Biden Judges Making an Impact: Beth Robinson



United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Confirmed November 1, 2021

Judge Beth Robinson was confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on November 1, 2021. A tireless champion for equal rights and equal justice, she served as an Associate Justice on the Vermont Supreme Court for nearly a decade prior to her appointment to the Second Circuit. Judge Robinson was born in Karachi, Pakistan, where her father served as a doctor for the local community, and grew up in Indiana. In 1986, Judge Robinson graduated summa cum laude from Dartmouth College and earned her J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School in 1989. After law school, Judge Robinson clerked for Judge David B. Sentelle of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Afterward, Judge Robinson spent one year at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in Washington, D.C., before joining Langrock Sperry & Wool in Middlebury, Vermont, where she worked for eighteen years. During her time there, she represented workers, families, and persons with disabilities, including serving as co-counsel in Baker v. State, the landmark 1999 decision that led to Vermont becoming the first state to allow same-sex civil unions. Judge Robinson’s work on this case remains a blueprint for LGBTQ+ advocacy across the nation.

On the federal bench, Judge Robinson is a champion of equitable justice. For example, in Laguerre v. Nat’l Grid USA, she allowed the plaintiff, who was suing her employer for disability discrimination, to proceed after the district court granted summary judgment for the defendant. The case began after the plaintiff’s employer denied ther request to work remotely and to be transferred to a less-stressful position due to her chronic illness. The plaintiff claimed that by refusing her request, the corporation violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Upon review, Judge Robinson, along with other panelists, determined that  the plaintiff did not meet the burden of proof required under the ADA because she did not identify a less-stressful open position. However, the court also found that the plaintiff’s request to work from home was a reasonable accommodation and remanded the case back to the district court for further proceedings. Thanks to Judge Robinson, the plaintiff’s right to pursue justice and fair treatment in the workplace was protected.

“[Judge Robinson’s] confirmation began a shift within the federal judiciary, where LGBTQ+ Americans are drastically underrepresented.”

Judge Beth Robinson’s appointment demonstrates President Biden is making good on his promise to ensure that the nation’s courts reflect the diversity of our nation—both in terms of personal and professional backgrounds. She is the first LGBTQ+ woman to serve on any federal court. Her confirmation began a shift within the federal judiciary, where LGBTQ+ Americans are drastically underrepresented. When the federal bench reflects the diversity of our nation, it gives legitimacy to an important institution and increases public confidence and trust.