Racial disparity is front and center in the national narrative in the United States, and now the focus is being placed on the racial makeup of the state court systems. A recent publication regarding the racial disparity in the court system is being touted as a point of necessary change among the states. The problem is that each state, including Louisiana, has its own court system in addition to the federal government. And the numbers could indicate an overwhelming amount of white people in positions of legal authority is contributing significantly to the problem of over-sentencing of black defendants who are convicted of a crime.
Even though criminal defense was not specifically mentioned, a study conducted over the past five years has shown that 95% of all elected prosecuting attorneys in the U.S. are white. The number of white judges in state court systems is also imbalanced, as some states fell into the 80% category while another subsection of 16 states actually averaged less than 1-in-10 regarding black or brown race judges.
The disparity among lawyers and aspiring law students was also broad according to the study. In a book written by a Vanderbilt University law professor, the suggestion is that the disparity in sentencing of black and brown convicted defendants can be attributed to the overall wide-ranging numbers. Attorneys in the United States number at an 85% ratio for whites, while only 5% are black and another 5% are brown races.
This statistical revelation could well benefit many criminal defense lawyers in Louisiana going forward when court officials want harsh penalties for potentially borderline cases involving defendants of color. While prosecutors will still be overtly serious about incarceration for serious crimes, the over-sentencing punishment trend could well be on the decline in every state in the union.