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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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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