Federal judiciary edges closer to gender parity, but numbers of minorities drop

Hmm. Effect of change in Minister?:

The federal judiciary is edging closer to gender parity after the second consecutive year in which more women than men were appointed judges, new data show. Women now make up 43 per cent of the 905 full-time judges.

But the numbers of minorities dropped, also for the second year in a row. There were just four members of visible-minority groups chosen, and two Indigenous persons, out of 86 new judges.

In the wake of the new statistics, some members of the legal community are urging the government to do more to appoint minorities to the bench.

“I think it is time now to redefine what we mean by merit,” said Daphne Dumont, a former president of the Canadian Bar Association who practises law in Charlottetown.

“I think you can be highly meritorious for all sorts of reasons that aren’t necessarily the reasons given in the application form that you have to fill in.” For instance, Indigenous lawyers who have returned to their home communities to bring them access to justice have shown merit. The process, she and others said, typically rewards those who are perceived as leaders through volunteering, teaching and participating on boards of legal associations.

The Liberal government revised the appointment process in 2016, with a stated emphasis on diversity. For the first time, the government asked judicial applicants whether they are disabled, a member of a visible minority or an ethnic/cultural minority, LGBTQ2 or Indigenous.

Each year, the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs reports on the numbers of applicants and appointments from each of the groups. The numbers cover federally appointed courts such as the superior courts of provinces, the Federal Court of Canada and the Tax Court.

From October, 2016, to October, 2017, an equal number of men and women – 37 – were appointed to these courts, although men far outnumbered women among applicants. The following year, female applicants for the first time outnumbered males, and the numbers appointed also exceeded those of males – 46 to 33. This year, appointments were 47 women, 39 men.

By contrast, the numbers went down among the minority groups. This year (from October, 2018, to October, 2019), there were 20 appointees – 14 from ethnic/cultural groups; four visible minorities; two Indigenous; and zero categorized as LGBTQ2 or disabled. (There were 19 LGBTQ2 applicants and six disabled ones. Applicants can stay in the pool for two years.) The previous year, there were seven visible minorities, three Indigenous and 29 overall. The first year of the reports, in 2017, there were 32 – including nine visible minorities.

Rachel Rappaport, a spokeswoman for Justice Minister David Lametti, said the minister has met with legal organizations since his appointment early this year to encourage applicants from visible-minority, Indigenous, linguistic-minority and LGBTQ2 communities. The meetings were also a chance to identify barriers and work together on solutions to further expand the pool of candidates, she said.

Lori Anne Thomas, president of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers, said the appointments of black and Indigenous judges have been “woefully lacking.” She said she was singling out those two groups because they are overrepresented in the criminal-justice system, and among families in the child-protection system.

“The women who are appointed are white women. It shows there have been a lot of efforts in the legal community to create fairness and equality when it comes to gender, but it’s still not there in terms of race, or Indigenous persons,” she said in an interview.

Ms. Thomas said she would like to see “more consideration” given to members of overrepresented communities – for instance, for overcoming obstacles.

“Those who are racialized won’t be given the same kind of opportunities to speak on panels, to lead cases in the same way that especially their white male counterparts would be given.”

On that point, Scott Maidment, president of the Advocates’ Society, a lawyers’ group, said change needs to come from within the legal profession, too. To become a judge, “You need opportunities for leadership within the profession.” The Advocates’ Society has revised its leadership principles to stress inclusivity, he said.

Source: 43 per cent of federal judges

Liberal government not always appointing top recommended judges

Good analysis by Sean Fine. Greater transparency leads to more questions, but commendable that the government is releasing this data. Will do more analysis once I have reviewed the report but relieved that I will no longer have to review judicial announcements and compile my own data:

The Liberal government is not always appointing judges from a pool of “highly recommended” candidates, raising questions about whether partisan political considerations or diversity concerns are trumping merit.

Under a ranking system brought back last October by the Liberals – who said it would “highlight truly outstanding candidates” – advisory committees identify the best as “highly recommended.” Second best are “recommended.” A third group is “unable to recommend.” The Conservatives had dropped the “highly recommended” category in 2007, drawing criticism from the legal community.

But the Liberals have appointed a number of judges from the “recommended” list, according to a federal agency that supports the appointment process. Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould would not reveal how many when contacted by The Globe and Mail. Neither would the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs, which collects data on the process.

New statistics released as part of Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s stated effort toward transparency and diversity show a large surplus of the truly outstanding: 129 highly recommended candidates, for just 74 appointments made since last October. The rankings come from 17 non-partisan advisory committees across the country, who review the candidates’ applications and check each individual out with lawyers they know in the community.

Ms. Wilson-Raybould, who had instructed the judicial affairs commissioner to collect and publish the statistics, says it is her prerogative to appoint from the recommended list.

“I take care to consider a number of factors, such as each candidate’s expertise, the needs of the court, and the strength of their application,” she said in an e-mail to The Globe. “Whether someone is recommended or highly recommended is one factor that I take into account, among many important considerations, in exercising my prerogative to appoint the best candidates to the judiciary.”

The highly recommended category is the key to a merit system of appointments, says Peter Russell, a political science professor emeritus at the University of Toronto. “If you just appoint people who are merely qualified, that is not looking for the best-qualified people for the positions.”

In an interview, he questioned whether some appointed from the recommended group were chosen for their affiliation with the Liberals. “I think we should know – is it politics?”

The return of the “highly recommended” category was part of the Liberals’ new appointments process in which candidates are now asked to self-declare their sexual orientation, ethnicity and other background factors. That information is kept private.

On Friday, for the first time in Canadian history, the judicial affairs commissioner published data on the diversity of candidates and appointments.

Commissioner Marc Giroux’s office said revealing the number of appointees from the “recommended” list could be damaging to the legal process.

“We have considered whether providing a further breakdown regarding appointees and the ‘rating’ of recommended or highly recommended should be provided,” spokeswoman Caroline Masse said. “However, if such were disclosed, litigants or others could determine whether or not a particular judge was recommended or highly recommended by simply referring to their biography and comparing it to these statistics.

“This prevents our office from distinguishing between the number of appointees that were highly recommended vs. recommended,” Ms. Masse said in her e-mail.

Just short of 1,000 applications have been received since last October, of which the committees got around to assessing 441. Of those 441, 129 candidates were highly recommended, 82 were recommended and 230 were not recommended.

The data also show that, of the 74 appointments under the new process, 37 were men and 37 were women. (An additional 12 were of judges who moved from trial courts to appeal courts; of these, five were men and seven women.) Men, however, made up a much larger proportion of assessed and highly recommended candidates; there were 75 highly recommended men compared with 54 highly recommended women.

For years, the federal government had been urged by lawyers’ groups to collect data on applications and appointments by race. The new data show that, in the “visible minority” category, 97 applied (or roughly 10 per cent of all applicants) and 42 were assessed. Thirteen were highly recommended, six recommended and 23 not recommended. The government appointed nine visible minority judges.

Toronto lawyer Ranjan Agarwal, past president of the South Asian Bar Association, said the numbers show that there is more work to be done in mentoring and encouraging visible minority lawyers to apply. “Maybe there’s just not enough candidates applying from minority communities, which I think was the point of having the data – we could then focus in on the problem areas.”

There were 36 Indigenous candidates who applied and 11 who were assessed. Five of the 11 were ranked highly recommended, two were recommended and four not recommended. Three Indigenous judges were appointed.

f those lawyers who described themselves as belonging to an “ethnic/cultural group or other,” there were 190 applications, and 80 assessed; of those, 18 were highly recommended, 16 recommended and 46 not recommended. Fifteen were appointed.

There was one person with a disability appointed out of 10 assessed candidates (two highly recommended and eight not recommended). There were four judges appointed from the LGBTQ2 community, out of 23 candidates assessed. Six were highly recommended.

There were more “highly recommended” candidates in every category of diversity (women, ethnic minorities, LGBTQ, Indigenous and disabled) than judges appointed from each group.

Source: Liberal government not always appointing top recommended judges – The Globe and Mail