Judge Sandra R. Klein Speaks to Girl Scouts About Civic Engagement

Written by Stephanie Rettier, Law Clerk to the Hon. Sandra R. Klein

November 2021

Judge Sandra R. Klein, United States Bankruptcy Judge for the Central District of California, recently participated in Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles (GSGLA) virtual presentations designed to introduce girls of all ages to newly created Civic Engagement Badges.  On October 5th, Judge Klein spoke to approximately 170 girl scouts at the Daisy, Brownie, and Junior levels and on October 6th, she spoke to approximately 150 girl scouts at the Cadette, Senior, and Ambassador levels.  During the virtual presentations, Judge Klein was joined by her law clerk Stephanie Rettier (author of this article) and her Courtroom Deputy Thais May.

Following an introduction by Michelle Geathers, a GSGLA Program Manager, Judge Klein kicked-off her presentations by polling the girl scouts about what they thought civic engagement was.  An overwhelming majority of the girls responded correctly—they chose working together to improve their community.  This was no surprise considering the Girl Scouts organization’s emphasis on active citizenship. 

Judge Klein discussed the United States Constitution, the three branches of government, and women’s suffrage and the importance of voting.  During the discussion, Judge Klein kept the girls engaged by posing questions and inviting the girls to respond using the Zoom chat feature.

While speaking about the Constitution, Judge Klein emphasized that it is a “living” document as evidenced by the twenty-seven Constitutional amendments since its adoption in 1787.  She remarked that the Constitution is as relevant today as when it was signed two-hundred-and-thirty-three years ago.  She acknowledged that it was written by our nation’s “founding fathers,” who were all white men because at that time, women and persons of color were not considered equal. 

Judge Klein and the girls discussed the “Lady Justice or Lady Liberty” statue and the meaning of the blindfold, scales of justice and sword.  The girls had some insightful answers and engaged in a lively interaction with Judge Klein regarding whether justice is truly blind.  Judge Klein mentioned that unfortunately, during our nation’s history and even today, justice has not always treated all persons equally.  But, she encouraged the girls to work to ensure that the laws are truly color blind and applied equally to all persons, regardless of their race, ethnicity, national origin or sexual orientation.  

Judge Klein highlighted that 2018 was a landmark year for women in government, with 102 women elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and 25 women elected to the Senate.  She listed all of women who were the “first,” including Sylvia Garcia, one of the first two Latina women elected to Congress, Lourdes Leon Guerrero, the first female to serve as governor of Guam and first Pacific Islander to serve as a state or territorial governor in the United States, and Ilhan Omar, the first Somali American elected to Congress and one of the first Muslim women in Congress.  No discussion of women in government would have been complete without paying homage to the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.  Quoting Justice Ginsberg, Judge Klein encouraged the girls to “[f]ight for things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” 

Turning to women’s suffrage, Judge Klein noted that 2020 was the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which provided all American women with the right to vote.  She expressed deep admiration for the courage and perseverance of suffragettes in the face of strong opposition, often accompanied by mistreatment.  And, she strongly encouraged the girls to vote when they are old enough, mentioning that it is an integral part of our democracy.  I was reminded that my right to vote, one easily taken for granted in this day and age, came at great cost to the courageous women who fought tirelessly to obtain women’s suffrage for future generations.

The presentations were concluded with a robust question and answer session during which the girl scouts asked insightful questions ranging from how Judge Klein became a bankruptcy judge to her favorite breed of dog (Boxers!).  Before bidding the girl scouts farewell, Judge Klein provided them with her email address and an invitation to visit her courtroom and chambers in the future.

Having the opportunity to witness how the girl scouts engaged with Judge Klein during the presentations lifted my spirits and gave me great hope for the future of women leaders in this country.  As a Brownie troop leader, I now look forward to guiding my daughter and her troop to earning a Civic Engagement Badge.