Fair and impartial courts are a cornerstone of our democracy. Attorneys are being called on more frequently to prepare for jury trials where they will need to select a jury free from bias based on their client’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity. In jurisdictions that rely on the court to conduct voir dire, judges must also have an understanding of anti-LGBT bias as it questions potential jurors. From limits placed on voir dire regarding anti-LGBT bias to using peremptory strikes to remove LGBT prospective jurors, a number of recent cases have addressed the issues of anti-LGBT bias in the legal system.
Ethan Rice is the Senior Attorney for the Fair Courts Project at Lambda Legal, the oldest and largest national legal organization committed to achieving full recognition of the rights of LGBT people and everyone living with HIV. The Fair Courts Project focuses its work on issues of judicial independence, judicial diversity, access to justice, and combating bias in the legal system.
Ethan provides education to judges, attorneys, and court staff on access to justice for LGBT people and LGBT legal issues, including bias in jury selection. He has presented to the Pennsylvania Conference of State Trial Judges (Transgender Competency), Florida Conference of Circuit Judges (LGBT Youth in Out-of-Home Care), Kansas Best Practices in Child Welfare Law Series (LGBT Youth in Out-of-Home Care), Hennepin County, Minnesota Fall Bench Retreat (Anti-LGBT Bias in Jury Selection), and many other judicial and legal organizations. Ethan created a model curriculum for legal training on LGBT issues, Moving Beyond Bias: How to Ensure Access to Justice for LGBT People.
Ethan has co-authored amicus briefs in a number of cases addressing anti-LGBT bias in the jury system including, Berthiaume v. Smith, an Eleventh Circuit case in which the court held that specific voir dire of the jury as to sexual orientation bias was required where the sexual orientation of the plaintiff and his witnesses would be central facts that were inextricably bound up with the issues to be resolved at trial. The case was remanded to the lower court for retrial as the trial judge had refused to allow this type of voir dire. In Rhines v. Young, a capital case in South Dakota, Ethan was co-author of an amicus brief urging the U. S. Supreme Court to allow Mr. Rhines to present evidence that anti-gay bias was a factor in some jurors’ decisions to sentence him to death.
Lambda Legal’s Fair Courts Project also supports the work of state groups to maintain or pursue fairness in their court systems. This includes efforts to defend or improve the method of judicial selection in the state, improve judicial diversity and the diversity of judicial nominating commissioners, and supporting or filing judicial complaints against judges who engage in biased behavior toward LGBT people or people living with HIV.
Prior to coming to Lambda Legal, Ethan served as a staff attorney at the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF). Before joining TLDEF, he was a child welfare attorney in Florida for four years. Ethan is a member of the Judicial Committee of the LGBT Bar of Greater New York, a member of the National Association of State Judicial Educators, and a 2019 Recipient of the National LGBT Bar Association’s Best LGBTQ+ Lawyers Under 40.
Ethan received a B.A. in International Relations from Florida International University and his J.D. from Florida State University College of Law. He is licensed to practice law in New York and Florida.
Richard Saenz is a Senior Attorney and the Criminal Justice and Police Misconduct Strategist at Lambda Legal, the oldest and largest national legal organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those living with HIV. He began his career at Lambda Legal as the organization’s help desk specialist, where he assisted hundreds of LGBT people and people living with HIV who called in seeking legal help.
He focuses his work on the criminal justice system, coordinating litigation and policy work on behalf of incarcerated people. Currently, Richard is leading Lambda Legal’s response to the Trump Administration’s changes to the federal Bureau of Prisons Transgender Offender Manual.
Richard was lead counsel in Dorn v. Michigan Department of Corrections, that resulted in substantive changes to a Michigan Department of Corrections policy directive that unlawfully discriminates against incarcerated people living with HIV, a review of other individuals who were classified to administrative segregation under the former policy, and a monetary settlement.
In addition, Richard was a lead member of the litigation team in Hicklin v. Precythe, a successful challenge to Missouri’s Department of Corrections “freeze frame” policy denying appropriate health care to transgender people in its custody, in one of the first court decisions to rule specifically that “freeze-frame” policies are unconstitutional as they are in violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The court ordered that Ms. Hicklin have access to hormone therapy, permanent body hair removal, as well as access to gender-affirming canteen items.
He also helped secure a settlement with the City of New York on behalf of a gay man attacked by Rikers Island jail officials while visiting his partner (Hamm v. City of New York).
He has filed numerous amicus briefs addressing anti-LGBT biases in the legal system. In Rhines v. Young, a capital case in South Dakota, Richard was co-author of an amicus brief urging the U. S. Supreme Court to allow Mr. Rhines to present evidence that anti-gay bias was a factor in some jurors’ decisions to sentence him to death. Richard was also co-author of amicus briefs on the right to medically necessary care for incarcerated transgender people, the rights of sex workers and the rights of incarcerated LGBT people to have their cases reviewed.
He is a member of the National LGBT/HIV Criminal Justice Working Group and is co-author of the working group’s report The Impact of the Trump Administration’s Federal Criminal Justice Initiatives on LGBTQ People & Communities and Opportunities for Local Resistance. Richard is a frequent speaker on criminal justice and policing issues at national conferences, law schools, and bar associations. In addition, he served as a panelist on the 2016 White House LGBT/HIV Criminal Justice Briefing.
Richard has been named a Hispanic National Bar Association’s Top Lawyers Under 40 and a National LGBT Bar Association’s Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40. He was awarded the Michael B. Davis-Elyse Hilton Alumni Award from the Fordham Law School OutLaws, the Alumni Award from the Fordham Law Latin American Law Students Association, and the Community Leadership Award from Queens Pride House.
He received his Juris Doctor from Fordham University School of Law, where he was a Stein Scholar for Public Interest Law and Ethics. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from Georgetown University.
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