Federal and state courts have historically failed to reflect the racial, ethnic and gender diversity of the United States, with a significantly higher proportion of white and male judges on the federal bench than the reflected population, a new brief released by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law finds. The brief analyzes presidential tendencies to consistently appoint federal judges who are not representative of the growing diversity of our nation, and asserts that moving forward, presidents must increasingly appoint judges that reflect these changes. Currently, 73% of federal judges are white, compared to only 60% of the population.
“For many Americans, equal justice under the law is still just a far-reaching fantasy,” said Erinn Martin, an attorney with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and author of the brief. “We must commit to diversifying the judiciary so that we have judges who are representative of all of our communities. While we have slowly seen the arc of racial justice bend towards fairness, a representative judiciary would mean that our judges bring real–world perspectives and fully understand the implications of their opinions on Americans.”
According to the brief, no president ever has appointed judges that truly reflect the racial, ethnic and gender diversity of the United States. President Obama appointed the most diverse set of nominees in history, vastly exceeding all those before him, but still failed to meet several diversity benchmarks. President Jimmy Carter appointed more judges of color than reflected in the national averages, the only time in history this has ever occurred, but failed to meet the national average of women. The progress made by our presidents was stalled by the first term of President Donald Trump as he reverted back to the tendency to appoint a significantly higher proportion of white and male judges than is reflected in the population.
Racial and ethnic diversity in the U.S. is growing at a much faster rate than diversity on the federal bench, and our courts must reflect the communities they hear cases from to achieve a truly representative judiciary that the public respects and trusts. Upon assuming office in January of 2021, it is imperative that President-Elect Joe Biden prioritize nominating judges of color, women judges and judges from professionally diverse backgrounds to generate a federal bench that reflects the demographics of the United States.
Read the full brief here.
About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of voting rights, criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and hate crimes. For more information, please visit https://lawyerscommittee.org.