Contact:  Sandy Adkins
Communications Specialist
National Center for State Courts
757.259.1515

 

Gubernatorial appointments render Iowa one of only three states with all-male high court

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. 
 

State

No. of Seats on Court

% of Women on Court

Female
Chief Justice?

Alabama

9

33%

Y

Alaska

5

40%

N

Arizona

5

20%

Y

Arkansas

7

29%

N

California

7

57%

Y

Colorado

7

43%

N

Connecticut

7

29%

Y

Delaware

5

20%

N

District of Columbia

9

67%

N

Florida

7

29%

N

Georgia

7

14%

Y

Hawaii

5

25%

N

Idaho

5

0%

N

Illinois

7

43%

N

Indiana

5

0%

N

Iowa

7

0%

N

Kansas

7

29%

N

Kentucky

7

29%

N

Louisiana

7

43%

Y

Maine

7

29%

Y

Maryland

7

43%

N

Massachusetts

7

43%

N

Michigan

7

43%

N

Minnesota

7

29%

Y

Mississippi

9

11%

N

Missouri

7

43%

N

Montana

7

29%

N

Nebraska

7

14%

N

Nevada

7

29%

N

New Hampshire

5

40%

Y

New Jersey

7

43%

N

New Mexico

5

20%

N

New York

7

43%

N

North Carolina

7

57%

Y

North Dakota

5

40%

N

Ohio

7

57%

Y

Oklahoma Court of
Criminal Appeals

5

20%

Y

Oklahoma Supreme Court

9

22%

N

Oregon

7

29%

N

Pennsylvania

7

29%

N

Rhode Island

5

20%

N

South Carolina

5

40%

Y

South Dakota

5

20%

N

Tennessee

5

60%

Y

Texas Court of
Criminal Appeals

9

44%

Y

Texas Supreme Court

9

22%

N

Utah

5

40%

Y

Vermont

5

40%

N

Virginia

7

14%

Y

Washington

9

44%

Y

West Virginia

5

40%

Y

Wisconsin

7

57%

Y

Wyoming

5

20%

Y

The information in this table is based on state court websites. Because this is a rapidly changing area and each state works on a separate time table or system, this chart simply provides a snapshot of the state courts of last resort composition. If you are aware of a change in your state, please notify Nora Sydow.

 

*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.

The National Center for State Courts, headquartered in Williamsburg, Va., is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the administration of justice by providing leadership and service to the state courts. Founded in 1971 by the Conference of Chief Justices and Chief Justice of the United States Warren E. Burger, NCSC provides education, training, technology, management, and research services to the nation's state courts.