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How Minority Judges Fare in Retention Elections

NCJ Number
Judicature Volume: 77 Issue: 6 Dated: (May-June 1994) Pages: 316-321
R C Luskin; C N Bratcher; C G Jordan; T K Renner; K S Seago
Date Published
6 pages
This article provides statistical impressions of the prospects of minority judges in retention elections, based on an analysis of data from every judicial retention election in the United States between 1980 and 1990.
Data address election returns, other aspects of a State's selection system, the judge's race and gender, and constituency characteristics. Traditionally, judges initially selected on merit by governors and then subsequently presented to citizen voters in a retention election after having served on the bench for a term retain their judgeships. The current study shows this principle to be roughly as true for African-American and Hispanic judges as for white judges. Hispanic judges may be rejected at slightly higher rates than their African-American or white colleagues, but even they are retained 96 percent of the time. The small number of minority judges who have lost retention elections over the past decade have apparently lost their judgeships for reasons other than minority status. The authors conclude that the absence of proportionate numbers of minority judges under a retention election system is due more to the initial merit selection process rather than to the retention elections. 3 tables and 38 notes