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Home / Legal News / Justice Bradley calls for more women in the judiciary (PHOTO SLIDESHOW)

Justice Bradley calls for more women in the judiciary (PHOTO SLIDESHOW)

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley greets attendees at the Get Your Gavel event at the Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee on Friday. (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

Women account for only 14 percent of circuit court judges in Wisconsin, and that’s a problem, according to state Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley.

“Wisconsin has fallen way behind,” Bradley said Friday during a conference at Marquette University Law School.

Though women have made some progress in the legal profession, she said, the quantity of female judges in the state remains “woefully behind.”

“As a profession we’ve come a long way,” Bradley said. “As a judiciary, we have a long way to go.”

The justice spoke as part of the Association for Women Lawyer’s Get Your Gavel conference, focused on women in the judiciary.

Wisconsin, Bradley noted, has a far smaller ratio of female to male judges than many neighboring states. According to the National Association of Women Judges, women make up 32 percent of circuit court judges in Minnesota, 31 percent in Iowa, 27 percent in Illinois and 26 percent in Michigan. Wisconsin, where 14 percent of circuit court judges are female, ranks well below the national average: 29 percent of state court judges nationwide are female.

In addition, women account for just 18 percent of municipal court judges in the state, Bradley said.

The justice said she seems some hope, however, in the fact that the number of female students at the state’s law schools is on the rise.

Bradley said that when she started law school in 1973, women made up less than 20 percent of law school classes nationally.

This year, she said, 39 percent of incoming University of Wisconsin Law School students are female and that number is even higher, 45 percent, at Marquette University Law School.

Bradley told the audience that diversity is essential to preserving the legitimacy of any institution, including the judiciary. Gender, Bradley said, is one of many forms of diversity.

“As women our life experiences have prepared us to ask difficult questions,” Bradley said. “Having people who have different life experiences changes the conversation.”

Milwaukee Attorney Diane Diel said she agreed with Bradley. Diel, who attended law school with Bradley and is a former president of the State Bar of Wisconsin, said Bradley was “right on.”

“Women judges are required to create that diversity of perspective,” Diel said.

But Bradley also said good judges have other important attributes.

“What we need are judges who are fair, neutral, and nonpartial – that doesn’t hinge on gender,” Bradley said.

Still, Bradley was speaking at a conference aimed at encouraging more women to consider being part of the judiciary. And her speech highlighted a major gender divide in the state court system.

“We are in fact not in a post-gender society,” Bradley said.


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