Why Aren’t There More Federal Female Judges?

Although women make up slight more than half the population, only 1 in 3 are on the federal bench.

By Hady Mawajdeh & Laura RiceSeptember 23, 2015 9:31 am

Only 32 percent of federal district court judges and 35 percent of federal appeals judges are women, according to the National Women’s Law Center.

Texas reflects the national disparity. Currently, 17 of Texas’s 54 federal judges are women. But Texas Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz are now urging president Barack Obama to nominate former state District Judge Karen Scholer. This is the state’s first female federal court nominee since 2011.

Amy Matsui tells Texas Standard about the number of factors that keep women from federal judicial seats. She is the senior counsel and director of the National Women’s Law Center’s Women and the Courts project.

“The process of nominating someone to a federal judicial position is pretty complex,” Matsui says. “Someone is nominated to the federal judicial bench by their home state senators and then the president and the administration decide whether or not to nominate that individual.”

Advisors, recommendations, and in Texas’ case, the judicial nominations commission, all play a part in the selection, according to Matsui.

“All along that process, there are different discriminations, views that particular women may not have necessary qualifications or credentials, they may not be viewed as leaders in their profession, they may lack a mentor or someone who is strongly pushing them,” she says. “And there may just not be an emphasis placed on how important it is to have a diverse federal bench, which can then make it more of a priority to nominate women and people of color.”