Report highlights LGBT fears of prejudice in judicial appointments

Seventy per cent of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) lawyers believe there is prejudice within the selection process for judicial office, a new report has revealed.

Daniel Winterfeldt

Daniel Winterfeldt

Research by the InterLaw Diversity Forum found that more than 50 per cent of LGBT lawyers would not apply for judicial office due to believing they would not be appointed.

However, the report also revealed that 70 per cent of LGBT lawyers would be encouraged to apply for judicial office if there were greater candidness from LGBT judges.

InterLaw founder and co-chair and CMS Cameron McKenna partner Daniel Winterfeldt said: “Having role models within the judiciary is really important and I think more LGBT judges will now step forward. When the message comes down from the top [from Chairman of the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC)], people will listen.

It is understandable why the perception is there but that just shows there’s work to be done for the JAC, judicial profession and InterLaw. We all have to step forward and take action. ”

Winterfeldt explained two of the key recommendations to fight this perception is to create LGBT judge profiles on the JAC website, and to incorporate a diversity criteria, including sexual orientation, into the selection process for all main judicial appointments.

“This’s a huge step towards changing perception. There is so much silence with regard to LGBT [in the judicial selection process], and people can interpret this silence in lots of ways, but one way is that there is a problem – potentially an issue there,” he added. “People are trying to make leaps forward. I think we will see a change, with people feeling more supported to reveal sexual orientation.”

The report was originally endorsed by the JAC and the 2010 Neuberger report.

The findings follow the JAC announcing in June 2011, that it will now collect demographic data relating to sexual orientation for all judicial appointments and applications.

Further recommendations in the report include raising awareness through educating the judiciary and engaging with more LGBT group to ensure all unfair barriers to progress are removed.

Interlaw plans to do a more detailed study with one-on-one interviews and also to continue annual reports to produce comparative data in the future.