In a conversation with Senator Elizabeth Warren, Alliance for Justice president Nan Aron, and retired federal judge Nancy Gertner about professional diversity on federal courts, Sherrilyn Ifill highlighted the importance of racial diversity in particular.
In a conversation following the event, Sherrilyn Ifill, president and general counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said too little attention has been paid to the role of professional background diversity even at the level of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and David Souter were last two Supreme Court justices who previously sat on the state bench, Ifill said. “I think we’re at the point now on the U.S. Supreme Court that Thurgood Marshall is probably the last justice who represented a criminal defendant at trial—certainly the last justice who represented a capital defendant at trial.”
Marshall “brought the wealth of his background as a lawyers—not just as a black man, but as a lawyer representing defendants in racialized context, and he brought that into the conference room to share with his colleagues so they could have a different window into the cases they were deciding,” Ifill said.
“Without that kind of diversity, we’re actually missing in the conference the kind of give and take and information I think is essential.”
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