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Diversity in the Courts

It is essential to public confidence in the courts to assure a racially and ethnically neutral court system. Starting in 1988, task forces were implemented in many states to address racial and ethnic discrimination issues in the courts. This article discusses methods by which diversity in the judicial system can be sustained.

Access to Justice

Research has shown that minority groups often believe they are treated unfairly by the court system. Another negative perception about the court system is that due to cost and complexity, courts are not realistically accessible to minorities or to those for whom English is a foreign language. Also, the lack of available legal representation for the poor is seen as a problem in the legal system. Thus, programs aimed at providing greater access to justice, such as assuring legal representation or a sufficient number of translators, are likely to counteract perceptions of unfair treatment before the courts.
Jury Pool Representation

The pool of individuals from which a jury is selected should be representative of the surrounding community. However, those for whom the sacrifice of taking a juror’s low pay is the greatest may tend to be underrepresented in the jury pool. Many individuals who are called for jury duty fail to show up, and subpoenas are not enforced. The courts may be able to encourage a more diverse pool of potential jurors by providing childcare and raising the pay for jurors.

Diversity in Court Judges and Court Personnel

In some parts of the country, observers believe too few minorities are employed by the court system, especially in management positions. This may be true even in communities that have a significant minority population. To combat this problem, it has been suggested that jobs should be advertised in ways that will reach qualified minority applicants. Efforts also could be made to encourage more diversity in the court staff, and positive steps may be taken to insure that judicial appointments better reflect the diversity present in American society.

Diversity in the Bar

Minorities may be underrepresented in law schools or among practicing lawyers. To solve this problem, there could be better recruitment and greater emphasis on the retention of minority law students. Assistance in passing the bar examination and help with job placement also may be important components to increasing the number of minorities practicing law.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.