Women Still Underrepresented on the Federal Bench

When Sandra Day O’Connor was confirmed as the first female Supreme Court Justice in 1981, there were only 48 women among the 700 active federal judges (6 percent). Today, that number has quadrupled to 201 women among 823 active federal judges, meaning that women now make up 24 percent of the federal judiciary, according to the New York Times. However, the percentage of women appointed to the federal bench has been shrinking under President Bush. Only 21 percent of Bush’s appointments to the federal judiciary have been women, compared with 29 percent for Clinton, according to the Times. This is despite the fact that women now make up 48 percent of all students in law school.

“The presence of Sandra Day O’Connor on the United States Supreme Court made a difference for women,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. As president of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1981, Smeal testified on behalf of O’Connor. “I knew then that O’Connor, although a conservative voice, would not permit the elimination of women’s fundamental rights, including the right to privacy,” said Smeal.

“We are urging President Bush to appoint another moderate woman to take O’Connor’s place,” said Smeal. “We cannot go back to just one woman on the highest court in the nation. The era of tokenism is over.”

LEARN MORE Read Ms. magazine’s Urgent Report on the Looming Fight Over the Supreme Court

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New York Times 7/5/05; Feminist Majority

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