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Activists voice concerns over racial disparities in courtrooms

| Aug 25, 2020 | Criminal defense

New York, like much of the nation, has seen more than its fair share of outcry against what protesters perceive as unequal treatment of black citizens by police departments. But activists now say that the lack of minority representation among the prosecutors and judges that decide the outcome of criminal trials may represent a greater injustice.

Studies show that an overwhelming number of state trial judges and prosecutors in the United States are white. Activists say the racial demographics present in the nation’s courtrooms may increase the difficulties experienced by a black or brown individual needing to mount a criminal defense.

The numbers indicate that in some states in the country, more than 90 percent of the judges overseeing criminal court proceedings are white. The percentage of white judges for all state jurisdictions was more than 80 percent.

The racial disparity is greater for prosecutors, as 95 percent of the elected prosecutors working in 2015 were white. Activists say these numbers do not speak well for equality when 39 percent of residents of the country are people of color.

One law professor at Vanderbilt University explains both the court’s perceived and actual legitimacies suffer due to the great divide in racial representation that exists within America’s courtrooms.

The founder of Prosecutor Impact feels the racial disparity among court officials is a sign of problems with the selection process for these representatives of the court. However, other activists point to the fact that only one in 10 practicing lawyers in the country are either black or Hispanic as the problem. But both of these groups agree that the criminal justice system should better represent the makeup of American society as a whole.

Every criminal defendant charged with a crime that makes it to court faces a serious and urgent set of circumstances. However, the possibility of a successful defense against criminal charges may become more difficult for some defendants due to factors other than their guilt, innocence, or criminal history. Individuals charged with a crime may better be able to protect their interests with the help of an experienced criminal attorney.