For the first time, researchers have gathered 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.
We call this disparity The Gavel Gap.
Download The Full Data Set & Report
For most people, state courts are the “law” for all effective purposes. But we know surprisingly little about state court judges, despite their central and powerful role. Unlike their counterparts on the federal courts, much of the relevant information is non-public, and in many states, not even collected in a systematic way. This lack of information is especially significant because judges’ backgrounds have important implications for the work of courts and the degree to which the public has confidence in their decisions.
In order to address this serious shortcoming in our understanding of America’s courts, we have constructed an unprecedented database of state judicial biographies. This dataset—the State Bench Database--includes more than 10,000 current sitting judges on state courts of general jurisdiction in all 50 states. We use it to examine the gender, racial, and ethnic composition of state courts, which we then compare to that of the general population in each state. We find that courts are not representative of the people whom they serve. We call this disparity The Gavel Gap.