Female Judges in the United States Are Few and Far Between

Update: This blog post originally stated that there were no women on the Mississippi Supreme Court, which came from the executive summary of the report. However, Beverly Pettigrew Kraft, Public Information Officer for the Administrative Office of Courts in Mississippi, emailed us to let us know that there is a woman currently serving on the Mississippi Supreme Court, Judge Ann H. Lamar. Our apologies for the mistake, and thanks to Beverly for letting us know.

Via Ms. JD, we learn about a study on female representation in the state and federal judiciaries in the United States [PDF]. The study was conducted by the Center for Women in Government and Civil Society at the University at Albany and its findings indicate that women still have a long way to go before equal representation in the courts.

Some highlights (or lowlights) from the study:

In the U.S., women make up only 22% of all federal judgeships and 26% of all state-level positions.

With respect to women’s share of federal judgeships, only New Jersey and Connecticut achieved critical mass of 33% (the point at which women start exercising significant influence). About 20% of federal judges in most states are women. Women’s share of federal judgeships is at 10% or less in eight states. There are no women judges on federal benches located in Montana and New Hampshire.

There are no women judges on the U.S. District and Magistrate benches of the U.S. Northern District of New York (a 26 county region) despite the existence of a pool of 359 female judges serving on New York State benches.

Women are also absent from the U.S. Bankruptcy Courts District of Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia. There are no women judges on the Supreme Courts of Idaho, Indiana (see update above); and from the Alaska Court of Appeals.

In Pennsylvania, 22% of federal judges are women, and 27% of state-level judges are women, resembling the national average.

Equal representation is important in every profession, including the judiciary. In a thriving democracy, the court system plays a crucial role in ensuring that justice is a reality for all citizens and that the branches of government do not overstep their bounds. Like every judge, women bring their own unique experiences and history to their work. In a diverse society, this is extremely important and should be emphasized. And when women reach a critical mass, they can start to break down stereotypical gender roles more easily than when there are fewer women on the bench.

Make sure to read the whole report [PDF] and see how your state ranked.


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  1. Pingback: President Obama Nominates Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court « Women's Law Project Blog

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