Stepping Stones To The Federal Bench – Have You Considered Becoming A State Court Judge?

By Rebecca Hamburg posted 01-09-2013 03:29 PM


Do these resumes sound familiar?

  • Public interest fellow at public interest firm; senior trial attorney for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; partner at plaintiffs’ employment firm.
  • Sole practitioner focusing on employee rights advocacy.
  • Principal at employment law firm focusing on class-action suits involving wages and hours.
  • Associate, partner and of counsel at civil rights firms; executive director of public interest organization.

If they do, that’s because 2012 saw several current and former NELA members appointed to benches around the country. In California alone, four former NELA members—Virginia Keeny, Brad Seligman, Mark Talamantes and Jeffrey K. Winikow—were appointed as state court judges. We at NELA congratulate each of these outstanding attorneys on their appointment and wish them the best in their new positions.

We hope their appointment can also serve as a reminder to other NELA members that you, too, should consider seeking judicial office. Serving as a state court judge is a great stepping stone to appointment as an Article III judge in federal court. Take as one example Judge Bernice B. Donald, who began her legal career at Memphis Area Legal Services as a Staff Attorney in the Employment Law & Economic Development Unit and went on to serve as a state court judge before being appointed to the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee and most recently to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

NELA’s report about the lack of professional diversity on the federal bench served as a wake-up call for our coalition partners and the White House that too few judicial vacancies are filled with individuals who, like Judge Donald and our members now on the bench in California, share NELA’s commitment to equal justice under law for all Americans, and who do not place the interests of employers over the rights of employees. Judicial Hostility To Workers’ Rights: The Case For Professional Diversity On The Federal Bench can be found at: Putting your name in the ring whether at the state or federal level can assist in attaining NELA's goal of a professionally diverse federal judiciary.

NELA takes an active role in assessing candidates nominated to federal judgeships as well as individuals interested in becoming candidates for such vacancies. We screen potential judicial nominees, ensuring they are faithful to the progress made on civil rights and individual liberties, and possess a demonstrated record of respect for justice and equality in the workplace. If you would like more information about becoming a judicial candidate, are a candidate for a federal judicial vacancy who would like to be endorsed by NELA, or know someone who NELA should consider endorsing, please contact Rebecca Hamburg Cappy, NELA Program Director, or Julie M. Strandlie, NELA Legislative & Public Policy Director,