A California court hosted an activist to train judges on effectively using pronouns and addressing “gender identity” in the courtroom, according to the event’s listing and training materials reviewed by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The Superior Court of Santa Cruz County hosted in May 2023 a “Pride & Pronouns: Understanding & Addressing Gender Identity in the Courtroom” training for legal professionals and judges, presented by frequent “DEI” speaker Tristan E.H. Higgins, according to the event description. Higgins, who gives diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) trainings to corporations, universities and legal groups, told the Daily Caller News Foundation that a number of legal organizations, as well as another California court, have hosted her for this training and others.
“This program will help attorneys, judges, and others understand and address issues related to gender identity that may arise in the courtroom,” the event description states. “Panelists will bring you up to speed on current understanding of gender identities and pronouns, explain why it’s important to use appropriate pronouns, and provide tips on best practices related to gender identity issues.”
Higgins’ presentation lists at least 20 “types of gender,” portraying gender expression, gender identity, sex assigned at birth and attraction as spectrums, according to the presentation slideshow from a separate event hosted by the National Association of Women Judges (NAWJ) in July 2022. It recommends using titles like “plaintiff, witness, party, counsel, litigant, juror” rather than honorifics like Ms., Mr. or Mx.
“Dialogue is welcome as the panel discusses whether and how judges and attorneys should invite litigants to identify their pronouns, how to address individuals whose gender identity is unknown, what to do if an individual deliberately misgenders someone in the courtroom, and more,” the event description continues.
Higgins told the DCNF she is a “gender-nonconforming lesbian” with “a great deal of experience and expertise in sexual orientation, gender identity.” She said a judge who saw the NAWJ training wanted to bring it to her court.
“The decision to hold the referenced program below came out of the Court’s Prevention of Bias Committee,” a spokesperson for the Superior Court told the DCNF. “The Committee is made up of one judge and four additional representatives of the court community.”
The court has also had presentations on “Anti-Asian Bias in the Courtroom and Disability Inclusion and Accessibility in the Court,” the spokesperson said.
Other presentations Higgins offers to companies include “Just How Many Genders Are There?” and “Yes, All White People,” according to Metaclusive LLC website. The first training focuses on ” the types of gender identities that exist” and the second on “the unearned privileges that come with whiteness.”
“I have worked with the San Diego and Santa Cruz courthouses,” Higgins said. “I have taught at the National Judicial College and the National Association of Women Judges, which included a cross section of judicial officers from all over the country. I have trained district attorneys, city attorneys, US Attorneys, and the US Department of Labor. Wherever there is a need, I will fill it.”
In May 2023, Higgins presented an online training on “fairness and equal access for members of the LGBTQ+ community” in the courts for the National Judicial College. She was joined by Florida Circuit Court Judge Scott Bernstein, according to the event listing.
GianCarlo Canaparo, Senior Legal Fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, told the Daily Caller News Foundation that DEI is “profoundly ideological and partisan.”
“Any judge that sponsors or participates in DEI training calls his or her impartiality into question,” he said.
“We know that on questions of race, DEI proponents favor racial discrimination, and that on questions of sex, they deny any differences between men and women,” Canaparo told the DCNF. “How can a judge who supports DEI faithfully apply civil rights laws that permit no racial discrimination and that protect women’s spaces?”
The “Pride & Pronouns” presentation co-hosted by the court also featured Todd Brower, who directs the Judicial Education Program at the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public at UCLA School of Law, according to the event listing. The education program “provides international, state, and federal judges and court personnel with substantive training on legal issues impacting LGBTQI people.”
“Our trainings provide judges with the legal theories and relevant data needed to make decisions regarding these issues,” the program’s states.
The Williams Institute’s Judicial Education Program has held trainings across the country with groups like the New Mexico Judicial Conference, National Association of State Judicial Educators and National Judicial College, according to its website.
The event also featured Jodi Cleesattle, a California Department of Justice Senior Assistant Attorney General who is now a candidate for San Diego County Superior Court Judge in the coming March 5, 2024 election.
Brower and Cleesattle did not respond to requests for comment.
Katelynn Richardson on February 2, 2024