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Ten Best Practices to Increase Women and Minority Jurists

Brennan Center releases Improving Judicial Diversity, a revealing examination of the appointive systems in ten states.

January 14, 2009
For Immediate Release:

Contact: Jeanine Plant-Chirlin, 212–998–6289

Today, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law releases Improving Judicial Diversity, a revealing examination of the appointive systems in ten states: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Utah. The study also offers a set of ten best practices to increase racial and gender diversity on the bench.

The Brennan Center study found that female and minority jurists remain underrepresented in most state courts. The numbers are particularly grim for state Supreme Courts: Arizona, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Utah have all-white Supreme Court justices.

All 15 commissioners interviewed by the Brennan Center supported increased diversity. Yet, white men continue to be overrepresented on state appellate benches by a margin of nearly two to one.

“Unconscious bias rather than more venal conscious discrimination is likely playing a role in the judicial nominating process,” Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, co-author of the study and Brennan Center attorney, explained.

Most legal disputes adjudicated in America are heard in state courts, so they must serve an increasingly diverse public. To improve judicial diversity, the Center suggests a more transparent judicial nominating process, an increase in judicial pay to attract lawyers from the private sector and regular, widespread announcements of judicial openings. Though nominating processes differ by state, all nominating commissioners could recruit more talented female and minority lawyers to the bench.

“The population of diverse lawyers is on the rise in America,” Torres-Spelliscy explained. “This presents a golden opportunity to diversify the ranks of jurists on state courts. States need to make strategic efforts to recruit and welcome these lawyers.”

The full report is available on the Brennan Center’s website, here. To schedule an interview with Torres-Spelliscy, please contact Jeanine Plant-Chirlin at 212–998–6289 or