Report finds more women judges

July 23, 2012
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Although women make up about half the population of the United States, and there is nearly the same amount of female lawyers and male lawyers in the country, women make up only 27.1 percent of the judges here. But, the good news for those who like diversity on the bench is that number has slightly increased in the last two years.

This is the third year I’ve written about a report from the Center for Women in Government & Civil Society at the University of Albany which shows that while the number is barely inching up, more women are sitting on state and federal benches.

Last year, women made up 26.6 percent of judges in state and federal courts; in 2010, they comprised 26 percent. The percent of women on state benches is higher than in federal court.

“This is both good news and bad news," said Dina Refki, director of CWGCS. "The good news is that there is movement at least at the state level, but the bad news is that the rate of change is so slow and in the case of the federal benches, we are experiencing a set-back. If women are graduating from law schools at the same rate as men and if there is a pool of qualified women who are ready to serve, there is no explanation for the unbalanced representation on the bench."

Indiana’s numbers stayed the same from last year: we have 88 women on the bench – 83 are state judges; 5 serve on the federal bench. Women represent 20 percent of the state’s judges. That puts us in the report’s “Tier 2” where women occupy 20 to 29 percent of seats on federal and state benches.

In fact, the Midwest region’s percentage stayed the same as last year at 24.6 percent. Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin constitute the Midwest for this report.

Again, Montana topped the list with 40.3 percent of their judges being women. But they don’t have any women on the federal bench, a distinction they share with Idaho. Idaho also came in last in overall number of women on the bench – only 11.3 percent.

The report comes just as Gov. Mitch Daniels has the ability to add two women to state court (that’s assuming a woman is a finalist for the Indiana justice vacancy. If there isn’t one, then expect a future blog post from me.) The governor has made five appellate appointments, with two being female – Elaine Brown to the Court of Appeals in 2008 and Martha Wentworth to the Tax Court in 2011.

Do you pay much attention to reports like this, touting the deficient number of female representation on the bench? Why are these types of reports important?


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