Report Finds 'Gavel Gap' For Women, Minorities In Louisiana Judiciary

Oct 27, 2016

A new study shows Louisiana ranks in the middle of states reviewed for the gender and racial diversity of its judges. One of the co-authors says there’s still room for improvement.

Tulane University political science professor Sally Kenney calls it the “gavel gap.” She and her colleague – University of New Orleans political science professor Salmon Shomade –  gathered data from the US Census Bureau, Louisiana Secretary of State and several judicial sources.

They found that while women are 51 percent of the population, they’re only about 32 percent of the state judiciary. Racial minorities are 36 percent of the state population, but only 22 percent of non-white judges on the bench.

She says it’s especially timely information in an election year.

“Some political scientists have taken the position that women can’t win in the South, or that women face increased obstacles to electoral success. And we know Louisiana is last with only 7 percent of its state legislature made up of women," she said.  "So if we want to increase women’s political power, one of the things we might do in the South is look at where women have been really successful, and that is in running for judicial office.”  

In the federal courts based in Louisiana, women constitute 40 percent of all judges while racial minorities are about 14 percent.