Most legal cases are handled through state courts. But who's judging them? #DiversityCounts

New @LambdaLegal & @acslaw report makes the case for collecting & releasing judicial diversity data #DiversityCounts

New report: #DiversityCounts: Why States Should Measure the Diversity of Their Judges and How They Can Do It


Every state can benefit from the insights contained in this report.
-Former Justice Virginia L. Linder, Oregon Supreme Court



State courts handle the vast majority of the country’s cases, yet little is known about the backgrounds of judges who sit on them. Diversity Counts maps out how states can collect and release judicial diversity data about the demographic and professional backgrounds of state judges and judicial candidates.

The report:

  1. Makes the case that judicial diversity data is important.

    We explain why diversity on courts matters, what we know about diversity on state courts, and why states should prioritize collecting judicial diversity data and making it available to the public, policymakers, and journalists.

  2. Presents the findings of a new study on how states collect judicial diversity data.

    We report whether and how 12 states collect and disclose judicial diversity data. To make sense of the range of approaches, we divide these 12 states into three tiers:

    • Tier One. States that systematically collect and publicly disclose data.

      California Georgia New Jersey Texas

    • Tier Two. States that systematically collect data and disclose it upon request.

      Arizona Maryland New York Oregon Wisconsin

    • Tier Three. States that either do not systematically collect data or do not disclose it.

      Kansas Ohio Tennessee

    Overall, reliable judicial diversity data is lacking. A number of states do not collect basic demographic information about their judiciary. No state collects and reports information across all basic diversity categories, including race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation and disability status, as well as professional background.

  3. Identifies best practices for collecting and releasing judicial diversity data.

    We look to the experiences of nine states featured in this report that do collect judicial diversity data in order to chart a path to improved data collection and release. We propose that judicial diversity data should be:

    • Collected. States should systematically collect judicial diversity data.
    • Communicated. States should voluntarily publish data.
    • Comprehensive. Data should cover a range of diversity categories, including gender identity and sexual orientation.
    • Clear. Data should be easy to find and use, and presented in a manner easily accessible to the public, policymakers, and journalists.

    This report has found an overall lack of judicial diversity data. However, it has also found that data collection and sharing can be improved. By taking simple steps, states can begin to overcome the problem. To find best practices, we look to the experiences of nine states featured in this report that do collect such data.

  4. Provides guidance on gender identity and sexual orientation data.

    We take a closer look at two states (California and New York) where judicial diversity data on gender identity and sexual orientation is available, and offers detailed guidance on how states can gather and disseminate data on these overlooked categories.

    State courts have broad authority to uphold or restrict the rights of LGBT people. As lawyers, litigants, defendants and jurors, LGBT individuals can face overt discrimination from state judges as well as more subtle discriminatory practices that have become prevalent in the judicial system. All the more reason for states to introduce cultural competency and anti-bias education for all judges—and to find out whether any LGBT judges serve on the bench.

  5. Makes recommendations to key decision-makers.

    We set out specific recommendations directed at those who can play a role in collecting and releasing judicial diversity data.

    1. To governors:

    Collect and release, on an aggregate statewide and court-level basis, the demographic data provided by:

    (a) all judicial appointees or nominees;
    and
    (b) all judicial applicants, both those judicial applicants who have been submitted to the state bar for evaluation and those who have not been submitted,

    relative to ethnicity, race, disability, veteran status, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation and areas of legal practice and employment.

    2. To the designated agencies responsible for evaluation of judicial candidates:

    Collect and release, on an aggregate statewide and court-level basis:

    a) demographic data provided by all judicial applicants reviewed;
    and
    (b) the summary of the recommendations of the designated agency of the state bar,

    relative to ethnicity, race, disability, veteran status, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation and areas of legal practice and employment.

    3. To the administrative offices of the courts:

    Collect and release, on an aggregate statewide and court-level basis, the demographic data provided by justices and judges relative to ethnicity, race, disability, veteran status, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation and areas of legal practice and employment.

    4. To state bar associations:

    Request and release, on an aggregate statewide and court-level basis, the demographic data provided by justices and judges relative to ethnicity, race, disability, veteran status, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation and areas of legal practice and employment.



READ THE FULL REPORT

Lambda Legal’s Fair Courts Project works to advance an independent, diverse and well-respected judiciary that upholds the constitutional and other legal rights of LGBT people and everyone living with HIV. For more information about Lambda Legal and the Fair Court Project, please visit www.lambdalegal.org/issues/fair-courts-project

The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, founded in 2001 and one of the nation’s leading progressive legal organizations, is a rapidly growing network of lawyers, law students, scholars, judges, policymakers and other concerned individuals. For more information about the ACS or to locate one of the more than 200 lawyer and law student chapters in 48 states, please visit www.acslaw.org