Systemic discrimination ‘not limited to legal profession’

By Emma Ryan|18 December 2018

In order to combat discrimination in the legal profession, a more holistic look into the issue from a society-wide perspective is needed, according to a US judge.

US District Judge Xavier Rodriguez appeared on the judicial panel at this year’s Relativity’s Relativity Fest, alongside Justice Tanya Kennedy of the New York State Supreme Court, US District Judge Nora Barry Fischer and retired US Magistrate Judge Andrew Peck, where he stressed the importance of taking an overarching standpoint of addressing discrimination within the legal profession.

His comments followed that of Justice Kennedy, who said that everyone has “a responsibility to increase the pipeline”, noting that there’s still more that needs to be done in order to achieve an equal playing field between both men and women, and those of minority groups.

“We’re talking about systemic discrimination. It really becomes a difficult issue,” said Judge Rodriguez in response to the comments presented by Justice Kennedy.

Both Judge Rodriguez and Justice Kennedy referenced an order made by a Federal Court Judge in Mississippi – Judge Carlton Reeves – which sought a more diverse judiciary in a matter, SEC v Adams, which concerned a man who operated a Ponzi scheme.

The order by Judge Reeves sought receivership, with the receiver to “work on adding more women and people of colour to the Federal Court system” in the state of Mississippi.

“The background for this case ... Judge Reeves was called on to appoint a receiver. That’s the genesis of this motion. He was to appoint a receiver in these proceedings so he was to appoint a receiver who is of a diverse background,” Judge Rodriguez said.

“And it’s a pipeline problem, like Justice Kennedy mentioned, and certainly I think we could argue there was systemic discrimination in both the federal and state court systems for a long time.

“But if we’re talking about present scenario right now, it’s really kind of concerning to me that ... We can talk about our daily lives here, and our worker world, taking this out to the broader world at large, its regular citizens who need to be concerned about the pipeline. What do I mean by the pipeline? For Blacks and Hispanics right now graduating from high school, there is a decline from the percentage numbers of Hispanics and Blacks that are graduating from high school, from when I graduated high school. So the pipeline has a problem.

“And then take that on to college now, and the cost of colleges and universities being what they are, we have the further challenge of Blacks and Hispanics being able to afford a four-year institution. And then you take that to law school because the pipeline now is not bringing in the numbers we’'d like to see.

“So we’re talking about systemic discrimination from that kind of a context, and it’s not really limited to the legal profession. We’ve got some serious issues as a society to work through.”

Systemic discrimination ‘not limited to legal profession’
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