The National LGBTQ+ Bar is dedicated to supporting LGBTQ+ attorneys throughout their careers – beginning in law school and continuing throughout your legal career, including moving to the other side of the bench. Judges are vital to the functioning of our legal system and to equal justice. Every day, judges in municipal, tribal, state, administrative, federal, and international courts ensure legal proceedings are conducted fairly, impartially, and in accordance with the law.
Because judicial officers play such a crucial role in our communities, it is critical that judges come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. The National LGBTQ+ Bar strongly believes that diverse perspectives make the bench stronger and lead to better judgments. Further, diversity on the bench strengthens public confidence in our legal system because community members see themselves and their experiences reflected in the administration of justice. To help diversify the judiciary and increase the number of openly LGBTQ+ judges, the National LGBTQ+ Bar routinely supports LGBTQ+ judicial nominees, fosters relationships with LGBTQ+ judicial organizations, and provides resources for LGBTQ+ legal professionals interested in the bench. You can learn more about our judicial programming and resources below.
Letters of Support and Endorsement
Judicial Nominations Committee
The National LGBTQ+ Bar has a Judicial Nominations Committee, led by Eric Lesh (formerly Executive Director of LeGaL and the former head of Lambda Legal’s Fair Courts Initiative), staffed by LGBTQ+ Bar Board members and supported by LGBTQ+ Bar staff. This Committee conducts interviews of prospective judicial candidates to all levels of the bench requiring nomination to determine whether the Bar will write a letter of support to encourage such a nomination. To request an interview and letter of support, please read about the committee’s process below and then send an email expressing your interest and the judicial position you are seeking, along with a current resume, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Letters of Support: Review Process for Judicial Nominations
The objective of the Committee’s work is to increase the representation of the LGBTQ+ community in the federal judiciary and state judiciaries. In furtherance of this objective, the Committee will interview LGBTQ+ candidates who seek nominations for judgeships and determine whether to recommend that the Bar support such candidates.
Committee members will receive materials (e.g., CV) of candidates and conduct a 30-minute virtual interview of each candidate. Attendance of individual Committee members will depend on individual member availability. The Committee will take a vote over email on whether to recommend to the Executive Director that the Bar publicly support the candidate.
A decision to recommend will be based on a candidate’s qualifications. Those qualifications will include the candidate’s character, professional reputation, academic credentials (without preference for Ivy League or other highly ranked undergraduate institutions or law schools), relevant litigation or judicial experience, expected or demonstrated judicial temperament, demonstrated commitment to LGBTQ+ equality, and commitment to equal access to the courts irrespective of race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, religion, wealth or class.
The decision to support a candidate will be made by the Executive Director, or in lieu of same, by the Presidents. The Committee’s recommendation will be taken into account in making a decision to support a candidate. An expression of support does not have to be exclusive, as the Committee (and the National LGBTQ+Bar) may be asked to consider and support more than one candidate for a particular vacancy.
If a candidate receives the National LGBTQ+ Bar’s support, the organization will draft a letter of support, with the goal of finalizing the letter within one week of the Committee vote.
Nuts & Bolts Academy for Judicial Candidates
In partnership with the International Association of LGBTQ+ Judges, the National LGBTQ+ Bar hosts the Nuts & Bolts Academy for Judicial Candidates annually at the Bar’s Lavender Law Conference and Career Fair®. This intensive workshop aims to provide interested legal professionals with the tools they need to end up on the other side of the bench. Nuts & Bolts is intended only for attorneys seriously seeking a judicial position within the next three years. The Nuts & Bolts Academy provides attendees with a foundation in how to reach the bench as well as small-group mentoring from current LGBTQ+ judges with experience in election, nomination, and appointment procedures. Stay tuned – applications to attend the next Nuts & Bolts Academy will open in early 2024. The Bar particularly encourages attorneys of color, transgender attorneys, attorneys with disabilities, and women attorneys to participate.
Pathways to the Judiciary
For those less certain about pursuing the bench or who are planning for the future, we encourage you to attend the annual “Pathways to the Judiciary” panel at the Lavender Law Conference and Career Fair®. At this recurring panel, members from varying areas of the judiciary come together to discuss their career trajectory and provide advice to young professionals interested in becoming judges. Unlike the Nuts & Bolts Academy, this panel is designed for attorneys and law students interested in learning more about becoming a judge and the experiences of LGBTQ+ judges, but who are not yet seriously considering it in the near future. You must register for the Lavender Law Conference and Career Fair® to attend, but no separate application is necessary.
International Association of LGBTQ+ Judges
LGBTQ+ judges and legal professionals seeking a judgeship can find resources, support, and community in the International Association of LGBTQ+ Judges. This international association of hundreds of judges facilitates communication between LGBTQ+ judicial officers, and promotes education on legal and judicial issues related to the LGBTQ+ community. It also aims to increase the visibility of LGBTQ+ judges and to ensure all persons who appear in a courtroom are treated equally.
The National Judicial College
The National Judicial College is the only educational institution in the United States that teaches courtroom skills to judges of all types from all over the country, Indian Country, and abroad. The College provides a collaborative place for diverse groups of judges to discuss issues they face in their role. Additionally, the National Judicial College hosts “The Judicial Academy,” a weeklong program that teaches lawyers interested in becoming judges about the profession and aims to improve their chances of appointment or election to the bench. One of the goals for the Academy is to increase diversity in the judiciary, so applicants from diverse backgrounds are encouraged to apply.
Sister Affinity Bar Associations
In addition to the above resources, our sister affinity bar associations are great resources for individuals pursuing a judicial position – particularly for transgender attorneys, attorneys with disabilities, attorneys of color, and women attorneys. Other national affinity bar associations include: