Judicial Diversity

Selections from the Brennan Center Fair Courts E-lert May 21, 2010.

Summarized news articles and editorials related to the independence of judges and the courts….:

1. A recent George Mason University study suggests that certain factors such as “support for diversity in the state’s leadership,” the “location of a judgeship,” and the “history of diversity” have a significant impact on the success of efforts aimed at enhancing diversity on the state bench – this, irrespective of the judicial selection mechanisms used in a given state. In a broad survey of state trial court judges of color, the report’s authors observed “that the varying selection mechanisms tend to operate to produce a surprising similarity in the processes, strategies, and experiences of judicial candidates . . . [R]ather than a specific selection mechanism, the judges [interviewed] overwhelmingly point to other factors – such as politics, networking, mentorship, and other resources as determinative of the ability of diverse candidates to become judges.” The American Judicature Society has released another important study on judicial diversity, by Malia Reddick, Michael J. Nelson, and Rachel Paine Caufield. The AJS study explores the relationship between judicial diversity and the institutional, political, and legal environment in which judges are selected. Among other conclusions, the study reported that “Merit selection and pure gubernatorial appointment placed more minorities on high courts than did contested elections, while merit selection placed fewer women on intermediate appellate courts.”

Linda M. Merola and Jon B. Gould, New Judges Speak about the Process and its Impact on Judicial Diversity, Judicature, March-April 2010; Malia Reddick, Michael J. Nelson, and Rachel Paine Caufield, Examining Diversity on State Courts: How Does the Judicial Selection Environment Advance – and Inhibit – Judicial Diversity, ABA Journal, Spring 2010.

2. According to figures cited by the Associated Press, Asian-Americans make up 5 percent of the population, comprise approximately 15 percent of all doctors, and yet remain underrepresented in the legal arena, comprising just 3 percent of all lawyers nationwide. “When it comes to lawyers becoming federal judges, which requires strong networks and political connections, Asian-American representation is even smaller,” writes Jesse Washington at the AP. According to figures compiled by the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA), “ten of 875 active federal judges . . . are Asian-American” and of the 175 judges at the appellate level, only one, Danny Chin (confirmed just last month), is Asian.

Jesse Washington, Asian Judge Shows Community’s Progress, Associated Press, May 14, 2010.

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