Black and Latino legislators feel there needs to be a more aggressive effort to campaign and recruit minority candidates to become judges.
At a press conference Monday, Rep. Don Clemons, D-Bridgeport, said over the past few years 30 newly appointed judges have been submitted by the Judicial Selection Commission to Gov. M. Jodi Rell for nomination and only two of those nominees were African-American and none were Latino.
On Monday the Judiciary Committee will consider the appointment of four nominees to the judicial bench. All four nominees are white.
Rep. Toni Walker-D-New Haven, said “justice should not be one race on one side, and one race on the other side.” She said subconsciously we are telling people, “those being judged are brown, and people making the judgment are not brown.”
Sen. Eric Coleman, D-Hartford, said the Judicial Selection Commission has approved several African-American candidates for judgeships in the state. “I wonder why those individuals are not being given an opportunity to reach their aspirations?,” he said.
None of the legislators in the Black and Latino caucus accused Gov. Rell or the Judicial Selection Commission of discrimination.
“We are saying that we are ready, willing, and able to assist in increasing the number of candidates in the pool,” Coleman said. He said it’s unknown how many minorities have applied for judgeships, since the Judicial Selection Commission’s business is conducted in secret, unless someone applying for the position announces that they applied for it or someone is nominated to the bench by the governor. It’s unknown how many minority lawyers there are or how many have applied for judgeships since reporting race, ethnicity, and religion is voluntary.
According to recent statistics from the American Bar Association, there are only 17 African American and 5 Latino judges in the state. There are a total of 196 judges in the state.
Rep. Minnie Gonzalez, D-Hartford, said “I do know that competent and qualified Latino lawyers, who have been recommended, have been denied appointment by the Judicial Selection Commission.” Maybe this is because, “not a single Latino currently sits on the Judicial Selection Commission and you can count on one hand, and have fingers left over, the number of Latinos who have sat on the commission since it was formed in 1986.”