Judicial Economics and Demographics
Why do black men make up 19 percent of the U.S. population but only 12 percent of state court judges? Why do white men make up 30 percent of the U.S. population but account for 58 percent of state court trial judges? Why do white women make up 31 percent of the U.S. population but account for only 22 percent of state court trial judges? Why do women of color make up 20 percent of the U.S. population but account for only 8 percent of state court trial judges?
Some answers? After navigating the appointment process and being appointed by the governor, the new trial judge must run for election in the next general election, which may entail substantial expense if facing an opponent still practicing law with little to lose except expenses that can be made up by existing income. The losing judge is off the bench and needs to start over as a lawyer. White female attorneys, male and female black attorneys, compared with white male lawyers, have historically bad luck running for judicial office either as sitting judges or practicing lawyers. In reality, any lawyer, male, female, white, black, or otherwise goes out on an economic limb when becoming a trial judge, because there is no judicial tenure. All the rules will not change economic reality and the fact that white voters make up 61 percent of the electorate.
David P. Carter, Seminole
The June edition of the Bar Journal espouses part of the JNC’s mandate is to, “evaluate a candidate’s community involvement and their actions with the public…as they will have to run for office in order to maintain their judicial seat. If the applicant does not have significant community support and the ability to raise money the appointment will be short-lived because the applicant cannot retain the seat.”
It is not hard to understand a candidate should be part of and be involved with the community in which they serve, but how is it any of the JNC’s business, or concern for that matter, if the judicial appointment can prevail in any future contested elections for the judgeship for which they were appointed. The obligation of the JNC is to vet and recommend candidates, not to assure an appointee’s longevity as a judge based on their ability to raise money related to financing a future contested election. This reeks of the very thing the Bar has stated in the past it loathes, interference in and influencing the electoral process.
S.V. Dedmon, Fleming Island