Elaine D. Kaplan becomes second openly gay judge elected to Federal Claims Court


On September 17, the US Senate approved lesbian attorney Elaine D. Kaplan to sit on the United States Court of Federal Claims, with a vote of 64-35, making her its second openly LGBT judge; she will serve a fifteen-year term.

“Fair-minded people everywhere should be proud to have Elaine Kaplan as the latest trailblazer to take a place on the federal bench following a bipartisan confirmation,” said Human Rights Campaign spokesperson Fred Sainz in a press release.

“LGBT people are increasingly visible in all areas of public service, but as a community that so deeply cherishes the virtues of fairness and equality, there is a unique power in seeing role models like Kaplan preside over a court of law.”

Kaplan is currently serving as an action director of the US Office of Personnel Management (OPM); as a judge of the Court of Federal Claims, she will deal with situations involving recovering monetary damages for civilians against the federal government.

Since 2009, she’s been active in the Obama administration, serving as general counsel for OPM and later acting director after the former, openly gay John Berry, left to become the US ambassador to Australia.

Kaplan previously worked as Senior Deputy General Counsel for the National Treasury Employees Union from 2004 to 2009. She also worked for the Bernabei and Katz law firm as an attorney from 2003 to 2004 and as director of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel from 1998 to 2003 after being nominated by former President Clinton.

Clinton appointed lesbian attorney Emily C. Hewitt, the first LGBT judge to serve on the Federal Claims Court, in 1998, which her 15-year-term ends next month.

In the final senate hearing, fifty-one Democrats, eleven Republicans and two independent senators voted for Kaplan while thirty-five Republicans voted against her. Democrat Senator Max Baucus of Montana declined to vote.

“These nominees have dedicated their careers to serving the public good,” said Obama after nominating Kaplan. “And in so doing, they have displayed an unyielding commitment to justice and integrity. I am confident that they will serve the American people well from the Court of Federal Claims, and I am honored to nominate them.”


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