- Former President Donald Trump appointed an overwhelming number of white judges to the federal bench.
- Biden has plans to buck the trend.
- Experts say Biden is facing rising pressure to hold to his word from activists and lobbyists.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Historically, the federal judiciary has been an unrepresentative institution. President Donald Trump’s appointments made it worse.
In just four years, Trump placed 234 judges with lifetime tenure to the federal courts, making up 28% of the current federal judiciary. An overwhelming number — 192 — of Trump’s active appointments are white, while only 37 of them are people of color.
The figure represents a startling contrast from efforts pursued by former President Barack Obama to pick candidates with diverse backgrounds for the federal bench. Two-hundred current federal judges appointed by Obama are white, and 115 are people of color.
Insider compiled a database of every active judge under Article III of the Constitution, which includes Supreme Court justices, federal appeals and district judges, as well as justices on the US Court of International Trade. Once nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate, Article III judges are granted a position for life, and can serve on the court for decades after their nominating-president leaves office.
Trump’s return to mostly white judges on the federal courts may have lasting effects, experts told Insider, unless President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats attempt to address the disparity.
Why racial diversity in the federal judiciary matters
The federal judiciary does not mirror the racial makeup of the United States.
Roughly 40% of Americans are people of color, according to the US Census Bureau, but just 25% of active federal judges are people of color. Trump’s selection of minorities for the bench is an even smaller amount — 16%.
Federal judges help shape the law, and their individual perspectives and experiences play a role in their decision-making that impact everyday people’s lives, experts told Insider. That means having a federal judiciary that reflects the nation’s racial diversity can change legal outcomes, and consequently, improve the public’s perception of the courts, they said.
“Specifically, we know that that racial-minority judges, and especially Black judges, tend to rule differently than white judges, at least in certain types of cases,” Christina Boyd, an associate professor of political science at the University of Georgia, told Insider. Those cases usually relate to civil rights issues, such as voting rights and gender discrimination.
If Americans see people on the bench who look like them, they are more likely to view the court system as a fair problem-solving tool they can rely on, she…