- In 20 states, no justices identify themselves as people of color. In 12 of these states, people of color make up at least 20 percent of the population.
- There are no Black justices in 28 states, including the six states where Black residents make up at least 10 percent of the population.
- There are no Latino justices in 39 states, including the 15 states where Latino residents make up at least 10 percent of the population
- There are no Asian American justices in 43 states, including three of the four states with the largest Asian American populations.
- There are no Native American justices in 47 states, even in three of the four states with the largest Native American populations.
- Across all state high courts, just 18 percent of justices are Black, Latino, Asian American, Native American, or multiracial. By contrast, people of color make up over 40 percent of the U.S. population.
- Men hold 59 percent of state supreme court seats. In 9 states, only one woman is on the supreme court bench.
- 39 percent of sitting justices are former prosecutors, while only 7 percent are former public defenders.
- 15 states have never had a Black supreme court justice.
The Study confirms the sad fact that the highest court in most states is composed primarily of old white men. For most people of color and, to a lesser extent, women, their exposure to the court system is an exposure to a system made up of judges that don’t look like them or come from similar backgrounds. That do not have the same set of experiences and problems as do they. That has no direct exposure to the culture and prejudices these people face daily.
For the courts, the lack of diversity deprives them of exposure to different viewpoints and understandings. This lack of exposure can’t help to lead to decisions that do not fully take into account the needs and concerns of their constituents. For the constituents, the lack of diversity undermines trust and confidence that they will get a fair shake. Poor decisions and a lack of trust do little to advance respect for the rule of law.
The fact that there are few people of color and a minority of women also says something about the general population
The statistics are so bad it’s hard even to know where to start
Thanks to Brennan Center for revealing the monumental problems we face. Now it’s up to the profession to do something.
Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash