A new report from the Brennan Center showed a lack of diversity in state courts, with 20 state supreme courts having no justices who identified as people of color. There were 28 states without a single Black justice.
Despite comprising over 40 percent of the U.S. population, people of color are only 18 percent of all state high court judges. According to the analysis, former prosecutors also had a greater representation on the bench when compared to justices with a public defender background.
Out of the 25 new state supreme court justices to take the bench, ten were people of color. High courts in Maine and Vermont recently sworn in their first justices of color. A part of the Brennan Center’s Strengthen Our Courts initiative, the update acknowledges the pipeline issue for Black and other people of color.
“Today’s lack of judicial diversity is driven by many factors, including a long history of racial and gender discrimination in the United States and inequities in access to law schools and the legal bar,” read the report.
Judicial Representation In Media
The importance of judicial representation has been featured in the legal drama “All Rise.” The third season will debut on OWN next month. “All Rise” follows Black judge Lola Carmichael and a diverse group of lawyers, judges and court staff trying to balance equity and justice with courtroom politics.
In one story arc Carmichael, a former prosecutor turned judge, faces a frivolous ethics complaint. Several prosecutors object to her rehabilitative, not punitive, approach to sentencing.
Biden-Harris Expanding Federal Bench Diversity
Increasing judicial diversity has also been a significant priority of the Biden-Harris administration. More than 25 percent of the judges nominated by President Biden have been Black. The administration also recently nominated Mississippi Judge Carlton W. Reeves to be the next chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
In a statement, the People For the American Way highlighted recent Senate confirmations of three federal judges that further demonstrate the administration’s commitment to diversity on the bench. Judge Suzanne Sykes will be the first Native American federal judge in California. Sykes is slated to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Judge Trina Thompson has an extensive record as a public defender and a criminal defense attorney. She will join the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
“We now have 63-lifetime judges, which puts President Biden on the fastest pace of judicial confirmations since JFK,” read the statement. “We applaud Sens. Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin for prioritizing the confirmation of these judges who are helping to build a diverse federal bench of qualified, fair-minded judges committed to protecting the civil and human rights of all people.”