New publication sheds light on path to becoming a judge

In an effort to demystify the process of pursuing federal judgeships and increase diversity on the federal bench, the American Constitution Society (ACS) and a coalition of legal groups have released a how-to guide on becoming a federal judge, "The Path to the Federal Bench."

The publication is part of an initiative by ACS, the Hispanic National Bar Association, Justice at Stake, the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, the National Association of Women Judges, the National Bar Association, the National Congress of American Indians and the National LGBT Bar Association to shed light on a process that few lawyers and law students understand, and encourage minority candidates in particular to pursue these crucial positions in spite of recent obstruction and scrutiny in the Senate of several highly qualified minority candidates, including the filibuster of preeminent constitutional scholar Goodwin Liu's nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

"For too many lawyers and law students at the beginning of their careers, pursuing a federal judgeship is seen as an unattainable goal, with a process shrouded in mystery," said ACS Executive Director Caroline Fredrickson. "Minority candidates in particular have no doubt been deterred from pursuing these positions by the recent delay, obstruction and scrutiny of a large number of highly qualified minority judicial nominees. To preserve the quality, fairness and integrity of our judicial system, we must attract the best and the brightest from all walks of life to serve on our federal judiciary. In conjunction with our efforts to end obstruction of judicial nominees, ACS is paving the way for a more diverse judiciary in the years to come by providing much-needed guidance to a new generation of lawyers about the process of becoming a judge."

National Asian Pacific Bar Association Executive Director Tina Matsuoka said:

"The intricacies of the federal judicial nominations process are not always transparent or intuitive. NAPABA and other bar associations of color have worked tirelessly to provide guidance and information to young lawyers considering judicial careers. This new guide is another step in our ongoing efforts to create a more diverse judiciary by sharing our knowledge in an easy-to-understand and accessible format."

Native American Rights Fund Executive Director John Echohawk said:

"Experience as a tribal attorney or tribal judge, handling complex issues of federal Indian law, does not carry the same weight during the federal judicial nomination process as other legal experience might. This type of diversity of experience and background is often frowned upon by larger society as being somehow inferior to the status quo. So, for many young Native attorneys who may hope to pursue a federal judgeship someday, they are faced with an exceptionally difficult choice: either separate yourself from your tribal community and passion for Indian law early on, or forget about ever becoming a federal judge. This is unacceptable. I hope that The Path to the Federal Bench will succeed in its mission to promote diversity on the federal bench so that Native lawyers are no longer forced to make that choice."

ACS has also launched a web page with other resources for those interested in the process of becoming a judge, including video from several recent panel discussions. To learn more about now-pending judicial nominations and the judicial vacancy crisis on our federal courts, visit

The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy (ACS), founded in 2001 and one of the nation's leading progressive legal organizations, is a rapidly growing network of lawyers, law students, scholars, judges, policymakers and other concerned individuals. For more information about the organization or to locate one of the more than 200 lawyer and law student chapters in 48 states, visit

Published: Tue, Jun 21, 2011