Robert Raben

  • December 1, 2011

    by Nicole Flatow

    Last week, The New York Times revealed that a disproportionate number of President Obama’s minority and female judicial nominees were rated “not qualified” by the American Bar Association. Out of the 14 nominees that received the rating, just one was a white male.

    American Constitution Society Board Member Robert Raben, the president of The Raben Group, called the story “at least welcome, at most desperately needed” in a guest post for ACSblog. Transparency is needed, he explains, to root out practices or biases that may explain “why minorities more than whites seem to crash on the establishment shoals.”

    “I have not seen a single Latina nominee who wasn't either hit or slammed by some establishment group -- a bar association, a leader of a not for profit, a bar leader, a judicial committee -- as being ‘intemperate’; lacking ‘seasoning’; ‘inexperienced’, ‘not that bright’, etc.,” Raben writes. “There's a possibility that the entire cohort of Latina lawyers who want to be federal or state judges just don’t deserve it yet, but I'm not buying it. I think there's something else going on, and I think that unearthing what may be going on within the ABA's cloistered process may help us get to the bottom of this.”

    In The Daily Beast, University of Colorado at Boulder law professor Paul Campos addresses claims by the right that Obama’s picks were rated “not qualified” at a higher rate than Bush’s or Clinton’s because Obama prioritized affirmative action over merit. Campos provides evidence that “the Bush administration engaged in more aggressive affirmative action when it came to nominating federal judges than the Obama administration has,” given the smaller pool of conservative minority candidates.

    Instead, there is another “quite simple” explanation for the higher number of Obama candidates rated “not qualified”, Campos writes:

  • August 4, 2011

    by Jeremy Leaming

    President Obama’s efforts to place judges on the federal bench, as noted frequently on this blog, have faced unprecedented obstruction in the Senate. Earlier this week when senators left town for an August recess, after spending practically all their time on the debt-ceiling debacle, they only confirmed four of the 24 judicial nominees who were ready for a Senate vote.

    One bright spot in the judicial nominations process, NPR notes, is the administration’s efforts to diversify a federal bench that is still largely dominated by white men. At least it’s a bright spot for progressives. (Right-wing blogger and former attorney in President George W. Bush’s Department of Justice Ed Whelan got plenty of airtime on NPR to belittle the administration’s efforts to enrich the federal courts.)

    ACS Executive Director Caroline Fredrickson, who has lauded the administration’s drive to diversify a monolithic bench, told NPR that too many of the diverse nominees are facing an uphill battle in the Senate.

    “For women and minorities,” Fredrickson said, “it’s just been a bigger hill to climb before they actually get a vote. And so for whatever the reasons, the facts speak for themselves.”

    The NPR piece notes, “Some of the longest waiting nominees, Louis Butler of Wisconsin, Charles Bernard Day of Maryland and Edward Dumont of Washington happen to be black or openly gay.”

    Earlier this summer, not long after the Senate filibustered Goodwin Liu’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Fredrickson pointed out that Liu, a UC Berkeley law school professor, and former ACS Board Chair, “would have enriched our federal bench.”

    “Of the 160 active judges on the federal court of appeals,” Fredrickson said, “there is not one active Asian Pacific American judge on the Ninth Circuit.” (Liu was recently nominated to the California Supreme Court.)   

    Robert Raben, president and founder of The Raben Group, and also a member of the ACS Board, praised the administration for, “Promises made, promises kept.” He said the president and “his team” are committed to diversifying the federal courts, “and they get an A-plus on that.”

    Audio of the NPR story is available here. For more information on the rising number of vacancies on the federal bench, and status of judicial nominees, see