The First Transgender Trial Judge in the United States?

Our judges determine how to interpret the law, ultimately determining what’s legal and illegal. It’s important for a judge to be unbiased and to separate their personal feelings from their interpretations of the law. While some feel this is justification for having primarily white male judges, there is no real reason why judges shouldn’t span a wide group of people, representing the diverse population in the United States.

A transgender woman may make history as the first transgender trial court judge in the United States. Victoria Kolakowski is running for superior court judge in Alameda County, California. She’s up against former district attorney John Creighton in a runoff election scheduled for November 2. In an election held in California earlier this month, Kolakowski beat Creighton by 13 percentage points (45-32), but didn’t win a majority of the vote, necessitating the runoff. If she wins on November 2, she also would be the first LGBT superior court judge and the first openly LGBT person elected in Alameda County.

Much is being made of Kolakowski’s gender identity, but it’s also important to note that she is well-qualified. On her campaign website, she states that she “has the experience and qualifications as an administrative law judge and attorney, the demonstrated commitment to the community, and the calm demeanor needed to be a fair judge for all of us.” She’s also currently serving as a judge for the California Public Utilities Commission, and has experience with transgender law. She’s a co-chair of the board of directors at the Transgender Law Centre and has represented transgender plaintiffs in the past.

Kolakowski, of course, is not just a transgender candidate; she is a qualified candidate who happens to be transgender. But it’s exciting and promising that Kolakowski may soon make history. As Geoff Kors, the head of Equality California put it, “This is one of the Harvey Milk moments, where you can break a glass ceiling and put a transgender judge on the bench.”

Photo credit: Jamison Wieser