[Journals]: Why are there so few racial minorities and women in the judicial system?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 27, 2014
Contact: Marsha Ross / 773-702-8185
/ mr@press.uchicago.edu

Source Contact: Susan Hagen susan.hagen@rochester.edu


Are external vetting practices negatively affecting the potential success of female and minority judicial candidates? This is a particularly pressing problem, as vacancies in the federal courts continue to mount and as courts continue to fall short of being reflective of the overall U.S. population. 


A forthcoming article from the Journal of Law and Courts suggests that “qualification” ratings of judicial candidates by legal trade organizations such as the American Bar Association (ABA) may be part of the problem. The author of the study, Maya Sen, University of Rochester, examines these and related issues in her paper “How Judicial Qualification Ratings May Disadvantage Minority and Female Candidates.”


After examining confirmation and biographical data from 1,652 US District Court judges, the study finds that “receiving poor ABA ratings is correlated with conīŦrmation failure,” with candidates rated as “Not Qualified” by the ABA being up to 30 percentage points more likely to see their nominations fail than those rated “Well Qualified.” Moreover, this is particularly bad for minority and female nominees, who are “more likely than whites and males to receive lower ratings” even controlling for differences in work experience or educational backgrounds. Taken together, the study questions why such ratings are used. Indeed, as the study further shows, “judges who are poorly rated by the ABA are no more likely to have their opinions overturned than are their higher-rated peers.”


Sen questions the reliance by political actors on external vetting practices and suggests that more transparency is needed to help shed light on the root of these stubborn discrepancies.


Sen, Maya. “How Judicial Qualification Ratings May Disadvantage Minority and Female Candidates.”

Journal of Law and Courts 2:1. February 2014.


Journal of Law and Courts (JLC) focuses on articles for and from the law and courts intellectual community and is published for all scholars interested in legal institutions, actors, processes, and policy.
JLC is published by the University of Chicago Press in association with the Law and Courts Organized Section of the American Political Science Association.


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