African American Judges Reach All-Time High
The first African American woman to serve as a lower federal court judge was Constance B. Motley
The first African American woman to serve as a U.S. circuit court judge was Amalya L.Kears
In the following years the number of African Americans serving as U.S. circuit and district court judges remained relatively low and remained that way until President Jimmy Carter created the U.S. Circuit Judge Nominating Commission
in 1977. The commission was “encouraged to make special efforts to seek out and identify well qualified women and members of minority groups as potential nominees”.
During the Carter presidency African American circuit court judges increased from two to nine, a 350% increase. As of January 1, 2015 the number of African American circuit court judges is 21.
There is also an increase in African American district court judges. As with the circuit court judges, a significant increase occurred during the Carter administration. The current number of African American district court judges is 86 which is an historic high, and the most recent increase is largely attributable to an increase in the number of African American women appointed during the past five years.
While this increase in African American circuit and district court judges is notable, there is a caveat. There are few or no African American judges currently serving in several judicial circuits and districts with populations comprised of relatively high percentages of African Americans and many advocates of judicial diversity consider this a crucial issue which needs to be examined.