President Joe Biden’s nominee for the federal bench in Oregon dreams of a day when Supreme Court justices disclose their pronouns on legal rulings, a practice he says will show the federal judiciary’s "authentic commitment to equity and inclusion."
Mustafa Kasubhai, who currently serves as a federal magistrate, laid out his vision for the usage of pronouns in the judiciary in a 2021 essay, "Pronouns and Privilege." Kasubhai describes his courtroom practice of encouraging attorneys, defendants, witnesses, and jurors to state their pronouns during legal proceedings. He touts disclosure of his own pronouns (he/him) in the signature line of emails and legal opinions. It’s a practice he hopes will one day be embraced by higher courts.
"Imagine how powerful a statement it could be when Ninth Circuit Court judges do this. And dare I dare to imagine when U.S. Supreme Court justices include their pronouns?"
Kasubhai’s embrace of pronouns could raise concerns that he has a predetermined view of the hot-button issue, which has become the subject of numerous federal legal fights. An Oregon woman recently sued the state human services department in federal court over its requirement that adoptive parents support and respect adoptive children’s sexual and gender identity. The woman claims that statute violates her religious beliefs.
Republicans pressed Kasubhai about his other left-wing views during a Senate Judiciary confirmation hearing on Wednesday.
"Many Biden nominees have been extreme, but your record is so far out of the mainstream that you have attracted virtually all of the questions," said Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas).
Cruz and other Republicans also criticized Kasubhai for siding with activists who opposed a curfew in Eugene, Oregon, during Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. Kasubhai declined during the hearing to characterize widespread looting and violence during the protests as a "riot."
In his 2021 essay, Kasubhai asserts his embrace of pronouns derives from a "responsibility to find ways to ensure access to our courts." To deny courtroom participants that access is to make them "feel unsafe," Kasubhai writes.
"That is horrifying," Kasubhai adds.
Kasubhai has developed a tip sheet for his own courtroom. "I’d like each of you to introduce yourselves by giving me your full name. Please be sure to give me your honorific, such as Ms., Mx., or Mr., so that I can respectfully address you throughout our time together," the guidelines say.
But not everyone has gotten on board with Kasubhai’s initiative.
In his essay, Kasubhai describes a telephone conference call with an out-of-state attorney. When Kasubhai pressed the lawyer to state his pronouns so the judge would not just assume them, the lawyer retorted: "I’m not interested; just go ahead and assume."