Why So Few Women on The JNC?

Categories: News

Judging by the moose-shootin' hockey mom on the presidential ticket this past fall, political strategists have discovered a little secret: Women outnumber men in this country. And that shows up at the polls.

It's for this reason that Florida Senator Bill Nelson might want a re-do when it comes to a decision he made last week. His office just released the names of the state's new Federal Judicial Nominating Commission - an esteemed group of lawyers that recommends judges and U.S. attorneys. The problem: The numbers don't send the friendliest message to the Democrat's female constituents -- or the 9,982 lady lawyers in Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach. These are some of the brightest, most influential and politically-connected females in the Sunshine State. And some of them aren't pleased.

According to John Pacenti's article in the Daily Business Review (and then followed up on the Southern District of Florida blog) only 3 out of 20 from the South Florida crop were women. And in the state? Just 11 out of 56. (Of the 56 total members, the state's presiding senator -- Nelson this time around-- appoints 46.)

"It's like we've taken three giant steps backwards," says Miami Attorney Lisa Lehner, choosing her words carefully. "It's really startling."

With a democrat in the White House, Lehner -- Director of the Florida a Association of Women Lawyers in Miami -- hoped for a more even gender ratio. When she saw the list of names, she "couldn't help but be dismayed."

"This isn't personal," she says, "It's a question of fair representation." Lehner has since written a letter to the senator's office and will decide with the association how to respond this week.

Meredith McFadden, the senator's press Secretary, says the board has traditionally been male-dominated. "[Nelson] agrees more needs to be done," she says, "to increase the number of women on panels." She didn't respond to questions about how he picks the members or what he'll do to even things out.

Though the criteria is hazy, it's clear previous experience on the commission helps you get a seat. So does a background in activism. But, ultimately, even the litigators who are picked aren't quite sure how they made the cut. "Nobody knows exactly why they're chosen," explains Lehner, who has been practicing law for 25 years. "What's the secret? I don't know."


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