Eric Lesh

  • February 15, 2018
    Guest Post

    by Eric Lesh, Executive Director, LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York and Art Leonard, Robert F. Wagner Professor of Labor and Employment Law, New York Law School. He is also the Editor of LGBT Law Notes

    As the Supreme Court’s 2017-18 Term began, it looked like a banner term for LGBT-related cases at the nation’s highest court. The Court had already granted review in a “gay wedding cake” case from Colorado, Masterpiece Cakeshop. But the hopes for a blockbuster term have rapidly faded.

    Here are some of the LGBT-related controversies that dropped off the Supreme Court docket this Term.

  • December 13, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Eric Lesh, Fair Courts Project Director, Lambda Legal and Ethan Rice, Fair Courts Project Attorney, Lambda Legal

    LGBT people have suffered a long history of discrimination based on animus and invidious stereotypes. As has been the case for other groups targeted for their personal characteristics, LGBT people have seen prejudice against them displayed in our nation’s courtrooms.

    When this type of anti-LGBT bias taints the jury selection and trial processes, it reinforces historical prejudice in the court system, interferes with litigants’ right to a fair trial, and undermines the integrity of the courts.

  • May 3, 2017
    Guest Post

    *This piece originally appeared on Lambda Legal’s blog.

    by Eric Lesh, Fair Courts Project Director, Lambda Legal

    Yesterday, Lambda Legal filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Oregon Supreme Court arguing that it was unlawful for Judge Vance D. Day to devise a scheme to avoid marrying same-sex couples.

    Judge Day directed court staff to use the court record system to investigate whether couples wishing to marry were of the same sex and, if so, to represent that he was unavailable, rather than unwilling, to marry them.

    “A judge puts on a robe—not a clerical collar—and has a duty to administer the law impartially,” said Peter Renn, senior attorney for Lambda Legal. “No public servant, whether a judge or county clerk, has the right to ‘screen out’ same-sex couples seeking to marry from access to government services on the basis of personal religious beliefs. Everyone who comes before a judge is entitled to receive fair and impartial treatment.”

    “As public servants, judges are required to serve all people, including same-sex couples, without bias or prejudice. When they break that promise, the public loses trust in the courts,” said Eric Lesh, director of Lambda Legal’s Fair Courts Project. “LGBT people and other marginalized communities depend on the courts for justice when they encounter discrimination. But how can they believe they’ll get a fair shake when judges go rogue and themselves engage in discrimination—and defend their right to do so?”

  • May 9, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Eric Lesh, Fair Courts Project Manager, Lambda Legal

    *Lambda Legal brought the case of Garden State Equality, et al. v. Dow, et al., which secured the right to marry for same-sex couples in New Jersey.   

    New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has until June 29 to decide whether he will preserve the independence of the state’s nationally renowned judiciary or continue to retaliate against members of the New Jersey Supreme Court for decisions that he characterizes as “liberal” and “activist.”

    On October 21, 2013, the fight to bring the freedom to marry to New Jersey ended in a resounding victory when the New Jersey Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, refused to delay the lower court win in Garden State Equality v. Dow. The Supreme Court agreed that there was no public interest in depriving a group of New Jersey residents of their constitutional right to equal protection while the appeals process continued.

  • August 27, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Lawmakers may help push equality measures for LGBT persons, but at the end of the day if the state and federal courts are made up of rightwing jurists and those beholden to corporate interests, advancements toward equality will likely be an ongoing arduous and fitful slog.

    The health and safety of the LGBT community is “inextricably tied to the health and safety and vigor of our court systems, both federal and state,” said Justice at Stake’s Praveen Fernandes, at an Aug. 24 panel discussion at the National LGBT Bar Association’s 2012 Lavender Law gathering in Washington, D.C. Fernandes, the Director of Federal Affairs and Diversity Initiatives at Justice at Stake, noted that many people concentrate on the role federal courts occupy in legal battles, but that the “vast majority” of law is determined at the state level.

    And on the state level there is an increasing challenge to ensure that judges are independent of special interests. Thirty-nine states elect judges, and an increasing amount of money is flowing into those elections to elect judges inclined to advance corporate interests at the cost to individual rights. Several of the panelists participating in the “Defending the Courts: Why the LGBT Community Should be Particularly Concerned about the Strength and Independence of the Bench,” also noted that judges who uphold or bolster rights for the LGBT community are vulnerable to well-funded efforts to remove them from the bench.

    Judge Mary Celeste of the Denver County Court highlighted one of the more infamous efforts to punish judges who supported equality. 

    “We are talking about defending people who are supportive of LGBT issues. Now is anyone here not aware of what happened in Iowa,” Celeste said, referring to the successful effort to oust three Iowa Supreme Court justices who were involved in a 2009 state court ruling that supported same-sex marriages. 

    The effort to oust the three Iowa Supreme Court justices was spearheaded by the American Family Association, a Christian lobbying group, and attracted $948.355 from out-of-state groups. In late 2010 former Arkansas Governor and Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee applauded the effort to remove the Iowa Supreme Court justices, claiming that Iowans were “sick of one branch of government thinking it is more powerful than the other two put together,” the Iowa Independent reported.