Chief Justice Maite Oronoz Rodríguez discusses state courts and gender inequality in Brennan Lecture

Maite Oronoz Rodríguez
Chief Justice Maite D. Oronoz Rodríguez

Emphasizing the role that state courts can play in promoting principles of gender equality, Chief Justice Maite Oronoz Rodríguez of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico delivered the 26th Annual William J. Brennan, Jr. Lecture on State Courts & Social Justice. Oronoz Rodríguez is the first openly LGBTQ chief justice in U.S. history, as well as the third woman and the youngest person to preside over Puerto Rico’s Supreme Court. 

The February 25 lecture, hosted by the Institute of Judicial Administration, honors the role of state judges. In this year’s lecture, “Gender Equality and the Rule of Law,” Oronoz Rodríguez called state courts the “backbone to the American judicial system” and discussed initiatives in Puerto Rico’s judicial system to promote social justice, including the creation of specialized courts that focus on vulnerable populations, such as victims of domestic violence.

Follow the full discussion on video:

“As judges, we strive to be fair arbiters of legal controversies, but we must never divorce ourselves from the real-life consequences our decisions have upon those that seek resolution or redress in a court system…In our role as judges, we must not only understand what gender equality means, or is supposed to mean, on a conceptual basis, particularly in relations to the normative rule of law, but we must use that knowledge and apply it in every single case, always taking into consideration the specific circumstances of the parties.”

“As the face of justice, state courts and judges are in the front lines, working to resolve the most sensitive and complex problems that affect the lives, liberties, property, and safety of our people. That includes foreclosure, domestic and gender violence, child abuse and neglect, drug related offenses, juvenile delinquency, among others…That is why, as current statistics continue to reflect ongoing patterns of women’s poverty, exclusion from the public sphere, and increased exposure to violence and unequal rights, the importance of the judiciary and state courts as change agents towards gender equality cannot be overstated.”

“Between September, the month of the hurricane [Maria], and December of 2017…the local courts issued 2,469 protective orders. Additionally, despite budget cuts and the challenges brought upon in the aftermath of natural disasters, we continued to expand access to justice through our specialized domestic violence courts. These courts were created in 2007 to promote the safety of the victim, to hold the aggressor accountable, and to strengthen the coordination of support services through collaboration with different entities, all within a secure environment that facilitates the fair and fast solution of the controversies.”

Posted May 5, 2020