Louisiana’s state and federal judges do not accurately reflect the state’s racial and gender makeup, according to a new Tulane University report.
The report, titled “Gender and Racial Diversity of Louisiana’s Judges,” says women hold roughly 32% of judgeships in Louisiana even though they account for 51% of the state’s population.
Racial minorities make up 36% of the state’s population yet hold only 22.3% of all state- and federal-level judgeships in Louisiana, the report says.
“The judicial system needs our best and brightest and we do not secure the highest possible quality of justice if more than half the population is not fairly or fully considered for public service, or if young women and minority men fail to see a judicial career as a possibility because historically people who look like them have been excluded,” the report says.
The report—authored by political scientists Sally J. Kenney of the Newcomb College Institute at Tulane University and Salmon Shomade of Emory University—analyzes racial and gender representation for judges in federal, state and parish courts in Louisiana in comparison to U.S. Census data.
The researchers did find that the number of women and racial minorities holding Louisiana judgeships is similar to that of other states. However, they say that should not stunt efforts to make the state’s judgeships more reflective of the population.
Women and racial minorities account for 40% and 14.3%, respectively, of all judges in Louisiana-based federal courts. In Louisiana state courts, women judges make up 30.8% of all judges, while racial minorities are 23.1% of all judges.
“We must develop new strategies for achieving genuine equality rather than mere presence, mobilize to ensure that women and minority men do not stay at the lowest ranks, and carefully monitor changes to ensure we do not reverse the progress we have made,” Kenney says.