Newcomb College Institute leader advocates for more women judges

June 24, 2013 9:00 AM

Aidan Smith

With almost 80 vacancies on the federal district and appellate courts, the judicial selection process is the focus of public attention. Sally J. Kenney, Tulane University professor of political science and executive director of the Newcomb College Institute, has been researching the judiciary for more than a decade. But she’s more than just an observer. She advocates for a diverse and representative bench that includes qualified women jurists.

Sally Kenney

“The Constitution gives the President the power to nominate judges with the advice and consent of the Senate and it should discharge its duty by giving all nominees an up or down vote,” says Sally J. Kenney, director of the Newcomb College Institute. (Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano)

“The Judicial Conference, chaired by Chief Justice Roberts, has declared many courts to be under a state of judicial emergency, meaning they do not have enough judges to keep up with their caseload,” Kenney says.

“Women wait longer than men for hearings and confirmation votes, and are more likely to be filibustered rather than voted on, despite being rated as well qualified by the American Bar Association.”

Kenney recently joined members of the New Orleans Chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women, along with a broad spectrum of legal experts and community leaders from 30 states, as a coalition called Courts Matter, for a White House Forum on Judicial Selection. Kenney hosted 50 members of the coalition from other states at a conference in New Orleans in January.

Her commitment to ensuring equal representation in the judiciary began long before she joined Tulane in 2010. Kenney is co-founder of The Infinity Project, a Minnesota-based nonprofit committed to increasing the gender diversity of the state and federal bench in the Eighth Circuit.

In October, New Orleans will host the annual meeting of the National Association of Women Judges, and Kenney is helping to plan the academic program that will focus on Louisiana’s women judges. Kenney’s scholarship showcases her years of work in this area, including her latest book, Gender and Justice: Why Women in the Judiciary Really Matter.    

Aidan Smith is external affairs officer for the Newcomb College Institute.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 website@tulane.edu