REPORT: State Court Judges Overwhelmingly White, Male

By Kenrya Rankin Jun 22, 2016

A new report from the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy reveals what many already sensed: the nation’s judges are overwhelming White and male.

The Gavel Gap,” released today (June 22), is the first analysis of the demographics of America’s state court judges. The team of researchers from Vanderbilt University and the University of Toronto compiled data on 10,000+ sitting judges and unveiled statistics that show the people who try 90 percent of all legal cases in the United States don’t at all look like the people they serve. And that is important in a nation where inmates are disproportionately Black and Latinx. From the report:

For most individuals and organizations, state courts are the “law” for all effective purposes. State courts are America’s courts. But, we know surprisingly little about who serves on state courts—i.e., state judges—despite their central and powerful role. This lack of information is especially significant because judges’ backgrounds have important implications for the work of courts. The characteristics of those who sit in judgment can affect the internal workings of courts as well as the external perception of courts and judges. The background of judges can influence how they make decisions and impact the public’s acceptance of those decisions. We need to know more about state judges.

The report found that while women of color make up 19 percent of the country’s population, they are just 8 percent of all state judges. And people of color as a whole constitute 38 percent of the population, but account for just 20 percent of judges. Meanwhile, White men—who are 30 percent of the population—occupy 58 percent of judgeships at the state level.

The gap varies widely states (including Washington D.C.). The following states’ judges are the closest to reaching parity with the population with regards to gender, race and ethnicity:

1. Hawaii

2. Washington, D.C.

3. Oregon

4. New Mexico

5. Minnesota

The following states ranked the worst:

51. Utah

50. Alaska

49. West Virginia

48. North Dakota

47. South Carolina

Read the full report here.

(H/t Buzzfeed News)