Cook County judiciary increasingly diverse; but whites, males still dominate

Court data since 2001 shows the growing diversity on the bench. In recent years the percentage of African Americans has leveled off, but percentage of Hispanics, Asian-American judges has jumped.

The Cook County judiciary has grown more diverse in recent years, but still fails to reflect the Cook County population, court data shows.

While the percentage of African American judges has held steady in recent years, the percentage of Hispanic and Asian American judges has jumped substantially since 2001. So, too, has the percentage of women judges.

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Even so, more than 70 percent of the judiciary remains white and 59 percent of the judges are men.

The data was provided by Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans for every year except 2014 and 2016, which court officials said they could not locate. The data includes both circuit judges—who are elected by voters either countywide or from one of the 15 subcircuits—and associate judges, who are chosen by a vote of the circuit judges.

Each judge is identified by one of five racial or ethnic identities: White, Black, Hispanic, Asian American or Arab American. The percentage of Arab American judges has stayed just a bit above zero since 2001.

Nearly one in every five judges on the bench is African American, the court data shows; one in four county residents are black. Only 7.5 percent of judges identified as Hispanic, while more than one in every four county residents list themselves as Hispanic. While 7.7 percent of the county is Asian American, only 2.6 percent of judges identify as Asian American.

Advocates for judicial diversity cite studies that show that a more diverse bench increases the fairness of outcomes, especially in a criminal justice system where defendants are often disproportionately black and Hispanic. Studies have shown that diversity leads to fairer results in civil cases as well.