GENDER FAIRNESS IMPLEMENTATION COMMITTEE
Justice Mary Muehlen Maring, Chair
Judge Debbie Kleven
Judge Tom Schneider
Chair Maring called the meeting to order at 9:00 a.m. and welcomed Barb Voglewede, Assistant Professor, UND School of Law, as a new member. She then drew Committee members' attention to Attachment B (March 30, 2001) - minutes of the November 14, 2000, meeting.
It was moved by Judge Kleven, seconded by Barb Voglewede, and carried unanimously that the minutes be approved.
Law Firm Profiles
Chair Maring recalled the Committee's previous discussion of law firm self-audits on gender-related issues, similar to that undertaken in Minnesota, and the decision at the last meeting to assemble preliminary information concerning the number of women in North Dakota law firms.
At Chair Maring's request, staff then reviewed Attachment C (March 30, 2001) - preliminary law firm profiles. He said the information is a rough overview of law firm composition and is based on lawyer location information maintained by the Bar Board and a review of law firm Web pages. With respect to licensed, resident lawyers, he said there are approximately 1014 men and 267 women. Of the 267 women lawyers, he said, approximately 67 are employed in the public sector.
In terms of women entering the profession, staff said a recent New York Times article indicates that, while women made up only 10 percent of first-year law students in 1970, women accounted for nearly 50 percent of first-year students in classes starting in the fall of 2000. He said the article also notes that as of March 9, 2001, more women than men had applied for admission to law schools this year. By way of comparison, he said information provided by the UND School of Law Placement Office indicates that women comprised an average of 41 percent of law school graduates for years 1996 through 2000, ranging from a high of 47 percent in 1996 to a low of 31 percent in 1999. Of those who graduated over that 5 year period, he said, 50 (39%) remained in North Dakota. He said only 38% of women graduates remaining in North Dakota have gone into private practice. A copy of the New York Times article and a chart depicting the Placement Office statistics are attached as an Appendix.
Barb Voglewede noted that women constitute a majority of this year's first-year UND class, with at last count 40 women and 34 men.
Justice Maring observed that what is not apparent from the profiles, and what would require considerably more research, is information such as the number of women lawyers that are partners or occupy management positions in law firms or disparities in compensation within law firms. She said the question for the Committee is whether to pursue a recommendation to the State Bar Association that it undertake a law firm self-audit project similar to the one done in Minnesota.
Barb Voglewede agreed more information would be helpful, particularly with respect to compensation and partnerships. She said if these are areas of concern, they may become more problematic with the increasing number of women entering the profession.
Jim Fitzsimmons said it is important that a self- audit project be undertaken by the bar or at least as a joint effort with the Committee. He suggested waiting until after new bar leadership is elected at the June Annual Meeting to make a recommendation to consider the project. Judge Kleven agreed.
It was moved by Judge Kleven, seconded by Jim Fitzsimmons, and carried unanimously that the Chair contact the Bar Association at an appropriate time after the June Annual Meeting about implementing a law firm self-audit project.
Chair Maring noted that there have been at least one or two bias-related educational programs every year for the past few years. However, she said, this year the attempt to include a bias segment in the Association's Annual Meeting education program was unsuccessful, largely because of the inability to obtain a presenter. With respect to judicial education, she said this year's Judicial Institute would include segments concerning ethics, bias, and diversity issues. She inquired whether there are other topics that should be considered for future education program recommendations.
Judge Kleven noted that she has three age discrimination cases pending, which may indicate a rise in this kind of issue. Additionally, she emphasized the importance of continuing education programs on cultural issues, particularly with respect to the growing Hispanic population in the state.
Jim Fitzsimmons recounted three situations occurring within the last year in which county courthouse employees were subjected to verbal abuse by lawyers because it was alleged the employees did not do their job correctly. In all instances, he said, the employees were female and the lawyers male. He noted that younger lawyers seem more prone to intimidating behavior.
In response to a question from Justice Maring, Barb Voglewede said issues concerning demeanor among students have not arisen, perhaps because there is a near equal number of female and male students and therefore greater familiarity and interaction.
Justice Maring suggested the possibility of recommending that the Bar Association include more education regarding civility as a regular part of ethics seminars. Barb Voglewede said she and Patti Alleva have included a civility component as part of the Trial Advocacy class and reaction from students has been fairly positive. She said there are plans to develop a fuller segment on civility issues in the future. Justice Maring noted that the Judicial Education Commission's Strategic Plan for Judicial Education contains several goals and strategies for education regarding civility and professionalism.
Informal Complaint Procedure
Chair Maring drew attention to Attachment E (March 30, 2001) - the informal complaint procedure adopted by the Supreme Court as Administrative Rule 44. She noted that the procedure was modified from what was submitted by the Committee to apply only to judicial officers and judicial system employees, rather than including lawyers. Additionally, she said, a special panel was created to receive complaints. Jim Fitzsimmons observed that the adoption of the procedure may increase pressure on the Joint Committee on Attorney Standards to follow through on recommending establishment of a lawyer diversion program. If the bar were to adopt something similar to the informal process, he said, it may aid in addressing civility issues.
Chair Maring drew attention to various articles distributed January 26, 2001, and asked if there were any observations about the information. She noted specifically the "Key Components to Achieve and Secure Gender Fairness in the Courts", contained in the article entitled "Gender Bias and the Institutionalization of Change".
With respect to the Component concerning periodic evaluation of implementation efforts, Barb Voglewede inquired whether there are any mechanisms in place that would enable evaluation of what the Committee and others have done. Justice Maring responded that there is nothing, at this point, in place to assist in analyzing the impact, if any, of implementation efforts. She noted that this is a point of discussion in other states and perhaps information could be assembled concerning how to establish a viable evaluation process.
Chair Maring said the Committee likely would next meet sometime in the fall.
No further business appearing, the meeting was adjourned at 10:35 a.m.
Jim Ganje, Staff