Piper Fund

Justice Out of Balance: How the Election of Judges and the Stunning Lack of Diversity on State Courts Threaten LGBT Rights

The explosion in judicial campaign spending is affecting the impartiality of our courts. The most comprehensive empirical studies available show that the flood of money in judicial elections causes judges to issue more pro-business rulings, send more people to jail, and sentence more people to death.

Research commissioned by Lambda Legal—and funded by the Piper Fund—shows that state high courts with elected judges are less supportive of LGBT rights claims. The results suggest that this lack of support for LGBT rights among state high courts with elected judges can be attributed to ideological factors playing a larger role in shaping judges’ decisions in these courts. Growing evidence indicates that state judges who face election, often in increasingly expensive races, can cede justice to politics. Clearly, the scales of justice are out of balance.

This power imbalance is exacerbated by the serious lack of judicial diversity in our nation’s courts. While the U.S. is more diverse than ever, its state judiciaries are not. This is particularly true for state appellate courts, where white males are overrepresented by nearly double their proportion of the nation’s population. For our state courts to render fair decisions and to be seen as legitimate, they must reflect the rich diversity of the communities they seek to serve.

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