March 1, 2023
By: Alyssa Nekritz
Each year, NCSC collects data on the gender diversity of state courts of last resort and publishes it to coincide with National Women’s History Month in March. The 2023 data indicates a slight increase in the total percentage of female justices that identify as female sitting on courts of last resort (40.8% in 2023 vs. 40.5% in 2022). Moreover, while there were 15 female Chief Justices in 2022, today there are 20. Chief Justice Beth Walker of West Virginia recently shared her excitement about female chiefs on her Twitter account with this picture:
Used with permission by Chief Justice Beth Walker.
Top row left to right: Beth Walker (WV), Lorie Skjerven Gildea (MN), Mary Jane Theis (IL), Susan Christensen (IA), C. Shannon Bacon (NM), Elizabeth Clement (MI), Meagan Flynn (OR)
Middle row: Lidia S. Stiglich (NV), Sharon Keller (TX CCA), Marla Luckert (KS), Valerie Stanfill (ME)
Front row: Anna Blackburne-Rigsby (DC), Loretta Rush (IN), Maite Oronoz Rodriguez (PR)
*State Female Chief Justices not pictured: Patricia Guerrero (CA), Kimberly S. Budd (MA), Sharon Kennedy (OH), Debra Todd (PA), Annette Kingsland Ziegler (WI), Kate M. Fox (WY)
The gender statistics are reported based on she/her/hers pronouns used in respective judicial biographies.
female Chief Justices
of sitting justices that identify as female
courts with 40% or more female justices
courts with 50% or more female justices
These statistics were calculated based on the 366 sitting justices from the 57 courts of last resort in US states and territories. There are currently 5 court of last resort vacancies in Delaware, the District of Columbia, New York, Pennsylvania, and Puerto Rico. Alaska’s court of last resort vacancy position was filled recently by Jude Pate. Delaware’s vacancy comes from Tamila Montgomery-Reeves' nomination to the US Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit in December.
Three courts of last resort have no female justices South Carolina’s Supreme Court, Oklahoma’s Criminal Court of Appeals, and Northern Mariana Island’s Supreme Court.
NCSC’s Tiny Chats collected videos from current and retired female Chief Justices. They talk about the importance of state courts and what they enjoy the most about representing their communities.
Other notable statistics:
- Nevada Supreme Court Justice Patricia Lee became the first African-American woman and the first Asian-American to serve on the state’s highest court.
- Robin Ransom is the first Black woman to serve on the Missouri Supreme Court.
- Patricia Guerrero is the first Latina Chief Justice to on the California Supreme Court.
- Sharon Kennedy became the second woman to serve as the Chief Justice on the Ohio Supreme Court.
- Yvonne Kauger is the longest currently serving justice having served for 39 years on the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
- Two Supreme Court Justices in Missouri are retiring this year, making room for a potential gender-based majority shift.
- About 54% of justices started on the Supreme Court from 2010 to 2019.
- The median first year of service for all justices is 2017.
The Brennan Center’s May 2022 report collected judicial racial and gender composition and included other notable milestones for women of color across the state courts of last resort. The National Center is conducting similar research as part of the State Court Organization project.
How diverse is the bench in your state or locality? For more information, contact Knowledge@ncsc.org or call 800-616-6164. Follow the National Center for State Courts on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.