‘Out Of Control’: Diversity Initiatives Exploded At Top Office For Federal Courts In 2022 

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  • The Judiciary’s 2022 Annual Report released Tuesday highlights “several initiatives” the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AO) is taking on to “improve and support diversity, equity, and inclusion in the Judiciary’s workforce.”
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives are growing within the AO, from launching its “Model Intern Diversity Program” in 2018 to hiring a DEI officer in 2020.
  • GianCarlo​ Canaparo, senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, told the Daily Caller News Foundation the office seems like it “doesn’t answer to anybody.”

Taking a page out of university playbooks, the federal judiciary ramped up diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives in 2022, according to its annual report.

In the Judiciary’s 2022 Annual Report released Tuesday, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AO) says it has “several initiatives underway to improve and support diversity, equity, and inclusion in the Judiciary’s workforce.” The report also includes a round-up of judges the judiciary has highlighted throughout the year with “diverse racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and sexual-orientation backgrounds” as part of a broader effort to promote diversity in the profession. (RELATED: Federal Courts Create ‘Safe Space’ Mentorship Program For ‘Minoritized Staff’)

During pride month last June, for example, the AO highlighted Eastern District of Michigan Judge Judith E. Levy, featuring her in a video that discussed her experiences “coming out” and pursuing a career in law.

GianCarlo​ Canaparo, senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, notes that all of the highlighted judges were Democratic Obama appointees. While there are ethnically diverse Republican appointees, they haven’t been picked, Canaparo told the Daily Caller News Foundation in an interview.

“[This] suggests the focus isn’t on true diversity of thought or character,” he said. Instead, he called it a “virtue signaling push.”

What Canaparo said stands out most is that the judiciary is promoting not just diversity, but DEI, which is “synonymous with race and sex identity politics.”

Most of the DEI initiatives are through the AO, an agency established in 1939 to handle the administrative business of the U.S. court system, including budgets, finances, statistics, management and technology services.

In 2022, the AO launched the Defender Services Diversity Fellowship Program, which selected 12 fellows for its inaugural cohort. With an eye towards future hiring, the AO also hosted “The Model Intern Diversity Program,” a career training program launched in 2018 that brought nine undergraduate students to participating courts for career counseling, lunches with judges and court staff, and diversity and inclusion training.

Last year, it implemented a new feature in the application form for law clerks and staff attorneys, allowing prospective employees to “voluntarily identify their gender, ethnicity, and race.” The data is not available to hiring judges and staff attorneys but is used by the federal judiciary as a tool to “improve diversity in law clerk hiring,” according to a Nov. 2021 newsletter on the application system.

As part of the AO’s employee development efforts, it runs an AO Leadership class series, which the 2022 report notes includes diversity and inclusion. Several circuit courts also now have “diversity and inclusion task forces,” according to the federal judiciary workplace conduct working group’s March 2022 report.

In 2020, when the AO appointed a diversity and inclusion officer within the Office of Fair Employment Practices to develop new programs and provide “expert guidance to courts in measuring and monitoring diversity.” In 2021, the Judicial Conference, the federal courts system’s policymaking body, featured a Judicial Resources Diversity Subcommittee, which hosted “roundtable meetings in the spring for judges to exchange ideas and foster greater cooperation on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.”

Students holding posters take part in a protest against racism at the University of Stellenbosch in Stellenbosch on May 19, 2022, after a white student was filmed urinating on a black student’s books and laptop. (Photo by RODGER BOSCH / AFP) (Photo by RODGER BOSCH/AFP via Getty Images)

DEI initiatives are especially common in the San Francisco-based Ninth Circuit, which hired its own DEI officer, Amrita Mallik, in November 2020, per LinkedIn.

“The Office of Workplace Relations DEI support is integral to its mission to maintain a healthy and productive workplace,” the Ninth Circuit website explains. “The DEI Officer is available for consultation with judges, employees managers and supervisors, advice regarding implementation of best practices to support diversity in the workforce, and training and outreach programs that help us learn more about ourselves and each other to build inclusive working places.”

The Ninth Circuit also sends out a regular DEI news bulletin, which features articles from across the internet on various topics, such as one from the San Francisco Chronicle detailing nonbinary workers’ wage earnings and a Washington Post story claiming the phrase it’s “OK to be white” is “loaded.”

Canaparo said the push for DEI could impact the judiciary in two ways. First, the information judges receive will be “filtered through the lens of identity politics.”

“The federal judiciary receives a lot of information that it uses to make all sorts of decisions from the Administrative Office of the Courts,” he said. This information includes recommendations for policies about how the courthouses should be run, hiring decisions, sentencing practice data and more.

Second, Canaparo said many judges, partially new Biden appointees, buy into DEI ideas themselves.

In his recent judicial nominations, President Biden has placed a heavy emphasis on diversity. “We have made important progress in ensuring that the federal judiciary not only looks more like the nation as a whole, but also includes judges from professional backgrounds that have been historically underrepresented on the bench,” Biden said in a Feb. 14 press release.

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell criticized Joe Biden’s prioritization of demographics over qualifications on the Senate floor.

Overall, the AO’s DEI efforts appear “out of control,” Canaparo told the DCNF. While Chief Justice John Roberts is “nominally the boss,” it seems the office “doesn’t answer to anybody,” he said.

Roberts has taken a strong stance against programs that give preference to certain races, Canaparo pointed out, citing his opinion in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, a 2007 case that considered Seattle School District’s use of race as a tiebreaker in its admissions system.

“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race,” Roberts famously wrote.

The AO and Ninth Circuit did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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