Diversity on the bench

A few weeks ago, we wrote about our idea for a judicial Rooney Rule to increase the diversity of our state courts. At the time, we cited some stats from 2002, because numbers from the legal field were pretty hard to come by.

Today, a nationwide study called Gavel Gap was released ranking diversity on the bench in every state. Indiana was graded as an F and ranked 33rd overall.

Professors Tracey George of Vanderbilt and Albert Yoon of the University of Toronto say their study for the progressive think tank American Constitution Society is the first comprehensive look at who holds the dozens of judgeships at the state level. Their findings: one in five Hoosier judges are women. That’s the 12th-worst representation of any state. One in eight Indiana judges are minorities, but that ranks Indiana 20th-best, because it’s relatively close to reflecting the minority population overall.

It’s important to note in light of the dust-up over Donald Trump calling Indiana-born judge Gonzalo Curiel a “Mexican” who can’t set aside his heritage to rule on a particular case, that race or gender doesn’t disqualify anyone from being able to judge a case fairly. It’s true for Curiel, and it’s true for the whitest, male-est judge out there.

A diverse bench is simply about equality of opportunity as well as the perception that everyone will be treated fairly by the justice system in this country.

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