A state's supreme court is the final arbiter when it comes to interpreting and setting precedents for state law and the last resort for civil appeals, but there's a lack of racial, ethnic, and gender diversity on benches across the U.S., including in Texas. How does this diversity deficit impact the judiciary and those it serves?
Texas’ Supreme Court has become less diverse over the last decade. The majority of justices on the state's highest court are white, male, and hail from large cities. Was the most recent Supreme Court addition, Justice Jane Bland, appointed in part because of political pressure related to the lack of diversity?
This lack of diversity applies to geographical representation, as well. The sitting justices on the state supreme court all hail from big metropolitan cities. How does the absence of geographical diversity affect rural Texans?
What is the process for becoming a Texas Supreme Court Justice? How is diversity impacted by the election versus an appointment of a state justice?
What is Texas' historical record when it comes to minority and female representation on its highest bench? Is there a similar lack of diversity for lower courts? Should the Supreme Court be more representative of the state's population?
How does a judiciary wanting for diversity contribute to vast racial disparities in the American justice system? Does racial and gender homogeneity affect a court's decision-making or undermine its legitimacy?
- Alicia Bannon, managing director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice and co-author of the "State Supreme Court Diversity" report
- Emma Platoff, covers the law and its intersections with politics for The Texas Tribune
- Sharon Navarro, associate professor in the Department of Political Science & Geography at the University of Texas at San Antonio
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*This interview was recorded on Wednesday, September 25.