Contact: Sandy AdkinsCommunications SpecialistNational Center for State Courts757.259.1515
Williamsburg, Va. (Feb. 25, 2011) — Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad Wednesday named three new members to the state’s highest court — and he made a bit of history along the way. All three of Branstad’s appointees to the Iowa Supreme Court are men, and they will join four existing male justices on the bench. Iowa, Indiana, and Idaho are now the only states that do not have a female justice on their courts of last resort.
Voters ousted three Iowa justices, including Chief Justice Marsha Ternus, in November over the court’s 2009 ruling to legalize same-sex marriage. Because the justices were on the ballot for retention election, they did not have opponents. Retention elections require voters to either approve or reject a sitting judge.
Gender diversity on high-court benches recently has drawn the attention of many people involved in state and national judicial issues. Gender diversity also was a prime issue during the recent appointment of Justice Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court, which now has three women on its nine-member bench, representing 33 percent of the court. Forty percent, or 21 out of 53*, state courts of last resort are led by female jurists.
The following chart reflects the diversity of the nation’s state courts of last resort.
No. of Seats on Court
% of Women on Court
District of Columbia
Oklahoma Court ofCriminal Appeals
Oklahoma Supreme Court
Texas Court ofCriminal Appeals
Texas Supreme Court
*The 53 state courts of last resort include the supreme courts of all 50 states, the criminal courts of last resort in Oklahoma and Texas, which are separate from those states' supreme courts, and the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.
The NCSC Backgrounder is designed to provide the media with statistics and facts related to current issues of interest.
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