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Little Diversity in WA State Courts

A survey conducted by the Washington State Supreme Court's task force on diversity in the judiciary yielded not very surprising results. Out of 451 state judges in Washington 95 percent, all but 22, are white. Only three of those 22 are in courts other than King County (Seattle). Eastern Washington, with its substantial Hispanic population has no Hispanic judges.

By contrast, those sentenced for adult felonies (which ranges from theft to murder) in 1993 were 30 percent minorities, according to the state Sentencing Guidelines Commission.

The attitude of many court staffs towards judicial diversity tends to be cavalier. One Eastern Washington court responded to a survey question concerning judicial staff's racial background by replying "Asian", as in "Caucasian".

So far the only result of this survey has been a seminar on work force diversity in the judiciary held by the state's Minority and Justice Task Force. A question not asked in the survey, nor reflected in the felon population report, is the economic background of the state's judges as well as those of all people sentenced for felonies. It is quite likely that such statistics would show all or most of the judges, even the minorities, are relatively wealthy while the vast majority of criminal defendants are relatively poor. It has taken decades for race to become a focus in the criminal justice system, how long before class is raised or even measured?

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