Blake P. Kavanagh
Center on Court Access to Justice for All
While instances of discrimination towards individuals of various backgrounds have dwindled, discrimination continues to threaten equality within the judicial system. Instances of bias include, but are not limited to, bias towards an individual’s gender, race and ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Through the creation of task forces, states have made strides toward eliminating bias in their court system through accomplishments such as increased access to justice, improvement in jury pool representation, promoting diversity in court appointments, providing adequate interpreter services, conducting educational programs, encouraging diversity in law enforcement, and promoting the availability of legal representation for the poor.
Links to related online resources are listed below. Non-digitized publications may
be borrowed from the NCSC Library; call numbers are provided.
The Brennan Center for Justice's new resource for judicial nominating commissioners recommending concrete steps to help increase diversity in our state courts.
Who Sits in Judgement on State Courts? This full report, authored by Tracey E. George and Albert H. Yoon from The Gavel Gap, analyzes data on the demographics of state court judges in all 50 states. They found troubling differences between the race and gender composition of the courts and the communities they serve.
This Court Executive Development Program report looks at the recommendations which have been implemented by the 1989 Supreme Court Commission on Gender Bias in the Judicial System.
A New Paradigm for Fairness: The First National Conference on Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Bias in the Courts.
This report highlights topics discussed at the 1995 First National Conference on Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Bias in the Courts such as staying vigilant against bias through continuous self-examination of court operation, fairness and equal access to justice for non-English speakers, protecting rights of American Indians, and mentoring persons of color to judicial service on the bench.
This primer was produced as part of the National Campaign to Ensure the Racial and Ethnic Fairness of America’s State Courts.
Center for American Progress. This report examined contested state supreme court elections from 2000-2015, finding that while white judges are re-elected 90 percent of the time, black and Latino judges are re-elected at rate of just 80 and 67 percent, respectively.
This guidebook is intended for attorneys contemplating a judicial career. It contains information on qualifications, rules and regulations, and the processes involved in seeking an appointment and in running for election to a judicial position. The guidebook also contains insight gathered from a number of judges addressing questions attorneys considering a judicial career often ask.
Casey, Pamela M., et al. (2012.) NCSC, with funding from the Open Society Institute, documented the development and implementation of pilot educational programs on the topic of implicit racial bias in three participating states between 2009-2012. These materials are no longer current, and NCSC is exploring new funding to provide updated educational materials to the court community.
Professor Jerry Kang, TEDxSanDiego. (2013.) Professor Kang discusses how our assumption of "immaculate perception" is disproved by a number of tests measuring implicit bias.
Professor Vivian Hamilton, William & Mary Law School. (2017.) Professor Hamilton reviews existing studies of implicit bias in judicial decisions.
Ozkan Eren and Naci Mocan (2016). The authors analyzed juvenile court decisions between 1996 and 2012 and compared them to the effects of emotional shocks associated with unexpected outcomes of football games played by a prominent college team in the state. The study found unexpected losses increased disposition lengths.
This report aimed to verify the representation of Hispanics in Superior Court of Orange County jury panels. The results support the recommendation that the court should consider changing its current practice of not tracking the race and ethnicity of summoned jurors.
The Justice System Journal, Vol. 29, No. 1. In response to the concerns of the Lucas County, Ohio, Court of Common Pleas that juries underrepresent African- Americans, this study evaluates the racial and Hispanic representativeness of the list of registered voters, licensed drivers and various lists derived from the original source list that leads to the list of potential jurors. The authors find that the list is more representative for African-Americans but less representative for Hispanics.
This pocket guide provides information on recognizing bias, how bias is manifested in the courtroom, eliminating bias, ensuring bias-free communication and behavior, demonstrating respect, neutrality and fairness, institutionalizing fairness, codes of conduct and bias, court or disciplinary cases involving bias, and resources.