Federal judges wrongly engaged in 'oral-argument affirmative action,' group's misconduct complaint says

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The conservative legal group America First Legal has filed a misconduct complaint against three federal judges in Illinois who issued orders intended to encourage “newer, female and minority attorneys” to argue motions.

The complaint, filed with the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, contends the judges are violating federal judicial conduct rules, violating the equal protection clause of the Fifth Amendment, and discriminating on the basis of race and sex, according to a press release. Reuters and Law360 are among the publications with coverage.

The judges, all from the Southern District of Illinois, are Nancy J. Rosenstengel, Staci M. Yandle and David W. Dugan. Rosenstengel is the chief judge.

Their policies provide that, after a motion is briefed, a party may alert the court that a newer, female or minority attorney will argue the motion if a request for argument is granted. The court will then grant the request, if practicable; will strongly consider granting extra time for argument; and will permit more experienced lawyers to assist.

“The judges’ policies are essentially oral-argument affirmative action for lawyers,” the complaint says. The policies violate judicial canons requiring judges to act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and the impartiality of the judiciary, according to the complaint.

America First Legal has also targeted diversity efforts by corporations and a law review.

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