Diversity on state supreme courts shows little improvement, report finds

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State supreme courts still fail to reflect the diversity of the communities they serve, according to an update published Friday by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law.

The percentage of justices of color on state supreme courts increased only slightly since April 2021, increasing from 17% to 18%, according to a May update by the Brennan Center for Justice. The percentage of female justices also increased slightly, increasing from 39% to 41%.

In 20 states, all the high court justices are white, a decrease from 22 states in 2021. In 12 of those 20 states, people of color make up at least 20% of the population.

In nine states, there is only one woman on the state supreme court. There are zero women on the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest court for criminal cases.

High courts are dominated by people who once served in private practice, a job once had by 81% of state justices. Sixty-nine percent of state justices formerly served as judges on lower courts, 39% as former prosecutors, 7% as former public defenders, and 2% as former civil legal services lawyers.

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