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Why So Few Black Women on the Bench? Johnson Answers


Gbemende Johnson.
Gbemende Johnson.  Photo: Nancy L. Ford

Why aren’t there more Black female judges on the federal bench?” an op-ed by Associate Professor of Government Gbemende Johnson published in The Washington Post on Feb. 22, addresses President Biden’s campaign pledge to appoint a Black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court and his record-breaking number of federal court appointments of Black women.

Johnson primarily addresses obstacles that Black women encounter in pursuing their careers. She refers to research she recently published in The SAIS Review of International Affairs titled “Gender, Diversity, and the United States Judiciary,” which outlines these obstacles and offers suggestions for improving the retention of women in the legal profession.

Reviewing positive changes, Johnson writes, “Legal organizations, professional associations, and law students themselves have nevertheless cultivated a more diverse legal profession — offering Biden a diverse pool of judicial candidates. Social science research suggests that women of color’s identities and life experiences can inform their jurisprudence and decision-making with unique perspectives.” Yet she reminds readers that, “… each president has different priorities — which could cause that diversity to stagnate or even decrease in years to come.”

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