Press Releases

The Dearth of Asian Pacific American Federal Judges in New Jersey

September 18, 2014 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The continuing lack of federal judges of Asian Pacific American (“APA”) descent in New Jersey is simply unacceptable. The current status is especially disconcerting when qualified APA candidates exist and are ready, willing, and able to serve as members of the federal judiciary.

As compared with the U.S. general population, there is no doubt that women and minorities have long been underrepresented in the Federal Judiciary. An October 2009 article in the National Law Journal reported that 84% of the judges were white, with female jurists comprising 20% and African-Americans constituting 8%. More specifically, out of the almost 1,300 sitting federal judges, only eleven were then APA. Indeed, a significant percentage of the 94 federal judicial districts had never had a jurist who is a woman or a person of color.

To his credit, President Barack Obama has nominated and appointed more APAs to the Federal Judiciary than all prior administrations combined and generally deserves accolades for substantially increasing the diversity of the Federal Judiciary. However, APAs still remain far underrepresented in the Federal Judiciary (3.3% of the 874 active federal judges) as compared to the overall APA population of the United States (5.2%).

Here in New Jersey, the statistics are even more glaring and objectionable. Of the 17 authorized federal judgeships in the District of New Jersey, there are currently no APA jurists. In fact, not a single APA has ever been a full-time judge in the New Jersey federal courts at any level in the long history of the District of New Jersey, even if magistrate judges, bankruptcy judges, and other appointees are included. The dearth of APA judges stands in stark contrast to the APA population. According to the 2010 Census, APAs represent over 8.8% of New Jersey’s population. Between 2000 and 2010, the APA population more than doubled in 110 New Jersey municipalities, and every county in New Jersey experienced double-digit growth of its APA population. Indeed, APAs were also the fastest growing minority group during the past decade nationwide. New Jersey remains among the top five U.S. states with the largest APA populations.

The New Jersey federal courts were established by Congress 225 years ago under the Judiciary Act of 1789. The fact that not a single APA has ever been appointed to the bench in all that time is astonishing. The time is now for the President and New Jersey’s U.S. Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker to make the right choices with the next few vacancies on the New Jersey federal bench. In light of the facts, the case for dramatically increasing the number of APA jurists in the District of New Jersey could not be more compelling.

True proponents of diversity must recognize that the representation of all backgrounds, ethnicities, and cultures is important, and that when we have the opportunity to advance diversity, we must not only be supportive of the cause, but also work together towards the common goal. The APA community is cognizant that there is still much work to be done to truly diversify our Courts, and we support that goal. It is ALL of our responsibility to seize the opportunity.

Jhanice V. Domingo, Esq. is Counsel at the law firm of Einhorn Harris Ascher Barbarito & Frost, P.C. in Denville, New Jersey. She is the President of the Asian Pacific American Lawyers Association of New Jersey (APALA-NJ) and Chair of APALA-NJ’s Judicial and Prosecutorial Appointments Committee. APALA-NJ, founded in 1985 and incorporated in 1993, is the largest specialty bar association that collectively represents the interests of APA lawyers in the State of New Jersey.

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