News Columns & Blogs

Kansas lags most of U.S. in women jurists

Kansas places in the bottom five when it comes to equality for women on the judge’s bench, a new study shows.

The report by the University of Albany’s Center for Women in Government and Civil Society ranks Kansas 47th in percentage of women judges presiding over cases in state and federal courts.

This year, women represent 26.6 percent of both federal and state judges across America, the study showed. Women account for 16.8 percent of Kansas judges. Only Wisconsin, Wyoming, South Dakota and Idaho had lower numbers.

Sarah Loquist, president of the Kansas Women Attorneys Association, said that while women have made strides on the state’s Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, they haven’t kept pace in the district courts — where most people face judges:“For example, in a metropolitan area like Wichita, one would expect to find several women judges serving at the district court level. Yet, if you look at the list of judges for (Sedgwick County District Court), not a single one of them is a woman.”Equality of women and minorities on the bench shows those groups are respected and listened to, the report’s authors say. No state has reached the point where half the judges are women, even though more than 40 percent of law school graduates each year are female.

Dina Refki, the project director, said:"When we consider that the pool of qualified female candidates is as large as the pool of male candidates, the pace of progress is unjustified."Vermont leads the country: 40 percent of its judges are women. The District of Columbia, Montana, Rhode Island and Massachusetts all were above 33 percent.

Refki says that’s a key mark:“The 33 percent threshold is the point where women become a critical mass, and where their presence becomes significant enough to change stereotypical concepts of gender role.”Read the report (.pdf)