Disparity in Judicial Misconduct Cases: Color-Blind Diversity?

84 Pages Posted: 21 Nov 2014 Last revised: 23 Dec 2014

See all articles by Athena Mutua

Athena Mutua

University at Buffalo Law School

Date Written: November 19, 2014

Abstract

This article presents and analyzes preliminary data on racial and gender disparities in state judicial disciplinary actions. Studies of demographic disparities in the context of judicial discipline do not exist. This paper presents a first past and preliminary look at the data collected on the issue and assembled into a database. The article is also motivated by the resistance encountered to inquiries into the demographic profile of the state bench and its judges. As such, it also tells the story of the journey undertaken to secure this information and critiques what the author terms a practice of colorblind diversity. Initially prepared as part of a larger project, the preliminary data suggests that there are gender and racial disparities in the incidence of state judicial misconduct cases but also that women judges of color - those who sit at the subordinated intersections of race and gender - are more often subject to harsher judicial discipline than others.

The first part of this paper briefly chronicles the difficulty encountered in trying to access this data. Part II provides a brief overview of state judicial selection and disciplinary systems, which in varying measures are meant to promote judicial independence, accountability, quality and diversity. Part III of the paper provides the findings on the demographic composition of the state bench and describes the method my researchers and I used in assembling the data. It also details a number of data and other limitations. Part IV turns to the data on disciplinary cases broken down by race and gender as they relate to the overall composition of the bench. Here particular attention is paid to the incidence of judicial removals by race and gender, the harshest sanction a judge may face for misconduct. Part V digs deeper into the distribution of sanctions parsed out by subgroups and makes some observations about the number of charges and types of conduct that impact the determination of sanctions and thus might aid in explaining the disparities. Part VI summarizes the study’s findings and observations and Part VII concludes the paper with some personal thoughts on the project.

Keywords: judges, judicial misconduct, judicial discipline, women judges, judges of color, Black judges, Latino judges, diversity, colorblindness, courts, state courts

Suggested Citation

Mutua, Athena, Disparity in Judicial Misconduct Cases: Color-Blind Diversity? (November 19, 2014). American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law, Vol. 23, No. 1, 2014; SUNY Buffalo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2015-011. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2528268

Athena Mutua (Contact Author)

University at Buffalo Law School ( email )

528 O'Brian Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260-1100
United States

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