Diversity of the Federal Bench Tracker

 Diversity of the Federal Bench Tracker

Mission: To advance and defend democracy, justice, equality, and liberty; to secure a government that serves the public interest, and to guard against the abuse of law and the concentration of power.

Background: From the eighteenth century through the 1960s, white male judges comprised at least 99 percent of the federal judiciary. Indeed, since the nations' founding, the federal judiciary has been overwhelmingly white and male. It was not until 1934 and the administration of  Franklin D. Roosevelt that a woman was appointed to an Article III judgeship, and it was not until 1949 and the administration of Harry S Truman that an African American was appointed to a federal circuit court. In 1967, Justice Thurgood Marshall became the first African American justice appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and in 1981 Justice Sandra Day O'Connor became the first woman to sit on the highest court in the land. Judge Deborah A. Batts — the first openly LGBTQ federal judge — was not appointed to the bench until 1994.

Studies show that diversity adds significant value to the judiciary, and the court's legitimacy is strengthened when decision-makers look like and reflect the demographic composition of the nation. Previous administrations, including those of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, took steps to increase representation on the federal judiciary for women and people of color, but those efforts have stalled under the Trump administration.

To illustrate disparities in representation on the bench and show changes in the diversity of the federal judiciary over time, the American Constitution Society, a nonpartisan legal think tank, developed a dashboard based on data collected by the Federal Judicial Center to track the racial, ethnic, and gender makeup of active judges with lifetime appointments.

Outstanding Web Features: ACS's Diversity of the Federal Bench dashboard aggregates racial and gender diversity data for all Article III judges, and does the same for judges confirmed since 2009 under both Presidents Obama and Trump. Visitors to the site can also view aggregate gender and racial/ethnic diversity data for active circuit court judges, who together hear approximately fifty thousand cases a year (many, many more than the Supreme Court), making circuit courts the last word, more often than not, in the federal appeals process. Accompanying interactive maps provide diversity data for individual circuit and district courts.

American Constitution Society:
Main Office:
1899 L Street, NW, Suite 200
Washington, District of Columbia 20036
Tel: (202) 393-6181
Tel: (202) 393-6189
E-mail: info@ACSLaw.org
Subjects: Public affairs
Location: National

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