Legal Futures: Why Diversity and Inclusion Matter

Thirty-eight undergraduate students from the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, and Grand Canyon University met with a diverse group of judges from the Arizona state and federal courts, and included Justices Timmer and Lopez from Arizona Supreme Court, for the Legal Futures: Why Diversity and Inclusion Matter.  The Arizona Supreme Court Commission on Minorities created the program to give minority college and law school students a sense of inclusion by introducing them to those who have come before them and succeeded.  

The Commission offered a structured conversation to demonstrate how a judge goes about his or her duties using a flu pandemic exercise.  The first part of the program asked the students, led by the judge at their table, to develop a rule about who would receive the limited treatment resources during a pandemic.  The second part focused on the differing perceptions of justice, and asked the students to apply the rules they agreed upon to a patient list.  The students then discussed the unanticipated outcomes from the application of their table’s rule.

After the program, the students had an opportunity to meet and learn about the other judges’ pathways to the bench.  They also toured the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals courtrooms.  Chief Justice Scott Bales, University of Arizona Professor Paul Bennett, and Arizona State University, Dr. Jeremiah Chin spoke to the group of students and judges.

Chief Justice Bales opened the program with an excerpt from the 2014 – 2019 Court’s strategic agenda, Advancing Justice Together: Courts in Communities.

Our state’s greatest strength is the diversity of our people and places. The vibrant mosaic formed by our varied communities and cultures has attracted many to Arizona and continues to define us. Throughout our history, Arizonans, whether natives or newcomers, have been optimistic, hard-working, and determined to build a better future.  For of all our diversity, Arizonans also are one in believing that all people should be treated fairly, their rights should be respected, and they should be well served by a government that itself follows the law.

The Chief Justice noted that the legal profession has not kept pace with Arizona’s increasing diversity.  He emphasized that increasing diversity is key to providing access to justice for all Arizonans and helps promote public confidence in the law and judicial system.

“It’s for those reasons, that the Arizona Supreme Court and our courts more generally need to recognize the diversity of the community served and that we should encourage and support increased diversity among those who work in our courts and legal profession more broadly,” said Chief Justice Bales, giving examples of a few notable diverse leaders in Arizona and encouraged the students to try and model their careers with a similar commitment to public service.

  • Mr. Raul H. Castro, the first Latino Governor of Arizona.
  • Mr. Rodney Lewis, Gila River Indian Community, the first native American to become a member of the State Bar of Arizona and the first native American to win a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Judge Roxanne Song Ong (Ret.), first Asian American woman to serve as a municipal court Chief Judge.
  • Judge Diane Humetewa, first Native American woman to serve as a federal judge for the District of Arizona.
  • Judge Maria Elena Cruz, former Yuma County Presiding Judge, former judge for the Cocopah Indian Tribe, a deputy county attorney and a deputy Legal defender, who currently serves as a judge for the Arizona Court of Appeals, D1.

The Commission on Minorities assists the Arizona Judicial Council in removing barriers to achieving racial equality and equal justice, to increase the number of qualified minority applicants available for service as judicial officers, including pro tems and commissioners, and to expand the number of minorities employed as staff and professionals in the judicial department.  More information on the Commission, can be found at

The next meeting of the Commission on Minorities is May 3, 2018

Participating Judges Included:

Judge Ryan Andrews, Chief Judge Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Court
Judge Marianne T. Bayardi, Phoenix Municipal Court
Judge Daniel P. Collins, U.S. Bankruptcy Court
Judge Maria Elena Cruz, Arizona Court of Appeals, Division I
Commissioner Marvin L. Davis, Superior Court in Maricopa County
Judge Kyle Fields, Deputy Chief Judge Tohono O’odham Justice Center
Judge David Gass, Superior Court in Maricopa County
Commissioner Patricia Green, Superior Court in Pima County
Judge Geri Hale, Tucson City Court
Judge John Hudson, Presiding Judge Gilbert Municipal Court
Justice John R. Lopez IV, Arizona Supreme Court
Judge Kristin McManus, San Luis Municipal Court
Judge Rosa Mroz, Superior Court in Maricopa County
Judge Susanna Pineda, Superior Court in Maricopa County
Judge Maurice Portley (Ret.), Arizona Court of Appeals, Division I
Judge Antonio Riojas, Tucson City Court
Judge Carol Scott Berry, Phoenix Municipal Court
Justice Ann A. Scott Timmer, Arizona Supreme Court
Judge Roxanne Song Ong (Ret.), former Presiding Judge, Phoenix Municipal Court
Judge James Soto, U.S. District Court, Arizona District
Hearing Officer Alisha Villa, Phoenix Municipal Court
Judge Joan L. Wagener Superior Court in Pima County

Students in the Supreme Court Courtroom during tours.

Students in the Supreme Court Courtroom during tours.

Justice Lopez meeting with students.