YOU BE THE JUDGE
KARA R. CAYCE, J.
This series explores what it means to he a judge or justice at various levels of the state court system. Authors share their personal journey to the bench and help others navigate their way to a judgeship.
This article discusses my journey to becoming an administrative law judge (ALJ), the application process, what the position entails, the Office of Administrative Courts (OAC), and the importance of diversity and bringing your unique perspective to the bench.
My Road to Becoming an Administrative Law Judge
A keen awareness of differences, their meanings, and their outcomes instilled a sense of fairness and justice that has informed my legal career and led to my current role as an ALJ. A native of Denver, I was raised in what was, at the time, one of the more diverse neighborhoods in the city, Park Hill. At a young age, I was fortunate to interact with people of varying backgrounds, religions, ethnicities, and socioeconomic statuses. As one of few African American students at an affluent local private school, I quickly came to value the importance of diversity and to identify the benefits of different backgrounds and perspectives.
When the time came, I sought a more culturally diverse high school experience and chose to attend East High School, which comprised more than 50% students of color of all backgrounds. I was excited at the prospect of learning beside students with whom I shared some cultural connection. Having received an excellent educational foundation at my previous school, I automatically placed into accelerated and advanced placement courses. While the school hallways reflected a student population that was anything but homogenous, in my classes I remained one of a handful of students of color. As the advanced classes were often considered stepping stones to college, I wondered if the disproportionate numbers signaled a greater issue.
In an effort to address the disparity, I became involved in a youth organization empowering students to make changes in their schools and communities. My fellow youth organizers and I developed and conducted a study in which we surveyed students regarding their experiences with accelerated and advanced placement classes. We discovered that qualified students of color were often not provided adequate information regarding such classes or, at times, were even discouraged from taking the classes. Through a nationally recognized report, we brought attention to the issues of racial tracking and equal...