Arkansas gets an F for judicial diversity | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Arkansas gets an F for judicial diversity

Posted By on Wed, Jun 22, 2016 at 11:16 AM

click to enlarge judges.jpg

A new report from the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy says Arkansas is one of 26 states with a grade of F for gender and racial diversity of its judges.

Irony alert: Despite the F, women hold a majority — four of seven — of the seats on the state Supreme Court. There are no black judges on the Supreme Court, however. There is one woman and one black on the 12-member Arkansas Court of Appeals.  Many of the small number of black judges in the state are elected for judicial "subdistricts" — districts with majority black populations created after a lawsuit over discrimination in judicial elections.

The report ranks Arkansas 34th of 51 states for diversity, with judgeships 48 percent less diverse than the state's population.

The link to the report includes other links, including a full data set for all states. In Arkansas, there are 108 state judges. Thirteen are black and 26 are women. One is Latino. 72 are white men.

Personal note: When my wife, now retired, became a judge in December 1986, she was one of two women on the Arkansas bench.

The report calls the failure of state courts to represent the people they serve the "gavel gap."

“The vast majority of Americans’ interactions with the judicial system, ranging from traffic violations to criminal proceedings, happen in state courts,” said Professor Tracey E. George of Vanderbilt University, one of the co-authors of the report. “When people do not see themselves represented in their community leadership, when the vast majority of judges cannot relate to the lived experience of those they serve—this is a problem. It creates a mistrust of judges, and propagates the mystery surrounding the court system. For the first time, we have the data we need to identify and address this serious problem.”

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