A new analysis from the Center for American Progress reveals a stunning lack of diversity in the federal judiciary today, based on an analysis of official data.
The report shows how President Donald Trump’s judicial picks have only added to this disparity and reversed progress made under past administrations.
Trump’s nominees are the least racially and ethnically diverse of any presidential administration over the last three decades, CAP officials said in an emailed statement.
Overall, CAP found that 80 percent of all sitting federal judges in the nation are white and 73 percent are male, compared to a U.S. population that is only 60 percent white and slightly less than 50 percent male.
Although Hispanics make up about 18 percent of the U.S. population, they comprise only about 7 percent of sitting judges on the federal courts. There are only two sitting Native American judges on the federal courts and no Muslim judges. Less than 1 percent of sitting judges self-identify as LGBTQ.
“Members of the public increasingly perceive federal courts as unfair, particularly to underrepresented groups,” Danielle Root, lead author of the report and associate director of Voting Rights and Access to Justice at CAP, said in a news release.
“The inclusion of judges from different backgrounds and walks of life results in more thoughtful and balanced decisions and can help restore legitimacy to the courts,” Root stated.
Data from specific appeals courts also reveal some startling regional disparities:
• Today, 80 percent of sitting judges on the federal courts are white.
• Among sitting federal judges, African American judges comprise about 9.9 percent of the federal judiciary, even though African Americans make up roughly 12.5 percent of the U.S. population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
• Among active federal judges, African American judges comprise roughly 13 percent of the federal judiciary.
• As of August 2019, Trump had only appointed five African American federal judges to the bench, making up less than 4 percent of all of his judicial appointees. In comparison, when President Obama was in office, almost 18 percent of his appointees were African Americans.
• The overwhelming majority of Trump’s judicial appointees—86 percent—have been white.
In looking at the composition of U.S. Courts of Appeal:
• There are no sitting African American judges on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals—which covers Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.
• There are only two sitting African American judges, comprising just 8 percent of all sitting judges, on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals—which covers Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas—even though African Americans comprise nearly 17 percent of that circuit’s general population
• There is only one sitting African American judge on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals—which includes Alabama, Florida, and Georgia—comprising just 5 percent of that court’s makeup, even though African Americans comprise more than 21 percent of that circuit’s general population.
The report argues that the current makeup of the federal judiciary does not represent the population it serves. It also explores how judicial diversity leads to better, fairer decisions and acts as a check on bias in the courtroom.
The report recommends finding ways to bring more lawyers belonging to historically underrepresented groups into the pipeline for judgeships, increasing outreach to get more young people and law students from different backgrounds interested in becoming judges, and making the law school admission process fairer and more accessible to diverse students.
It also recommends ensuring that law students and lawyers from underrepresented groups have access to professional opportunities that are traditionally considered prerequisites for future judgeships, such as clerkships and positions at prestigious law firms.
The report further urges the White House and Congress to make judicial diversity a priority.
To read the full report, visit www.americanprogress.org.