Chicago Bar Calls For More Diverse Judges In Illinois

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By WBBM Newsradio 780 AM & 105.9 FM

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The new head of the Chicago Bar Association is adding his voice to calls for more diversity on the bench in state courts.

There have been some recent calls for more diversity on the bench in Illinois; and now Deputy Governor Jesse Ruiz has just been named President of the Chicago Bar Association and he said he supports the goals.

Ruiz said it is important for people of color to see those who look like them when they walk into a courtroom with judges and lawyers. And he said the Bar Association has proven it values diversity as well.

"We now have the most diverse executive committee ever in the Bar Association's 145 year history. We have the young lawyer section and the big bar now both headed by Latino lawyers," he said.

Ruiz’ first vice-President at the CBA is an African-American woman. Another top official is gay. Ruiz remains Deputy Governor.Juan Morado, Jr., Immediate Past President of the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois, was demonstrating with Latino officials elsewhere, and said the selection process the Supreme Court Justices use to select temporary replacements could be improved. He said if the people advising the State Supreme Court on potential judges were more diverse, the pool of potential appointees would be more diverse too. Maybe local elected officials could help.

"They are only being appointed to serve out the remainder of terms. If they want to stay on the bench, then you will have to run. It might make sense to let the elected officials in the area know there are vacancies," he said. But, Jesse Ruiz said the biggest barrier to getting more black and Latino judges is getting more people into law schools.

"So we need to work on those programs, making sure we are growing more diverse student populations and then getting them on to law school," Ruiz said.

He said groups like the Bar Association have programs aimed at getting more diversity in "the pipeline."