related to judicial misconduct on Wednesday, including from a Washington lawyer who says she collected numerous accounts of sexual harassment by judges, in the first public airing of US judges' #MeToo moment.

Jaime Santos says that after women went public last December with complaints against California-based US Appeals Court Judge Alex Kozinski, she and colleagues began trying to address the larger harassment issue by talking to women who had worked closely with federal judges in prestigious law clerk positions.
"Harassment and abuse within the judiciary are not the rule, but these experiences are not uncommon," Santos, who is a former law clerk from the 9th Circuit, where Kozinski served, says in prepared testimony. "Law clerks and externs from numerous federal courts shared with us that they had felt demeaned, belittled, or humiliated during their clerkships or externships.
 
"Some shared stories about being asked sexual questions during job interviews, hearing their judge or co-clerks speak about female attorneys in derogatory and objectifying terms, and being groped or kissed in public and in private."
 
A CNN special report in January, examining about 5,000 judicial orders arising from misconduct complaints over the past decade, found that courthouse employees and others with potentially valid complaints against judges rarely use the judiciary's misconduct system, or get no relief when they do. Judges overseeing the system seldom find that a claim warrants an investigation or that a judge should be disciplined.
 
On Wednesday the Senate committee is also scheduled to hear from James Duff, director of the Administrative Office of the US Courts, who oversaw a group set up to examine judicial misconduct. Chief Justice John Roberts established the working group in December after The Washington Post first reported complaints from women against Kozinski.
 
In his prepared remarks, Duff highlights the group's proposal for a national Office of Judicial Integrity, with a hotline for employees to seek counseling, guidance and intervention if harassed. Duff also says the current process for reporting complaints against judges "works well when utilized." He said officials are trying to make it easier to use.
The working group reported earlier this month that "inappropriate conduct" in courthouses is "not limited to a few isolated instances," but the group did not detail the magnitude of employee abuse beyond saying it was "not pervasive."
It did make several recommendations, including that judges put a greater priority on improving workplace culture, the code of conduct be revised to make clear what behavior is prohibited and the complaint system be made more transparent and accessible.
 

Live tweeting commentary on the hearing by Courtney Milan (pen name of former law prof and Kozinski judicial clerk Heidi Bond) @courtneymilan 

For more on the Working Group Report from the committee which studied the issue:

The Federal Judiciary Working Group Issues Its Report on Workplace Sexual Misconduct

Working Group Recommends Changes to Prevent Workplace Harassment in the Judiciary

June 13, 2018 in Courts, Judges, Legislation, Women lawyers, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Federal Judiciary Committee Issues its Report on Workplace Sexual Misconduct

Workplace Changes Recommended for Judiciary

The Federal Judiciary Workplace Conduct Working Group, a group of federal judges and senior Judiciary officials formed at the request of Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., issued a report recommending measures to improve workplace conduct policies and procedures in the federal Judiciary. The Working Group submitted its findings to the Judicial Conference of the United States, the federal Judiciary’s policy-making body. The report and an executive summary are available online.

 

The recommendations include clarifying workplace standards and communications about how employees can raise formal complaints, removing barriers to reporting complaints, providing additional and less formal avenues for employees to seek expert advice and assistance on workplace conduct issues, and utilizing enhanced training on these subjects for judges and employees.

 

Several recommendations of the Working Group have already been implemented or are underway, such as clarifying that confidentiality rules in the Judiciary do not prevent law clerks or employees from reporting misconduct by judges. Many of the report’s recommendations require further action by the Judicial Conference.  

The report is here.

Commentary by Joan Biskupic, CNN, Judicial "Inappropriate Conduct" Broader than Isolated Incidents, Panel Finds

A special US judiciary working group set up last December after a prominent appeals court judge was accused of sexual harassment reported on Monday that "inappropriate conduct" in the nation's courthouses is "not limited to a few isolated instances."

 
Yet the eight-member group -- which met with scores of former and current employees of the judiciary and invited comment nationwide -- did not detail the magnitude of employee abuse in the US judiciary beyond saying it was "not pervasive." The group also did not note whether, during its five months of study, any action was taken against individual judges or other court employees.
The working group, which was established by Chief Justice John Roberts, made several recommendations in its report, including that:
  • judges should put a greater priority on improving workplace culture
  • the code of conduct should be revised to make clear what behavior is prohibited
  • the complaint system should be made more transparent and accessible.

June 11, 2018 in Courts, Judges, Women lawyers, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 10, 2018

New Ruth Bader Ginsburg Movie Finds its Heart in Love, not Law

Vogue, A New Ruth Bader Ginsburg Movie Finds its Heart in Love, not Law

The Ruth Bader Ginsburg documentaryRBG, directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen, is probably not what you think it is, or even what, given the partisan hoopla in which we attempt to live our lives, you’d be forgiven for thinking it might be: a fawning polemic detailing a liberal justice battling the court’s right wing. There is fawning, though a fair amount is done by conservatives, including soon-to-retire Republican Senator Orrin Hatch and Antonin Scalia, the conservative justice and, until his death in 2016, the BFF of RBG. But the film is a deftly crafted portrait of a refreshingly wildly mild-mannered legal mind who was a powerful force in American life long before she donned the black robes and her trademark collars (one for dissenting opinions, one when she is siding with the majority, a fashion touch she developed with her female justice predecessor, Sandra Day O’Connor). What’s surprising to a casual follower of the judicial branch is that you’ll be reaching not for your legal pad while watching the film, but the tissues, given that what actually underpins RBG is a love story.

May 10, 2018 in Media, Pop Culture, SCOTUS, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 23, 2018

ABA New Guidelines on Zero Tolerance for Sexual Harassment

ABA Unveils New Guidelines to Combat Sexual Harassment

“Zero Tolerance: Best Practices for Combating Sex-Based Harassment in the Legal Profession” is an updated version of a manual first developed by the ABA’s Commission on Women in the Profession in 2007.

 

This latest version focuses on issues of sexual harassment and bullying within the legal profession and provides more explicit policy advice and guidance for legal industry leaders to follow in order to help eradicate misconduct among their ranks.

 

“[Zero Tolerance] updates our understanding of workplace abuse and expands it to include non-sexual abusive behavior, such as bullying and protection for individuals who may be targeted because of their sexuality, gender identity, race and ethnicity, alone or in combination,” said the preface by Hill, who has accused U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. “The commission’s manual offers ABA members invaluable information that will benefit the profession.”

 

The new manual outlines sample policies that legal organizations can use in drafting their own policies to prohibit sexual harassment. It also outlines key elements of what a comprehensive policy against sexual harassment should include, as well as guidelines for complaint channels and reporting procedures.

 

The manual also suggests possible sanctions or disciplinary actions that could be used against a harasser or if there was a retaliatory response taken against the victim of such harassment.

 

“The legal profession must have zero tolerance of sexual harassment against any person working within our law firms, our justice system or our law schools,” wrote ABA president and Greenberg Traurig co-president Hilarie Bass in the manual’s foreword. “This book provides a roadmap for our profession to move forward to ensure that sexual harassment is something that the next generation of lawyers can describe as a challenge of the past that has been overcome.”

 

The publication of the updated “zero tolerance” manual comes on the heels of the adoption of a sexual harassment resolution by the House of Delegates at the ABA’s midyear meeting in Vancouver last month, which encouraged all employers in the legal profession to adopt and enforce policies and procedures that “prohibit, prevent, and promptly redress harassment and retaliation.”

March 23, 2018 in Equal Employment, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 19, 2018

Catharine MacKinnon and Gretchen Carlson Talk Sexual Harassment

Catharine MacKinnon and Gretchen Carlson Have Few Things to Say

Sexual harassment “was not considered anything you could do something about — that the law could help you do something about — until a book was written by a then-young woman named Kitty MacKinnon,” the Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said at the Sundance Film Festival in January. She was there to attend the premiere of the documentary “RBG,” which will be released this spring. And the book, “Sexual Harassment of Working Women,” published in 1979, argued that sexual harassment in the workplace is sex discrimination and prohibited by equal protection laws.

 

“It was a revelation,” Justice Ginsburg said. “And it was the beginning of a field that didn’t exist until then.”

 

The Supreme Court agreed with Catharine A. MacKinnon. In its first case involving sexual harassment in 1986, with Ms. MacKinnon as co-counsel, the court ruled unanimously that sexual harassment is sex discrimination.

 

For over 40 years, Ms. MacKinnon, 71, has been a pioneer and lightning rod for sex equality. Along with her work on sexual harassment, she has argued, more controversially, that pornography and prostitution constitute sexual abuse of women in the context of social inequality.

 

Ms. MacKinnon now teaches law at the University of Michigan and Harvard. (In 1990, I studied with her, in a class called “Sex Equality,” when she was a visiting professor at Yale Law School.) Her most recent book, “Butterfly Politics,” surveys her four decades of activism.

 

Last month, she met Gretchen Carlson, the former Fox News anchor who, more recently, became a public face of sexual harassment. In July 2016, Ms. Carlson sued Roger Ailes, then chairman and chief executive of Fox News, claiming sexual harassment. After dozens of women came forward with their own accounts of harassment by Mr. Ailes, he was forced to resign.

 

Two months later, 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News, settled Ms. Carlson’s harassment claim for $20 million and issued a rare public apology for her mistreatment. (Mr. Ailes died in May.)

 

Ms. Carlson, 51, is the author of the best-selling book “Be Fierce: Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back.” A former Miss America, she was named chairwoman of the Miss America board of directors in January.

The article includes an in-depth interview with both women.

March 19, 2018 in Law schools, Violence Against Women, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 16, 2018

What Does Dressing Professionally Mean for Women of Color

Priya-Alika Elias, What Does Dressing "Professionally" Mean for Women of Color?

The schools did give us certain guidelines. . . . But generally, they avoided specific rules. “Be discreet,” they said. “Dress professionally, like the older lawyers do. Blend in.”

 

When you’re a woman of color, that’s almost impossible. You learn quickly that your body is hypervisible, because it is probably the only one of its kind in the courtroom. You are constantly among men, white men, who notice how different you look from the usual faces they see. And because you’re hypervisible, you are subject to the harshest, most unforgiving scrutiny. Does that girl belong here? What is she doing here? they wonder. And when they wonder, they seize upon the easiest thing to criticize, the first thing anybody would notice: the way you’re dressed..... 

 

The selective enforcement of rules continued all through law school. We didn’t get a handbook at my summer internship telling us what to wear: It was left to my supervisors to enforce the dress code. They did it in the most arbitrary fashion; my coworker wasn’t admonished for wearing a white suit to court, but I was sent home again and again to change.

 

Nobody tells you what too much means, in the context of the workplace. They don’t go into detail, because it’s an embarrassing conversation to have with another adult. That reluctance is normal, and it makes employers resort to coded language, like “unprofessional” and “excessive.” Unfortunately, it is this vagueness, this lack of specificity, that is exploited to the detriment of women of color. When you don’t have a clear set of rules to follow, you’re open to the judgment of a subjective authority — often a white male authority. In the eye of that authority, your very presence is a violation.

h/t Sahar Aziza

 

March 16, 2018 in Business, Law schools, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

UK Survey on Women in the Law Shows Unconscious Bias, Worklife, Flextime and Male Networks Still Barriers to Equality

Largest Ever Survey on Gender Equality in Legal Profession

The largest international survey of women in the law has been released by the Law Society of England and Wales to mark International Women’s Day 2018, shedding light on the road to gender equality in the legal profession.

 

“As women solicitors practising in England and Wales outnumber men for the first time in history, people working in law across the world have spoken out about the challenges the profession faces in achieving gender equality,” said Law Society vice president Christina Blacklaws. . . .

 

"“While more and more women are becoming lawyers, this shift is not yet reflected at more senior levels in the profession. Our survey and a wider programme of work during my presidency in 2018-19 seek to understand progress, barriers and support remedies.

 

“Unconscious bias in the legal profession is the most commonly identified barrier to career progression for women, while flexible working is seen as a remedy by an overwhelming 91% of respondents to our survey.

 

“Interestingly, while half of all respondents said they thought there had been progress on gender equality over the last five years, there was a significant difference in perception by gender with 74% of men reporting progress in gender equality compared to only 48% of women.”

Key figures:

  • 7,781 people responded to the Law Society’s Women in the Law survey (5,758 women, 554 men and 1,469 unknown or other)
  • 74% of men and 48% of women reported progress on gender equality in the last 5 years (overall 50%)
  • Main barriers to career progression perceived as:
    - Unconscious bias (52%); however, only 11% said unconscious bias training is consistently carried out in their organisation
    - Unacceptable work/life balance demanded to reach senior levels (49%)
    - Traditional networks/routes to promotion are male orientated (46%)
    - Current resistance to flexible working practices (41%)
  • 91% of respondents said flexible working is critical to improving diversity 
    - 52% work in an organisation where flexible working is in place
  • 60% are aware of gender pay gap in their place of work
    - Only 16% see visible steps taken to address gender pay gap

March 13, 2018 in Equal Employment, International, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Guest Blogger: MeToo in the Legal Profession

#MeToo in the Legal Profession

Daniela Kraiem, Associate Director Women and the Law Program, American University Washington College of Law

 

Anita Hill testifying at the confirmation hearing of Clarence Thomas was one of the events that shaped my life as a lawyer, a feminist, and a human being.  As the country watched this intelligent, competent black woman give her testimony, I saw what it meant to speak truth to power.  I understood that power would not pin laurels on you for bravery, but would instead denigrate you and spit on you and tell you to your face that your experience was a lie.   I learned that action requires much more than bravery, it requires sacrifice.

I also understood, when Clarence Thomas responded that the proceedings had descended into a high-tech lynching just how heavy weight of intersectional oppression is, and how it is always deployed in the service of protecting power. What white supremacy cannot accomplish, patriarchy will. 

At that time, as a young waitress, I had endured my own ration of sexual harassment.  But it wasn’t until much later, until I graduated from law school and started to make my way as a young lawyer and experienced a few very sketchy, borderline moments that I think I grasped the depths of what Anita Hill was up against.

Lawyers expect our profession to provide us with a kind of shield.  We are powerful, privileged people, even if we are also female or gay or a person of color or all or none of the above.  Our identity as a member of the bar provides us with the ability move freely in the halls of power….until we are harassed by someone even more powerful. 

The harassers within the legal profession are among the most powerful people on the planet—bar none.  When you’re harassed as a lawyer, it’s often by a judge, a legislator, the partner of your firm, the CEO of the company or the big client.  A person with unparalleled resources, cultural capital to burn, and ability to use the law as both a shield and a cudgel against you.   

We operate in a profession where confidentiality and discretion are paramount, refusing assignments is difficult, and our reputations are our currency.  Harassers use and abuse the ethical and social conventions of our profession to prevent victims from speaking out and speaking up.  The result? Persistent gender-based inequality among lawyers that seems to have no discernable cause. 

Much of the conversation around #MeToo starts to bleed—quite rightly in some cases—into conversation about crimes, about assault, and about a culture of violence.  But sexual harassment is also fundamentally an economic issue, one that warps our profession.  The cost is not just to the victims, who must figure out how to earn a living, despite the hostile environment they’re operating in. The cost is to all of us.  How many of us have not applied for a job, or turned down a plum assignment because taking it would have put us into close contact with someone who either the whisper network or gut instinct said would not be safe?  Avoiding sexual harassment shapes our choices, delimiting our options.  The language of choice (“You chose to turn down the assignment”; “You choose the less prestigious clerkship”) masks a sick, systemic tolerance for discriminatory behavior.  It’s not a leak in the pipeline, it’s the gaping hole.

The #MeToo moment is an opportunity for change, not just in the general law, but in lawyers.  There are specific and concrete steps that we can take now to make our workplaces exactly that—places where we work.  Where we represent our clients, or draft legislation, or decide cases.  Not places where we have to think about our basic safety and security. 

In February, a group of us came together to discuss concrete steps for change at #MeToo: Preventing Sexual Harassment in the Legal Workplace (February 19, 2018, American University Washington College of Law), sponsored by the Women and the Law Program at AU. I was inspired by these women and daunted by the amount of work to be done, starting with:

(See also these remarks by Daniela Kraiem, or watch the entire panel discussion complete with introductions by Kendra Brown, closing remarks by Ann Shalleck, and Q&A).

We also need to lead the change in our own workplaces.  Because of the immense cultural and political power wielded by harassers in the legal profession, we have to pay special attention to the even wider power differential for those who work with us, but who are not also lawyers. Court reporters, paralegals, administrative assistants, law clerks, interns, interpreters, bailiffs, correctional officers.  If a harasser is willing to risk harassing someone who is in any other context not afraid to sue your ass, how much more complicated is it for someone without our professional badges and power suits to shield them? We, as lawyers, have an especial obligation to the people we work with—to listen and watch and ask and to believe them when they tell us that something is making them uncomfortable—or worse.  Because of the power we possess, ours is a heightened obligation to not be complicit.

In the wake of #MeToo, I’ve thought often of Anita Hill and the lessons her experience etched on us. I’m looking for ways to repay the immense debt that I, at least, owe her for speaking out when doing so meant that she walked alone.  Working to end harassment in the legal profession—the context in which Clarence Thomas harassed Anita Hill, and the context in which Anita Hill fought back--is the right place to begin.

March 13, 2018 in Conferences, Equal Employment, Guest Bloggers, Women lawyers, Work/life | Permalink | Comments (0)