Saturday, August 18, 2007

"Our issues"

Legal Times, sponsor of a discussion of U.S. Supreme Court trends and decisions on school desegregation, criminal justice, business, and abortion, just posted the transcript. (Thanks to SCOTUSblog for the head's up.)
Take a wild guess: Which of the 4 panelists, each of whom argued in the 2006-2007 Term, was invited to talk about the last of those topics?
(a) Michael Dreeben
(b) Eve Gartner
(c) Thomas Goldstein
(d) Jeffrey Lamken
The answer's (b), of course.
Legal Times deserves credit for avoiding an all-male panel (something, as posted before, we continue to see at IntLaw conferences). But did it have to limit invitation to 1 woman, and did she have to be the designated abortion discussant?
The problem is not that Gonzalez v. Carhart got mention; to the contrary, that April 2007 decision also received IntLawGrrls' attention. The problem is that having the woman speak about abortion, while the men's talks covered the rest of society's concerns, reinforced the notion that abortion is the women's issue before the Court. Gartner, senior staff attorney at Planned Parenthood, might've unintentionally contributed to this notion by concluding:
[M]y bet is that the Court is not going to touch any abortion cases for a few years. I don't think they want to get involved with it again. So I don't think there will be anything on our issues.
Beg to differ.
► 1stly, the abortion jurisprudence, though it affects women most directly, implicates questions of privacy, of the proper role of government, of federalism, and of separation of powers, each of which has profound importance for all in persons in society. It is thus "our issue" only if "our" means all of us.
► 2dly, if "our issues" means issues of concern to women, our issues cover a gamut far broader than this matter alone, and many surface regularly in the high courts of our world. IntLawGrrls demonstrates this day in and day out: our posts've included "women's issues" like abortion and gender equality, of course, but also, and more often, issues of concern to all humanity. Examples include: reversing environmental degradation, improving the health of poor and rich alike, promoting peace and individual security as well as national security, enforcing fair wages and safety for all workers, bringing perpetrators to justice before fair tribunals. These are our issues.
What might Legal Times have done? An obvious answer seems to invite more than 1 woman, so that at least 1 speaks on matters not coded as "a woman's issue." Not possible, because too few women argued before the Court on other issues? If so, that raises a question of diversity of the bar that needs as much attention as this excellent roundtable properly paid to diversity among the Court's law clerks.

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