To ensure the best possible federal courts, it is essential that our nation’s judges have significant diversity in their professional backgrounds and experiences. While prosecutors and corporate lawyers can and often do make terrific judges, a judiciary composed of only former prosecutors and corporate lawyers would be a great disservice to our country. When certain professional backgrounds are underrepresented on the bench, it is important that new nominations address that problem.
Fortunately, most of the nominations made by the White House so far this year would enhance the professional diversity of the federal judiciary. Nominees like Missouri’s Stephen Bough, Louisiana’s John deGravelles, and Illinois’ Staci Yandle bring a wealth of experience representing individuals who have suffered personal injuries. Nevada’s Richard Boulware has substantial public defender experience, and Washington’s Salvador Mendoza spent years as a criminal defense attorney before becoming a state judge last year.
In some cases, this work is in areas the nominee has specialized in for years. In others, the time doing such work is part of a larger career experience. For instance, from 1997-2001, Florida’s Carlos Mendoza worked in the U.S. Navy as court-appointed defense counsel and in the Navy equivalent of a legal aid clinic. While Florida’s Beth Bloom has been a state judge for nearly 20 years, she had earlier experience representing individual plaintiffs in medical malpractice, wrongful death, personal injury, and product liability cases, as well as representing companies in commercial litigation cases.
In fact, three-quarters of the dozen men and women that President Obama has nominated so far this year to become federal judges bring experience as public defenders, criminal defense lawyers, or plaintiffs’ attorneys. That experience will make our judiciary stronger.