First-ever cohort of openly trans attorneys admitted to US Supreme Court Bar

Ten trans attorneys are now practicing before the nation’s highest court.

Ten attorneys stand in front of a statute at the US Supreme Court as the first-ever cohort of openly trans attorneys.
Image: Twitter @carl_s_charles

In late November, during one of the most challenging and hostile years for trans rights in history, the first cohort of openly transgender attorneys were admitted to practice in a momentous ceremony before the US Supreme Court.

Lucas Cameron-Vaughn, co-chair of the National Trans Bar Association, was proud to deliver the message that trans attorneys, “…are just like every other group of attorneys: talented, dedicated and working for clients across the nation.”

The ten attorneys who were admitted during the Supreme Court ceremony include:

  • Rook Elizabeth Ringer, a private practitioner from Florida
  • Jesse Lee Ann McGrath, a senior assistant district attorney in California
  • Harper Jean Tobin, a public policy attorney and consultant from the District of Columbia
  • Ames Barton Simmons, a public policy attorney from Georgia
  • Zsea Ofure Bowmani, a professor of law from Illinois
  • Sandy Evan James, a public policy attorney from Maryland
  • Carl Solomon Charles, a public policy attorney from New York
  • Alexander Luo Chen, a law professor from Massachusetts
  • Gene Michael Wissinger, a partner at a New York law firm
  • James Christopher Knapp, a private practitioner from Ohio

Together, they represent a diverse group of trans legal professionals in terms of gender and race, and they include prosecutors, big firm partners, and those who work on civil rights cases.

The idea for having the ceremony came about in October of 2019 during an anti-trans workplace discrimination case, R.G. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC. While making his oral argument, Justice Neil Gorsuch warned that banning employment discrimination against trans individuals would lead to “massive social upheaval”. His shocking statement revealed that he had no idea that at least six trans attorneys were present for the statement, including two who were arguing the case.

The Supreme Court admission ceremony was initially scheduled to happen in 2020, but due to Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, the ceremony was postponed until November 30, 2022. These attorneys patiently waited for the ceremony while continuing their work advocating for trans rights.

The delay meant that the group could be presented to the full Supreme Court bench.

During the ceremony, the attorneys sat in the second row proudly facing the Supreme Court Justices, and they each stood when their name was called. Carl Charles said, “being admitted to the Supreme Court holds both practical and symbolic meaning…there were so many of us, standing in solidarity together before an overwhelmingly conservative Court was, to say the least, a way to speak truth to power that is by all accounts not on our side.”

The National Trans Bar Association is a national association of transgender and gender nonconforming legal professionals and allies dedicated to transgender equality. Part of their mission is to increase the trans community’s access to affordable and culturally competent legal services. They also work to address issues fo equality and secure formal legal protections for transgender people.

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