Anders Takes on Mantle of New President

August 26, 2017 Comments off

At the August 4, 2017 Annual Meeting, the Honorable Daniel J. Anders (PA)was elected to succeed the Honorable Victoria S. Kolakowski (CA) as President of The International Association of LGBT Judges.  Judge Anders is a member of the Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, where he has served since 2007.  He served as Vice-President of the Association for two years during Judge Kolakowski’s two terms as President.  Known for his engaging personality, strong organizing skills, energy and dedicated effort to whatever task he undertakes, Judge Anders has an ambitious agenda for the Association that is sure to engage members in strengthening the organization’s ability to pursue projects consistent with our objectives.

Congratulations Judge Anders! We look forward to working with you.

Stay tuned!

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FEINMAN, FIRST OPENLY GAY MEMBER OF NEW YORK COURT OF APPEALS

June 29, 2017 Comments off

June 21st, the New York Senate confirmed Governor Andrew Cuomo’s nomination of Appellate Division, First Department, Justice Paul G. Feinman to serve as a member of the New York Court of Appeals. Feinman, President of the International Association of LGBT Judges between September 5, 2008 and September 9, 2011, is the first openly gay member of the nationally impactful Court of Appeals.  Judge Feinman has blazed trails before; October 1, 2012, he became the first openly gay male member of the Appellate Division, First Department, when he was appointed to that Court by Governor Cuomo.

The June 21st New York Times Report of James C. McKinley, Jr. capsulizes this monumental moment.

When Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo named the first openly gay judge to the New York Court of Appeals last week, the news thrilled gay rights advocates, many of whom had been disappointed by the state’s highest court.

Some had bitter memories of the court’s 2006 decision in Hernandez v. Robles to uphold the ruling that same-sex couples had no right to marry under the state’s Constitution. Five years then elapsed before the Legislature passed the Marriage Equality Act, giving same-sex couples a right to wed, and four more years passed before the United States Supreme Court guaranteed that right.

So the choice of Paul G. Feinman, an associate justice of the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court in Manhattan, to fill the seat left open by the death of Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam in April was a watershed for gay New Yorkers. It was made doubly sweet because the governor announced the move during NYC Pride week, calling Justice Feinman “an extraordinary human being.”

“I can’t stop thinking back to 2006 when I argued the Hernandez case and we lost in such a devastating way,” said Roberta Kaplan, a prominent gay rights lawyer who has known Justice Feinman since the late 1990s. “And I can’t stop thinking that things would have been different if someone with the experience of Paul Feinman was on the court.”

Justice Feinman, 57, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. After only an hour of friendly queries, the members unanimously approved his appointment, sending it to the Senate floor, where he was confirmed Wednesday.

The judge assured the senators he would be independent of the governor. Asked by the committee chairman, Senator John J. Bonacic, a Sullivan County Republican, if he believed in “judicial activism” or considered himself a “traditionalist” on constitutional questions, Justice Feinman gave a Solomon-like answer: “I decide each case based on the law and the facts. If others want to characterize it, that is up to them.”

None of the senators made an issue of his sexual orientation, but when a Democratic senator noted the governor had selected a white man to succeed a black woman, Justice Feinman hinted that his life experience would be valuable to the court. “Certainly my entire career has been about promoting equal access and equal justice for all, and I hope I add to the diversity of perspectives that the court considers,” he said.

He also told the panel a recent battle with leukemia would not affect his ability to serve; knocking on the tabletop, he said he had fully recovered after chemotherapy and stem cell transplants.

Justice Feinman grew up in a large Jewish family in Merrick, on Long Island, the third of five children. His mother was a bookkeeper who later worked for the Nassau County Department of Social Services. His father owned a small company in New York City that manufactured trimmings for women’s garments.

In 1981, Justice Feinman graduated from Columbia University with a degree in French literature, the start of a love affair with French culture, friends said. He has made it a tradition to take each of his nieces and nephews to Paris on their 16th birthdays.

As an undergraduate, he worked as a legal intern, helping people in Upper Manhattan navigate the social services maze. “It was from this experience that I first came to truly appreciate how being a lawyer is a helping profession and that helping people can be a source of great satisfaction,” he told the lawmakers.

He earned a full scholarship to the University of Minnesota Law School, where he was a founder of an association of gay students. On graduating, he started his law career as a public defender with the Legal Aid Society, first in Nassau County and then in New York City during the height of the crack epidemic, when the courts were jammed with people charged with drug crimes and violent felonies.

Within two years, he had landed a job as the court lawyer for Justice Angela Mazzarelli, remaining with her for seven and a half years as she moved from the trial courts to the appellate division.

He was also diving into Democratic politics in Chelsea and the West Village in Manhattan, and he became a leader in the L.G.B.T. Bar Association. He handily won a contested election for Civil Court judge in 1996 and was soon serving as an acting Supreme Court justice. He won an election for that seat in 2007, and Governor Cuomo elevated him in 2012 to the Appellate Division, First Department.

Justice Feinman and his husband, Robert Ostergaard, a web publisher, live on Roosevelt Island. They are avid weekend gardeners and fierce Mets fans.

Justice Feinman is considered thoughtful and methodical, a judge whose decisions show empathy for the parties.

In court, Justice Feinman almost never belittles lawyers, even when their arguments are weak, his law clerks said. His former clerks said he treated employees like family, always having a party on their birthdays in his chambers.

Although he tends to side with liberal positions, he is not dogmatic in his thinking, fellow judges said.

“He’s progressive, but I consider him a moderate with progressive instincts,” said former Justice David B. Saxe, who served with Justice Feinman on the Manhattan appellate court.

Friends described Justice Feinman as a “mensch,” a generous and giving person extremely devoted to his family. On many weekends, he goes to Connecticut to care for his widowed mother.

“Complete generosity, both emotional and physical — that is what he has shown to his family members, and I think that extends out to other things,” Ms. Kaplan, the lawyer, said.

In law school, Justice Feinman organized gay students. He was active in the gay rights movement in New York City in the 1990s, serving as the president of the L.G.B.T. Bar Association and Foundation of Greater New York.

“Paul has always been open about his sexual identity, at a time when it wasn’t such an easy thing to be,” Justice Mazzarelli said.

Justice Feinman’s rulings have rarely made news. One exception was in 2011, however, when he ruled on a plan to build a mosque near the 9/11 memorial. He threw out a lawsuit that tried to block the development through a landmark designation, saying the firefighter who brought the action lacked standing.

He also made waves in 2007 when he took a stand against the sealing of records in civil cases, even when both sides want to keep documents secret after a settlement.

For civil rights advocates, however, Justice Feinman’s experiences as a gay man matter almost as much as his legal acumen.

“There is something profoundly important about finally having a L.B.G.T. person on the bench who brings these life experiences,” said Susan Sommer of the Lambda Legal Defense Fund, who has argued four gay rights cases before the court. “It will certainly enrich the conversation when these issues come before the court.”

In response to a CNN inquiry, our Vice-President, Daniel Anders (PA), commented,

Justice Feinman is an exceptional jurist who has a long history of public service.  His confirmation furthers the diversity of our courts in an important and visible way.  The International Association of LGBT Judges is particularly proud to have one of our members and our former president serve on the highest court in New York.  We are confident that Justice Feinman will continue to ensure equal access to our courts and equal justice for all.

Justice Rosalyn Richter, Judge Feinman’s friend and colleague on the Appellate Division, First Department, was also recommended by the New York Commission on Judicial Nominations to Governor Cuomo for appointment to the vacancy to which Judge Feinman was nominated.

WRITING COMPETITION IS OPEN

March 6, 2017 Comments off

The deadline for submission for the International Association of LGBT Judges Writing Competition is April 21st at 5:00 PM Eastern Standard Time.

TOPIC:

Diversity on the Bench; or Judicial or legal ethics around LGBT Issues

ELIGIBILITY: Students must be enrolled in an ABA-accredited law school during the 2016-2017 academic year.

AWARDS: The International Association of LGBT Judges and the National LGBT Bar Association will award one applicant with a $1,500 monetary award as well as two $250 honorable mentions. The winner and any recipients of an honorable mention will receive complimentary registration to the 2017 Lavender Law Conference & Career Fair in Chicago. The winning entry may be posted on the American Judges Association’s webpage with excerpts published in their magazine.

FORMAT: Each entry should be a scholarly piece fit for publication in a law review. Entries should follow standard note format, including Bluebook (19th edition) citation form. All entries must be submitted in English. Each entry should be no longer than 25 single-sided pages with one-inch margins and 12-point Times New Roman font, double-spaced. The page limit includes footnotes. Footnotes should be single-spaced and 10-point font. Entries containing endnotes or including appendices or supplemental material will not be considered. Published papers or papers to be published in other publications during the entirety of the competition process are ineligible. Each individual may submit only one entry and group entries will not be accepted. Entries should be the sole work of the author and should not yet have undergone significant editing by others. Editing includes any significant revision as well as technical or substantive review of citations. Informal support, such as general comments on preliminary drafts, is allowed.

All entries must be submitted electronically in either Word or PDF format. Entrants must not include their name or the name of their school on the competition paper itself. Instead, participants must submit a separate cover page indicating their name, school, permanent address, telephone number, and a statement indicating that a preemption check has been completed as of the date of submission. We reserve the right to reject any submissions that do not conform to these standards, in particular those that list any identifying information on the submission directly.

DEADLINE: Entries must be submitted before the competition closing date of April 21, 2017 at 5:00pm ET. All entries must be submitted via email to  judgescompetition@lgbtbar.org. Please write “Judges Writing Competition” in the subject line.

Additional information is published  by the National LGBT Bar Association.

Orlando

June 13, 2016 Comments off

Adequate words cannot be found to express our sadness, anger, and outrage following yesterday’s murder of our sisters, brothers and allies at The Pulse in Orlando, Florida. To family and friends of the victims and the Orlando LGBT Community, the Association offers its love, sympathy and encouragement as you endeavor to somehow get through your losses and pain.

MASTER OF THE ROLLS

May 27, 2016 Comments off

May 26th, The Guardian reported that “Sir Terence Etherton, Britain’s first openly gay senior judge, has been appointed master of the rolls, making him head of the civil judiciary in England and Wales.” The article continues,

The 64-year-old lawyer’s promotion was confirmed by an announcement from Downing Street on Thursday morning.

Etherton, who has been on the court of appeal and is currently chancellor of the high court, was a member of the British Olympic fencing team for sabre in 1980.

He will be the second most senior judge in England and Wales, outranked only by the lord chief justiceLord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, and will receive a salary of around £220,000.

Educated at St Paul’s school in west London and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, Etherton has been a judge since 2001 and was the first to become so while publicly declaring his sexuality.

He entered a civil partnership in 2006 with Andrew Stone, which was then converted to a marriage in 2014 in a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony at West London Synagogue.

On joining the appeal court in 2008, Etherton said: “My appointment also shows that diversity in sexuality is not a bar to preferment up to the highest levels of the judiciary.”

Etherton, who takes up the post in October, succeeds Lord Dyson, who has been master of the rolls since 2012.

Thomas said: “I am delighted to congratulate Sir Terence Etherton on his appointment as master of the rolls. Following his excellent work as chancellor over the last three years, I look forward to continuing to work with him closely in the major reform of our system of justice.”

With highest regards, we salute Sir Terence Etherton!

HISTORY CHECK: JUDGE BENJAMIN J.F. CRUZ

March 20, 2016 Comments off

A correction is necessary regarding the confirmation of Justice Maite Oronoz Rodriguez as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico. All the best information accessed by the news media was that Chief Justice Oronoz Rodriguez is the first openly LGBT Chief Judge in the United States. The response of a Founding Member of the Association was that Retired Judge Benjamin J.F. Cruz, current Vice-Speaker of the Guam Legislature, was actually the first openly LGBT Judge to serve as Chief Judge. He served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Guam from April 21, 1999 until his retirement from the judiciary August 31, 2001.

A May 3, 2013 resolution  of the Guam Judicial Council granting Judge Cruz the Guam Judiciary Hustisia Award includes the following regarding his some of his accomplishments:

Cruz was appointed to the Superior Court of Guam in 1984 by Governor Bordallo, where he spent ten years of his term presiding over Juvenile and Family Court. During his term on the Juvenile and Family Court, then-Judge Cruz took very seriously and personally his role in helping our island’s youth escape a life of crime and abuse, rendering hundreds of decisions which changed lives, helped families heal, and taught troubled youth to respect the law. Cruz was elevated to the newly created Guam Supreme Court by Governor Carl T.C. Gutierrez in 1997, becoming the first openly gay Chief Justice of any state court in the United States, standing thus as a pioneer to many beyond Guam’s shores.

After retiring from the bench, Cruz was elected Senator in 2004, serving in the 28th through 32nd Guam Legislatures, where he presently serves as Vice Speaker. He is credited with leadership on difficult but non-partisan issues, among which were increasing Guam’s minimum wage; strengthening Guam’s alcohol, tobacco, and substance abuse laws; and repealing the statute of limitations for the prosecution of criminal sexual offenses against children. Vice Speaker Cruz has been open about his own struggle to overcome childhood sexual abuse, and this struggle in particular has driven his determination to protect children from abuse.

We also celebrate Judge Cruz!

Justice Maite Oronoz Rodríguez, Nation’s First LGBT Chief Justice

March 8, 2016 Comments off

February 23, 2016, Lambda Legal announced:

Late yesterday, the Puerto Rico Senate confirmed Associate Justice Maite Oronoz Rodriguez as Chief Justice of the commonwealth’s highest court. She will be the first openly LGBT chief justice in the country. Lambda Legal released the following statement from Staff Attorney Omar Gonzalez-Pagan:

“The confirmation of Maite Oronoz Rodríguez as the first openly LGBT Chief Justice in Puerto Rico and the United States makes history, breaks barriers, and marks a momentous step towards achieving a judiciary that reflects full and rich diversity of our country. A diverse judiciary serves not only to improve the quality of justice, it boosts public confidence in the courts.

“In June 2014, Lambda Legal praised Oronoz Rodriguez’s confirmation as an Associate Justice on the Puerto Rico Supreme Court after we sent Gov. García Padilla a letter urging him to ensure that any potential nominee’s judicial philosophy includes a commitment to rule fairly and impartially in cases involving LGBT and HIV-positive litigants and to seek thoughtful jurists who reflect Puerto Rico’s rich diversity.

“We are pleased with the Puerto Rico Senate’s decision to swiftly confirm now-Chief Justice Oronoz Rodríguez to the Commonwealth’s highest court. * * *

“Courts matter to the LGBT community in Puerto Rico and across the country. We must care about the courts if we care about our rights, our families, our neighbors and our society. We look forward to continuing our work in Puerto Rico on behalf of LGBT people and those living with HIV.”

February 13, 2016, shortly after the nomination, El Nuevo Dia reported

In accepting the nomination to head the Supreme Court, Judge Oronoz Rodríguez promised to give physical, economic and procedural access to any and all Puerto Ricans in the courts of Puerto Rico.

“I am of those who think it’s time to take off the robe, to step down and receive with open citizenship that requires human justice arms. Only then we begin to restore confidence they deserve the vast majority of judges and judges worthy of our system, “said Oronoz Rodríguez.