Despite making up only 31% of the total population of the United States, White males are the majority in every facet of our legal system. As of 2015, 79% of prosecutors in the U.S. were white men (NY Times 2015) with 85% of them running unopposed (wholeads.com). The lack of racial make-up in the legal system does not create a fair representation of the communities it serves. While progress has been made in the last decade, it has been minuscule. This lack of diversity in the legal system has led to a more divisive public- which many have considered biased and flawed. This lack of confidence in the legal system has also left people dissatisfied with the sentences handed down to convicts.
The lack of diverse racial makeup trickles down to legal and judicial representatives such as lawyers and judges respectively. One need only look at statistics regarding the demographics for lawyers in America to notice an alarming trend. While the number of women enrolled in law schools has increased in the last decade representing 28.5% of enrolled students, the number of white males is still greater. According to the American Bar Association, as of 2016 approximately 89% of lawyers (this encompasses all lawyers including private practice of which women are more likely to go into but least likely to make partner) in the United States are Caucasian. (American Bar Association). In the last 4 years the percentage of minority enrollment in American law schools increased by approximately 3%. (American Bar Association 2015), while the number of minority female judges and prosecutors is at an alarming 1%. Even with the increasing number of minorities in the last decade, it is so infinitesimal that it is practically insignificant.
Diversifying the legal system requires more than just the random selection of female and minority attorneys and judges; it also requires a purposeful and efficient approach to ensure that this diversity is reflected in the courts. Furthermore, an increased awareness of open positions as well as transparency in the hiring and interviewing of potential candidates will lead to an increased number of people from diverse backgrounds. Another recommendation is to appoint an official whose position would be primarily focused on improving diversity. To improve those elected to district attorney positions more effort could go into helping the public know whom they are electing. For many, electing judges and prosecutors in their district is an afterthought. Approximately 85% of prosecutors run unopposed in the U.S. (npr.com). This typically leads to prosecutors being elected repeatedly which allows for no real change. Whether these solutions will be more effective at the state or federal level remains to be seen. Part of the issue with the lack of diversity is the lack of available data or experience to show what would be the most effective solution.
Concluding, the lack of diversity leads to a justice system which does not adequately represent the population that it serves. Increasing diversity in the American legal system primarily focusing on judges and prosecutors at the state and federal level will serve to enhance the legitimacy of our legal system in the eyes of an increasingly diverse public. This will require many systemic changes within society and the legal system that will take a great deal of time but will ultimately be worth the effort.
Fandos, Nicholas. “A Study Documents the Paucity of Black Elected Prosecutors: Zero in Most States.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 06 July 2015. Web. 08 Aug. 2016.
Moxley, Tracie. “Lawyer Demographics 2016.” LAWYER DEMOGRAPHICS(2016): n. pag. www.americanbar.org. American Bar Association. Web. 7 Aug. 2016. “Reprinted by permission of the American Bar Association. All rights reserved.”
Spelliscy, Ciera Torres, Monique Chase, Emma Greenman, and Susan M. Lewis. “Improving Judicial Diversity | Brennan Center for Justice.”Improving Judicial Diversity | Brennan Center for Justice. Brennan Center For Justice, 03 Mar. 2010. Web. 05 Aug. 2016.
Kelly, Amita. “Does It Matter That 95 Percent Of Elected Prosecutors Are White?” NPR. NPR, 8 July 2015. Web. 10 Aug. 2016.
“Justice for All*? A Look at the Demographics of Prosecutors in America.”Justice for All? Reflective Democracy Campaign, 11 May 2015. Web. 09 Aug. 2016.