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Black Judges on Justice: Perspectives From the Bench

NCJ Number
Linn Washington
Date Published
275 pages
This book presents the views of 14 leading black judges on the way the judicial system works and covers a wide range of insights on criminal justice and racial prejudice in the United States.
From pioneers such as Leon Higginbotham and Constance Baker Motley, the first black female Federal judge, to such outspoken and well-known mavericks as Bruce Wright of New York City, the testimony of these judges provides penetrating analysis of the role of jurists, the daily malfunctioning of the courts, and the future of the judicial system. The author points out that the black judge is basically a 20th century phenomenon and that the number of black judges at State and Federal levels did not increase appreciably until the 1970's. Black judges account for less than 3 percent of the judiciary, although blacks constitute 12 percent of the population, and most black judges are located in large cities. The main impediment to increasing the number of black judges is not a lack of qualified black lawyers but rather a lack of equal opportunity. An important goal for the judicial system is to increase the representation of minorities as judges. The interviews also demonstrate there is a need for more blacks in decision-making positions in the judicial system, there are systemic inequities and abuses in the judicial system that are rarely discussed in public, and black judges are subjected to burdens not placed on their white colleagues.