Election Spending Linked to Diversity on the Bench, Report Finds

A report issued by the Center for American Progress has found that elections impede the diversity of state judiciaries according to a recent Daily Kos article.

The study (see Gavel Grab) found a lack of diversity throughout the state judicial system, highlighting cases such as Alabama where every one of the 19 appellate court judges is white although only two-thirds of the population are white. Evidence also revealed that minority judges also had a harder time keeping their jobs and have lower re-election rates. “Since 2000, the overall reelection rate for incumbent Supreme Court justices in contested races is 88 percent. For white justices, that number is 90 percent. But black justices have been reelected 80 percent and Hispanic justices 67 percent of the time.”

The article points to the state of campaign finance as a potential explanation of the Center for American Progress’ findings: “The amount of money in judicial races has grown exponentially, especially since the Citizens United ruling opened the door to unlimited outside spending. Just last week, Pennsylvania’s election broke the spending record for Supreme Court races nationwide. Research shows that courts are more diverse when elections are publicly financed. The exorbitant spending in judicial races hurts voters and candidates alike.”

It concludes: “Diversity on the bench matters, especially in a system where minorities are disproportionately affected by the criminal justice system. The evidence suggests that race and gender have a significant impact on how judges rule.”