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State Supreme Courts Lack Racial, Ethnic, Gender Diversity

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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? 

Guests:

"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call 210-614-8980, email thesource@tpr.org  or tweet @TPRSource.

*This interview was recorded on Wednesday, September 25.

 

Kim Johnson is the producer for Texas Public Radio’s live, call-in show The Source. She is a Trinity University alum with bachelor’s degrees in Communication and Spanish, and a Master of Arts Degree from the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.