Tipping The Scales

Reports reveal bias throughout court systems

Minority employees in the courtroom have historically been … well, in the minority. Across the board, from Federal judgeships to courtroom stenographers and clerks, African Americans have faced an uphill climb working their way into the fabled halls of justice. California and New jersey, two states that track the diversity among their court employees, found most minorities are in positions such as interpreters, clerical staff and technicians that offer little career advancement. According to the American Bar Association, more African Americans are graduating from law school–6.9% of law school graduates in 1996 were African American, up from 4.7% in 1986. But, the ABA also reports, only 2.8% of the 60,000 judges in the U.S. and its territories are African American.

How the lack of minority representation in the courts trickles down to the treatment and sentencing of minority defendants is debatable. In an effort to analyze the lack of minority representation within the courts, about 30 U.S. and Canadian groups, created by the highest courts in their jurisdictions, joined together to create the National Consortium of Task Forces and Commissions on Racial and Ethnic Bias in the Courts. Last year, the California Judicial Council Advisory Committee on Racial and Ethnic Bias recommended that the California State Bar, public sector agencies and private law firms strengthen their efforts at employing and retaining minority attorneys. Meanwhile, New Jersey recommended similar recruitment and retention efforts to increase the number of minority court employees in senior management positions.

The jury is still out on what impact these recommendations will have. But as the Florida Task Force urged, it’s hoped they will lead to fundamental reforms necessary “to eradicate the stain of racism from the garments of justice.”

Women and Minorities In Major Law Firms

Total Number of Partners

Percent Women

Percent Minority

Total Number of Associates

Percent Women

Percent Minority

Nationwide: 39,813 14.21% 2.95% 42,416 40.11% 0.1106
Offices in Firms of: 100 or fewer 8,153 14.19 3.08 5,960 39.08 10.49
101-250 15,217 14.2 2.62 13,864 40.79 9.54
251 or more 16,443 14.22 3.18 22,592 39.96 12.14
Source: 1997-1998 National Diurectory of Legal Employers, National Association for Law Placement, Washington, D.C.

Top Cities For Minority Partners

Location

Total Number
of Partners

Percent
Minority

Miami 524 13.36%
San Francisco 1,382 4.27
Los Angeles 2,019 5.79
Seattle 815 3.56
Phoenix 512 3.13
Source: 1997-1998 National Diurectory of Legal Employers, National Association for Law Placement, Washington, D.C.

Minority Judges[*]

About 6% of the 60,000 judges in the U.S. are minorities

Native American 366 (0.6%)
African American 1,680 (2.8%)
Asian/Pacific (including Tribal American Island Courts) 254 (0.4%)
Hispanic 1,310 (2.2%)
* Includes all federal, state, administrative law, and administrative judges as well as commissioner, pro hac vice, substitute and part-time bench officers (i.e. non-lawyer magistrates, justices of the peace and masters in equity) in the U.S. and its terr
Source: The Directory of Minority judges of the United States, Second Edition, American Bar Association, Chicago, 1997
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