Palm Beach Lawyers To Gov. Scott: Appoint Woman To 4th DCA
Fifty Palm Beach County lawyers have signed a letter asking Governor Rick Scott to appoint a woman to the Fourth District Court of Appeal to end an “11-year gender drought.”
The Florida Association for Women Lawyers and its Palm Beach County chapter also plan to send similar letters urging Scott to appoint one of three female nominees to the position, said Leora Freire, president of the Palm Beach chapter.
“As far as we’re concerned, it’s time. It’s long overdue,” she said. “Basically, the position is the judiciary should reflect the society we live in.”
The Fourth District Court of Appeal Judicial Nominating Commission certified six judges last week as nominees to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Mark Polen. The three women are Palm Beach Circuit Judges Janis Brustares Keyser and Krista Marx and Okeechobee Circuit Judge Elizabeth Metzger.
The other nominees are Chief Palm Beach Circuit Judge Peter Blanc, Broward Circuit Judge John Murphy III and St. Lucie Circuit Judge Mark Klingensmith.
Scott has 60 days to make an appointment from the shortlist.
FAWL will ask the governor to pick Keyser or Marx, both members. Metzger is not a member of the Palm Beach chapter, said Freire, a Richman Greer associate.
In the letter Friday to Scott, the subject line reads, “Eleven years seems long enough …”
The letter states, “As past and current leadership of the Palm Beach County and South Palm Beach County chapters of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers, we are writing to you regarding a very serious concern that we have regarding the 11-year ‘gender drought’ surrounding the appointment of new judges to the Fourth District Court of Appeal.”
The letter notes Judge Melanie May, a former Broward Circuit Court judge, was the last woman to be appointed to the Fourth District bench when Governor Jeb Bush elevated her in 2002. The six appointments since then have been men.
Given the ages of the sitting judges, another opening is not likely for 15 years, the letter said. “To go 15 years or so without the appointment of a woman judge — inadvertent or not — seems a significant disservice to our community and the state overall.”
The letter was signed by women as well as men, including Adam Rabin, president of the Palm Beach County Bar Association.
“There’s a lot of good people who were nominated in that group in both genders,” he said, speaking for himself rather than the association. “We continue to encourage opportunities for attorneys and judges of all backgrounds and to encourage our governor to strongly consider making sure we have balance in his appointments to include both genders and minorities.”
Julie Littky-Rubin, a former president of the Palm Beach FAWL chapter, said she spearheaded the effort after watching “a rapid succession of male JNC appointments.”
“I felt this was an important issue,” said Littky-Rubin, a partner at Clark Fountain La Vista Prather Keen & Littky-Rubin in Florida. “I do not think for one second that gender should be the sole factor in picking a judge. But everything being equal, 11 years is a long time to go.”
The personal injury attorney started sending emails to “movers and shakers” in the Palm Beach County legal community, and 50 people signed on. She could have gotten more, but Littky-Rubin wanted to send the letter quickly because Scott is under a deadline. He has not responded to the letter, she said.
Patricia Ireland, former president of the National Organization for Women, applauded the efforts of FAWL and the Palm Beach County legal community to try to influence Scott.
“I’m really proud of the lawyers for continuing to draw attention to the need for a better balance on the bench,” said Ireland, of counsel at Phillips Richards & Rind in Miami. “While we have a large number of women going to law school, as you get higher in the hierarchy you find fewer and fewer women whether it’s state attorneys or at the top of the major law firms or at academia and on the bench.
“As women, we are not a monolith, but we do have a different experience in life. It’s a different experience and perspective we have in law and in life,” she added.
Three of 11 judges on the Fourth District Court of Appeal are women — May, Martha C. Warner and Carole Y. Taylor. Three women also sit on the Third District Court of Appeal out of 10 judges — Linda Ann Wells, Leslie B. Rothenberg and Barbara Lagoa.
The Fourth DCA hears appellate cases from Broward, Palm Beach, St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River and Okeechobee counties.
This article originally appeared in Daily Business Review under the headline “Palm Beach Lawyers Urge Scott To Pick Woman As Fourth DCA Judge.”