Monday, July 23, 2012
You may have seen a commercial that just came out on Monday that tackles the issue of gender diversity in Sedgwick County courtrooms. The ad was made by the League of Women Voters who say they are concerned with the lack of women judges in the 18th District Court.
The League of Women Voters is never supposed to support individual candidates or parties, but the local league president tells us they have become more active in speaking out about political issues, most recently: gender diversity.
The commercial begins with pictures of the 28 male judges in the 18th District Court and the narrator says, “When it comes to Sedgwick County District Court, you might ask, where are the women judges?"
The political commercial is the first of its kind for the Wichita League of Women Voters. The league's president says when a study revealed Sedgwick County doesn't have much gender diversity in its courtrooms, they decided it was time to use TV to get a message to voters.
“We're saying look at the gender, make sure you just don't automatically pull the lever without looking at the women out there and be aware that we don't have a diverse judiciary system,” LWV Co-President Carole Neal said.
Neal tells us she believes diversity is essential for a fair and impartial court system, but Judge Phil Journey doesn't agree.
“I do not consider the gender of the parties in front of me. I don't consider their race or religious beliefs. I try to look at the law and apply it to the facts of the case as I see them,” Judge Journey said.
According to a study done by the League of Women Voters, over the past 20 years, only five women have been elected as a judge. That's compared to 41 men. On average, those women have spent 1.6 terms as judge, while the average for men is 5.6 terms.
Neal tells us she thinks one of the reasons there aren't more women behind the bench is because only one or two women usually run for judge. This year though, there are four and they each have different opinions on whether voters should elect more females judges into the courtroom.
“Women make up almost half the population, so we should have many, many more judges on the bench that are female,” District Judge candidate Jama Mitchell said.
“What I really think is that we've lost a huge pool of talent because we don't have women who are judges, and yet nobody should be elected just because they are a woman,” District Judge candidate Linda Kirby said.
“You need to look at their qualifications,” District Judge candidate Zoe Newton said.
'If they're a female, great, but I don't know that we should elect judges simply because they are females,” District Judge candidate Faith Maughan said.
Sedgwick County currently has 28 judges. All of them are men.
Neal says one reason they've never run political commercials is because they're expensive. The National League of Women Voters actually helped support their recent ad because gender diversity among judges is a nationwide issue.