Diversity on the Bench
This research paper explores how the discriminatory legal election schemes attenuate the quality and legitimacy of the judicial decision-making. Most fundamentally, the researcher gives a significant focus on the substantive value of judicial diversity. In the subsequent sections of the paper, much recognition is given to the value of cultural pluralism in achieving legitimacy in the judicial decision-making. As it is noted, the clash between master narratives and counter-narratives has a significant influence on how judges make their judicial decision. The bottom line is that the quest for diversity on the bench should be supported to enrich the quality and legitimacy of the legal decision-making and advance jurisprudence. Most often, in a multicultural jurisdiction, master narratives dominates counter-narratives which bring about supremacy battles in cross-cultural settings like in the United States.
In such a scenario, legal decision-makers like the judges partake a significant role in the legitimization of narratives. In one way or the other, the extraction of meaning from a social phenomenon is dependent on how judges or jurors define and construct societal norms. Judicial decision-making, however, must reflect the typical nature of a fair and effective legal system which can harmonize the competing narratives and ensure justice prevails all the time. Essentially, the focus of having a diverse bench is not to determine the superiority of one narrative over the other exercise reason in making legal decisions. The African-Americans, as one of the minority communities in the United States, have held a subordinate status in the American justice system as the white community maintain their status quo thus hampering the effective and fair administration of justice.
Various scholars have observed that silencing the minority narratives can inevitably lead to a sharply polarized society (Ifill, 2000). In other words, an all-white judiciary is a recipe for alternative problem-solving mechanisms by the minority as they feel that the legal does not apply homogenously across the entire community. The quest to have diversity on the bench is to accommodate all the voices in the entire process of judicial decision-making. Judges are actors of the judicial process and are presumed to be abreast with the familiar narratives that are intertwined with the legal decision-making approaches. Likewise, male-centered narratives are deeply embedded in the legal doctrines and norms of the law. Just as there is a need for female judges on the bench, so it is for male judges to interpret the principles of justice from both male and female lens of experience.
Gender diversity on the bench introduces and legitimizes both men’s and women’s narratives in the judicial decision-making as the judges can view life differently. In essence, gender diversity on the bench broadens the range of perspectives leading to judicial impartiality in legal decision-making. Haire & Moyer (2015) enriches the assertion that a judicial bench mainly constituted by members of the same gender is likely to cause systemic “blind spot” which leads to the exclusion of alternative viewpoints when making judicial decisions. Among the best arguments that have been advanced is the contention that a judge bench that is homogenously constituted tend to give more emphasis to majority perspectives while disregarding the minority perspectives. This tendency has the ramification of developing a jurisprudence that decriminalizes the experiences and reality of the minority groups.
Consequently, leaning towards the majority narratives attenuates the judicial decision-making not only in the discrimination cases but also in other intergroup conflict cases. Thus, the primary goal why an inclusive bench is required is driven by the need for inclusive judicial decision-making (Hanser & Gomila, 2015). It has been observed that cases dealing with intergroup conflict are more sensitive and thus requires a diversified bench. The approach judges give when assessing discriminations cases can significantly shift if they offer differing perspectives. Bell (2018) and Ifill (2000) contend that the judges’ approach to analyzing discrimination cases is significantly affected when the bench is heterogeneously constituted. The theorists assert that a homogenously constitute bench tends to adopt the majority community values which has had the ramification of creating discrimination jurisprudence.
Conversely, a highly diversified bench tend to accommodate the minority community values which significantly alter the outcome of the discrimination cases and ultimately advances the jurisprudence. There have been a complex set of narratives—are intimately intertwined with gender and race—which have persistently and explicitly come into play in the judicial decision-making. Both gender and racial diversity on the bench play a critical role in enriching the legal decision-making. Nonetheless, at least as revealed by the jury deliberations, the influence of judicial decision-making should not be measured entirely based on the case outcomes because determining cases involves other aspects such as the analysis and scrutiny of the legal arguments and the evidence provided. Even if the entire bench arrives at the same verdict, what is essential is the deliberative process.
The value of diversity is realized at the deliberative process where alternative perspectives play an essential role in enriching the judicial decision-making thereby improving jurisprudence. Role of Judicial Diversity on Judicial Impartiality The judicial impartiality is premised on the Fourteenth Amendment which envisions a structurally impartial bench and the impartiality of the individual judges. To exercise a high level of impartiality, judges are supposed to listen to the contrary arguments of the case before them with their minds open to allow their impartiality come into play. In essence, the individual judges’ impartiality gives them time to deeply engage and reflect on their multiple identities as well as experiences. Just as diversity is valuable during the judicial process, so is the element of impartiality.
It should be manifested during the judicial decision-making and not in the judicial outcomes. However, in spite of the commendable work some experienced juries have done to advance and apply the principles of impartiality in the judicial deliberations, much has not been achieved due to double standards that have into play in numerous cases. This view infers that the black judges elected by the black voters would not be able to impartial judicial decisions. Apparently, the judges imposed a double standard on the black and Mexican minorities which would be hard to impose on the white majority. This paradox revealed in this scenario illustrates how impartiality operates differently for blacks and the whites. The subject of impartiality and representation is intertwined with the need for judicial diversity in the legal decision-making.
If the majority view continues to maintain that the African-American judges are not capable of delivering impartial judges, it then implies that the achieving diversity on the bench will be an uphill task. With this fact in mind, the diverse and wide range of viewpoints and perspectives from a bench of judges with varied backgrounds enriches the judicial decision-making as well as the jurisprudence (Haire & Moyer, 2015). Attempts to achieve diversity on the bench are not meant to increase the cosmetic diversity but rather to have the kind of judges who, apart from representing both the majority and minority voices, can authentically articulate and delegitimize range of wide perspectives and values in the judicial decision-making. This being the case, there is a need to look beyond the race or gender of the judges on the bench and embrace the efforts that are being made to increase diversity in the judicial court judges.
Shifting the attention from the politics of master narratives and counter-narratives in the judicial decision-making to championing the efforts being made to increase judicial diversity is of paramount importance in enriching jurisprudence. Any candidate with the ability and willingness to accommodate “outsider voices” in the judicial decision-making should be considered for the position of both the federal and state court judges regardless of their gender, race or political ideology (Grossman, Gazal-Ayal, Pimentel & Weinstein, 2016). The constant challenge that continues to plague the efforts to achieve diversity on the bench is the failure to recognize the value of diversity of perspective over the cosmetic diversity. Many confuse the diversity efforts with the struggle to have a judicial representative for certain community, race or gender (Farrell, Ward & Rousseau, 2009).
If people continue to tolerate this kind of localized perception, then the actual goal of judicial diversity cannot be realized and its value harnessed. The primary focus of judicial diversity is to have judges on the bench with the potential to bring diverse perspectives. This implies that having judges with a different race, gender or historical background on the bench will serve a great deal of bringing diverse viewpoints and perspectives that will not only enhance judicial decision-making but will also enrich the jurisprudence. Nonetheless, judges elected to the bench should possess the necessary qualifications and be willing to articulate the minority views in the legal decision making. References Bell, D. Faces at the bottom of the well: The permanence of racism.
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