National Institute on Aging

University Study Finds a Major Racial Gap in State Judgeship Appointments

scalesA study by Tracey George, a professor of law and political science at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, and Albert H. Yoon, a professor of law and economics at the University of Toronto, has found a huge gender gap in appointments to state judgeship positions.

The authors assembled a database of more than 10,000 state judges who hear about 90 percent of all court cases in the United States, according to the authors. They found that only seven states had a judiciary that mirrored the racial and ethnic diversity of the state’s population. In 32 states, judges from underrepresented racial and ethic groups held less than 60 percent of the judge positions that would be the case if racial and ethnic parity prevailed.

The states with the highest percentage of  judges from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups compared to their percentage of the state’s population were Montana, South Dakota, West Virginia, Hawaii, Wyoming, and Nebraska. All of these states have small Black populations. The worst performers were New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, North Dakota, and Alaska.

“We need a judiciary that reflects the population and we do not have it right now,” said Professor George.

The report, The Gavel Gap: Who Sits in Judgement on State Courts?, was published by the American Constitution Society. It may be downloaded by clicking here.

Below is a video of Professor George discussing the study.


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