Judicial Branch

While women continue to make gains in terms of their participation in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of state government, more progress is needed before they will reach parity with their male counterparts.


State courts are improving public service by adopting the CourTools Access and Fairness survey to gather the views of court users. Key issues of access to court services and fairness in court proceedings are highlighted.

Budget crises associated with the general economic downturn overshadowed other issues confronting the state courts. Judicial branches developed objective measures of their efficiency, accessibility, and fairness to demonstrate their accountability for how public funds are spent. Courts also helped lead interbranch efforts to confront problems like mortgage foreclosures and child abuse and neglect.

Thirty nine states elect some or all of their judges. In 2008, the trend continued toward costly and negative campaigns dominated by the efforts of interest groups rather than the candidates themselves. Local elections in three states gave comfort to proponents of non-contestable races but prospects for state level changes remain unclear.

This article investigates the nature and extent to which state courts are racially and ethnically diverse. Judicial diversity is examined for African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Pacific Islanders and Native Americans. The findings indicate that only modest increases in judicial diversity have occurred in the states’ major appellate and trial courts since 2008. Minority judges are more likely to obtain seats on state courts through gubernatorial appointment, especially in states that formally use elections to select judges. This research underscores the complexity of state judicial selection and the role governors play in increasing racial and ethnic judicial diversity.

CSG South

Throughout America’s history, there has been protracted debate over the best method of selecting judges. The dilemma has been how to select judges by means consistent with the nation’s democratic values, and at the same time insulating the bench from political and special interest influence. The debate has come to the forefront in recent years as judicial elections in a number of states have become increasingly costly, contested and negative. This Southern Legislative Conference Regional Resource examines state judicial selection methods, primarily in the South, along with the opinions of several legal scholars and practitioners.

Judicial elections in 2000 and 2002 were far “nastier, noisier and costlier” than ever. Of the five states with hotly contested judicial elections in 2000 (Alabama, Illinois, Michigan, Mississippi and Ohio), only Ohio and Mississippi were lively again in 2002. But contrary to long-standing tradition and law, judicial elections are becoming more like other elections.

Chapter 5 of the 2003 Book of the States contains the following articles and tables:

Judicial leaders are defining a new vision of court reform that goes beyond court reorganization and administration. The new reform issues go directly to the heart of the fairness and integrity of the justice system, the relationship of the judiciary to lawyers and other branches of government, the relationship of courts to citizens and the role of judges in serving specific needs of their communities. However, since September 11, 2001, courts are also facing increasingly urgent challenges relating to funding and security.

Chapter 5 of the 2002 Book of the States contains the following articles and tables: