America’s state supreme courts, including Pa., have a diversity problem | Tuesday Morning Coffee

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

State Supreme Courts wield tremendous power, serving as the state court of last resort on a host of issues such as voting rights and gun violence reduction.

But in nearly half of all states, people of color are unlikely to see someone who looks like them sitting in judgment on those critical issues, but there’s been some progress, according to a new report by the Brennan Center for Justice.

Since its last nationwide pulse-taking in April 2021, 25 new justices have taken office nationwide. Fifteen of the 25 new justices were women; 10 were people of color, and seven were women of color, according to the report. And two states, Maine and Vermont, swore in the first justices of color in their respective states’ history.

Even so, disparities remain.

In 20 states, none of the sitting justices identify as people of color, including 12 states where people of color make up at least 20 percent of those states’ respective populations, according to the Brennan Center.

Pennsylvania’s seven-member Supreme Court, which has a progressive majority, does not have a sitting justice who is Black, putting it in the company of six states without a Black justice, even though Black people make up at least 10 percent of those states’ respective populations.

Digging deeper, the report found there are:

  • No Black justices in 28 states.
  • No Latino justices in 39 states.
  • No Asian Amer­ican justices in 43 states.
  • No Native Amer­ican justices in 47 states.

And:

  • “Across all state high courts, just 18 percent of justices are Black, Latino, Asian Amer­ican, Native Amer­ican, or multiracial. By contrast, people of color make up over 40 percent of the U.S. popu­la­tion.
  • “Men hold 59 percent of state supreme court seats.
  • “In 9 states, there is only one woman on the supreme court bench,” and
  • “39 percent of sitting justices are former prosec­utors, while only 7 percent are former public defend­ers,” researchers found.

The current membership of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court (Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts).

Overall, the demographics of state high courts have remained “relatively consistent,” the new Brennan Center research found.

Nationwide, the percentage of justices of color ticked slightly upward to 18 percent from 17 percent in April 2021, while the percentage of women justices also climbed from 39 percent to 41 percent, according to the Brennan Center.

This year, “40 percent (10 out of 25) of new justices are people of color, an increase from last year, when 27 percent (11 out of 41) of new justices were people of color,” according to the Brennan Center.

Meanwhile, 14 of the new justices, or 56 percent, come to the bench with previous experience as prosecutors, while only two have experience working as public defenders. And two have experience working in civil legal services, according to the Brennan Center.

In all, “the propor­tion of new justices with prosec­utorial back­grounds is substan­tially higher than the 39 percent of all state supreme court justices who have exper­i­ence as prosec­utors,” the report concluded.

Gov. Tom Wolf delivers his final budget address to a joint session of the state House and Senate on Tuesday, 2/8/22 (Commonwealth Media Services photo).

Our Stuff.
As budget season approaches, financial experts say COVID relief funds should be reserved for one-time uses, our partners at City & State Pa. report this morning.

Opening Pa.’s primaries to independent voters is the “right and smart thing to do,” voting rights advocate David Thornburgh said during a Monday speech before the Pennsylvania Press Club, I report.

Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell will leave his position on July 2, ending a six-year tenure at the helm of the agency, and a 25-year career with the state, Gov. Tom Wolf’s office said Monday. Cassie Miller has the story.

Philadelphia City Council has approved a bill allowing the city’s Public Safety Enforcement officers to ticket and tow abandoned cars on the city’s streets, taking the job out of the hands of city police, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

With his wife at the center of the furor over the Big Lie, debating when U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas should recuse himself is the wrong argument, opinion regular Bruce Ledewitz writes. And the story of Oney Judge is one every American should know, and one Hollywood should turn into a movie right away, opinion regular Michael Coard writes.

State Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, speaks at a Capitol steps rally in Harrisburg on June 5, 2021. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

Elsewhere.
Democrats are out with ads attacking GOP gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano on abortion, the Inquirer reports.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate David McCormick filed suit late Monday to ensure that county election boards heed a federal appeals court ruling that could aid his cause, the Associated Press reports (via the Tribune-Review).

PoliticsPA runs down what you need to know about the coming recount in the U.S. Senate contest (See also: Capital-Star Staff Reporter Marley Parish’s story on the same topic).

Two Pennsylvania state Senate races remain tight; and officials in Northampton County say 380 undated mail-in ballots will count unless they hear otherwise from the state, the Morning Call reports.

The records of people convicted of rape, murder, and other offenses are being hidden from public viewPennLive reports.

In Philadelphia, local cycling grants will get help from the DA’s office through anti-violence grants, WHYY-FM reports.

In Pittsburgh, the Wolf administration called for more investment in advanced tech start-upsWESA-FM reports.

Electricity rates for PPL’s residential customers will rise by 38 percent on June 1LancasterOnline explains how to duck the increases.

A teacher from York County’s Central York school district died in a murder-suicide over the weekend, the York Daily Record reports.

A Luzerne County school district is moving ahead with plans to close a local elementary school, the Citizens’ Voice reports.

City & State Pa. has its list of the Pennsylvania power 100.

Here’s your #SuburbanPhiladelphia Instagram of the Day:

What Goes On
The House comes in at 11 a.m. The Senate reconvenes at 1 p.m.
10:45 a.m., Capitol Steps: Rally for Whole Home Repairs
11 a.m., Main Rotunda: Rally to reform prior authorization
12 p.m., Soldiers & Sailors Grove: Ceremony honoring service search & rescue dogs and their handlers
12:15 p.m., Main Rotunda: Rally for Better Home Care
12:30 p.m., Capitol Steps: Rally for Direct Care Workers
1:45 p.m., Main Rotunda: National Federation of Independent Businesses on its spring agenda
2 p.m., Capitol Steps: Rally for charter school reform in Philadelphia
2:45 p.m., Main Rotunda: Teachers rally for better school funding

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition)
7:30 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Kathy Rapp
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Keith Greiner
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Kyle Mullins
8:30 a.m.: Breakfast for Sen. Elder Vogel
11:30 a.m: Luncheon for Sen. Judy Schwank
12 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Frank Farry
5 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Martina White
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Nick Pisciottano
Ride the circuit, and give at the max, and you’re out an absolutely offensive $17,000 today.

WolfWatch
As of this writing, Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today..

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept
Best wishes go out this morning to Shavonnia Corbin Johnson, at the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, who celebrates today. Congratulations and enjoy the day.

Heavy Rotation
The first time I heard this track, I didn’t have my phone in front of me, and could have sworn it was a Kraftwerk tune I’d never heard before. Nope. As it turns out, it’s Nation of Language, and the tune is called ‘This Fractured Mind.’ But a Kraftwerk comparison can’t be a bad thing, right?

Tuesday’s Gratuitous Baseball Link
The Baltimore Orioles beat the New York Yankees 6-4 on Monday in the Bronx. The last-place Os are 4-6 in their last 10 games, and have won their last two games.

And now you’re up to date.



Originally published at www.penncapital-star.com,by John L. Micek

Comments are closed.