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Judge Makes Rule So Women Can Speak More in Court

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

If there were a poster boy for an old boys club, Judge Jack B. Weinstein could pose for the picture.

He's white, male, and 96 years old. They don't come much more "experienced" in a male-dominated profession than that.

But contrary to outward appearances, Weinstein may be the most progressive judge in New York. One legal publication calls him "a hero" for women and diversity.

A Rule for That

Concerned about recent report that women have far fewer opportunities to be lead counsel than men in New York courtrooms, Weinsten made a rule for that. It doesn't say "women" or "minorities" should have more speaking roles, but that's what it means:

"Where junior lawyers are familiar with the matter under consideration, but have little experience arguing before a court, they should be encouraged to speak by the presiding judge and the law firms involved in the case," the Weinstein rules says. "This court is amenable to permitting a number of lawyers to argue for one party if this creates an opportunity for a junior lawyer to participate."

Weinstein has encouraged young women and minorities to participate more in court for years, but he recently told the New York Times that he created his new rule after a recent report by the New York Bar Association. The association said women serve as lead counsel only 25 percent of the time in New York courts.

"It's important for everyone, and for the litigation process, that the upcoming generation understands the fundamentals and just gets up on their feet," he said.

Upcoming Generation

To Weinstein, the upcoming generation could even include lawyers who qualify for Social Security. After all, his rule is really directed at those older attorneys who often decide when younger associates will speak in court.

"The ultimate decision of who speaks on behalf of the client is for the lawyer in charge of the case, not for the court," Weinstein says.

Shira A. Scheindlin, who served as a federal judge for 22 years, encouraged Weinstein to issue the new rule. She said she rarely saw a woman in a lead role when she was on the bench.

"The talking was almost always done by white men," she said. "Women often sat at counsel table, but were usually junior and silent."

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