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Diversity unnecessary for an impartial judiciary

So, are we to assume that Louisiana’s electoral system suppresses an inherent goodness of racial and gender diversity on the bench, utilized by males in a white majority electorate indifferent to the place of racial minorities and women in the courtroom?

That’s the implication from a report issued by Tulane University researchers, who compiled a profile of the racial and sexual characteristics of Louisiana’s judges the municipal level all the way to the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, the authors have not released it online where the public could judge the comprehensiveness and quality of their efforts.

They note that, in demographic terms, minorities and women remain underrepresented in robes, at both the state level and typically at the parish level, with one major exception. They do not ascribe causes for this, but assert that benefits would accrue from ameliorating this condition, saying that efforts to “demystify” the judiciary would produce greater proportions of minorities and women wielding the gavel to bring more “credibility.”

Hogwash. Justice must be color- and equipment-blind, where judicial temperament cannot allow personal characteristics to affect decision-making. Declaring “representativeness” a desirable condition indicts the present sitting members of the judiciary, implying that they cannot decide fairly when cases involve mixtures of race and gender that depends upon their own characteristics, so therefore we must have demographic balance for true impartiality.

That constipated view aside – reinforced by their observation that Orleans Parish has the most “diverse” judiciary in the state, which in reality has a preponderance of women and an overwhelming proportion of black jurists meaning it hasn’t much diversity at all – if one wants a larger proportion of women and especially minorities rendering decisions, two things can change that without government intervention: more minorities registering to vote and greater diversity, especially among minorities, in political party choices.

Perhaps inconveniently for the diversity agenda, Louisiana at all levels of government elects its judges. Women actually are overrepresented on the voter registration rolls, comprising 55 percent of the electorate, but minorities come in about 5 points lower than the non-white population proportion. And, while you can lead voters to the registration table or voting booth, you can’t make them register or vote.

More to the point, especially among minority candidates, there is close to zero diversity in partisan choices for ballot listing. Since judicial elections have so few cues for voters, that magnifies partisanship’s importance as information on which way to vote. If black judicial candidates, almost all of whom run as Democrats, would run as Republicans – and credibly, meaning typically viewing the judiciary as an adjudicator, not policy-maker – their overall numbers likely would increase significantly, as a plurality of the state’s white majority registers as Republicans.

Regarding female underrepresentation, that appears to follow the pattern witnessed for other elective offices – women are less likely to aspire to full-time careers and if they do so are more likely to do so later in life, reducing the pool from which judicial candidates may surface. Again, you can’t force them collectively to desire more the campaigning required to become and duties demanded of a full-time judge.

Chalk up the report’s observations as trivia. To achieve what the authors hope would require tremendous social change that only oppressive government could engineer. Just let the chips fall where they may, trusting the electorate in an organic process to put judges on the bench to whom skin color or primary sex characteristics don’t matter in the rulings they make.

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