4 Yale J.L. & Feminism 57 (1991-1992)
Feminism in the Nineties: Coalition Strategies

handle is hein.journals/yjfem4 and id is 63 raw text is: Feminism In The Nineties: Coalition Strategies
Donna Hitchenst
In June of 1990, in a hotly contested race, I had the good fortune to be
elected to the San Francisco Superior Court. My career as a civil rights
lawyer, the process of running for the bench, and the experiences I have had
since my election lead me to believe that there are two important issues that
should be addressed by legal feminism in the nineties. First, we need to
challenge the conception of an unbiased judiciary. Second, just as we need to
make room for difference on the bench, we need to embrace difference in our
legal theories and put them into practice. In the following discussion, I will
share some personal experiences with you that I hope will highlight these
The process of running for a judicial position was extremely enlightening
in many respects. The most dramatic lesson from the campaign was the
dichotomy between how the voters and those in the legal profession view the
bench. The inevitable conclusion from my experience is that it is time to
confront the traditional presumptions-myths-that are perpetuated about the
desirable characteristics of a judge. In that regard, I would like to explore two
themes with respect to the way the judiciary is traditionally viewed: first, I
would like to challenge the assumptions about the values that judges should
reflect; and second I will confront the common accusation that those of us who
are activists or who come from civil rights backgrounds have a presumed bias
that automatically disqualifies us from judicial positions.
Over and over again in litigation throughout the country, women of color,
men of color, and white women who sit on the bench are immediately
challenged in civil rights cases, because they are presumed to be biased. When
was the last time a white male judge was challenged solely on the basis of his
gender and race? Well, probably not recently, because you're just going to get
another white male judge. But assuming there were more options available,
very few of us, who have done civil rights litigation, would walk into court
and say, Your Honor, I don't know you at all, but you're a white male and
therefore you'd be biased in this case, and I don't want you to hear it. But
I will tell you that corporate attorneys defending civil rights cases, especially
employment discrimination cases, do not hesitate to take that position.
I think we need to remember that no judge stands outside of either a
personal or a social context. So, I submit to you that bias is not the issue; the
t Judge of the Superior Court, San Francisco. This article is based on a speech delivered at the
Conference, Feminism in the 90s: Bridging the Gap Between Theory and Practice.
Copyright 0 1991 by the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism

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