Study: Elections Diminish Diversity of the Judiciary

A new report issued by the Center for American Progress concludes that state supreme court justices who are white are re-elected around the nation at higher rates than minority justices, according to a Mother Jones article.

The report is titled, “More Money, More Problems: Fleeting Victories for Diversity on the Bench.” In examining the period since 2000, it says white justices win re-election at a 90 percent rate, compared to 80 percent for black justices and 67 percent for Hispanic justices.

“In many states with elections, advocates for diversity have succeeded in pressing for diverse appointments, but these victories are often fleeting,” the report says. “In many states where diverse judges were appointed, they were voted off the bench in the next election. According to new research for this report, appointed black and Latino justices running in their first election only had a 68 percent re-election rate.”

Authors Michele Jawando and Billy Corriher write in an introduction why diversity on the bench is important: “Issues of inclusion often come before the state supreme courts, which determine the scope of important constitutional rights such as the right to vote and the right to an adequate education. And it is up to state court judges to settle contract and family disputes, as well as hear the vast majority of criminal cases. That is why who sits on these courts matters. Judges’ awareness of issues important to their communities, and the lens through which they view cases, will vary. While we expect our courts and our judges to be fair, we should also expect our judiciary to reflect the communities they serve.”