Jul 7, 2022 - Politics

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has no people of color on its bench

Share of judges of color on state Supreme Courts
Data: Bren­nan Center for Justice; Map: Baidi Wang/Axios

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania is one of 20 state high courts around the U.S. that doesn't have a person of color on its bench, according to data from the Brennan Center for Justice.

Why it matters: Our high court doesn't get as much press as the one in Washington, D.C., but it still doles out rulings on crucial cases for millions of Pennsylvanians. It's been mulling the fate of Act 77 — which greatly expanded our ability to vote by mail — for a few months now.

By the numbers: Pennsylvania is one of six states with a Black population share over 10% that doesn't have a Black member of its high court.

  • The court is more on track with its representation of women. Three of the justices are women — that's roughly 43% of the court, against a national average of 41%.

The backdrop: The justices on the seven-person court are elected to 10-year terms. There are no term limits, but justices must retire in the calendar year when they turn 75.

  • Chief Justice Max Baer turns 75 in December, so his seat will be on the statewide ballot in 2023.

State of play: Democrats firmly control the current iteration of the court.

The bottom line: In 2022, government bodies that offer up wide-reaching, consequential decisions often still aren't representative of their citizenry.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that the election to replace Baer will take place in 2023 (not 2022).


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