Representation of Women on State Trial and Appellate Courts

Representation of Women on State Trial and Appellate Courts


Over the pastthirty years, the number of women has increasingly joined the legal profession. Beginning the year 1992, the representation of women in various law schools has approached 50%. Notwithstanding the record number of female judicial nominees and confirmations, the percentage of female represented in state trial and appellate courts has not been reflective of this. Increasingly, the number of women in the judiciary has been low especially so in the higher courts such as the appellate court. This has been attributed to many factors.


The importance of gender equality cannot be more emphasized especially in the twenty-first century where gender has been proved to be nothing more than a feminine name. This has been reflected in many sectors of the economy where women have outperformed their maleequals. However, a critical examination of the United States judiciary reveals a different image. This paper presents the state of women representation in the state trial and appellate courts, revealing that while women are adequately represented in lower and less prestigious courts, they are by far outnumbered in higher judicial offices which are reservedfor their male counterparts.

Representation of Women on State Trial and Appellate Courts

According toKastellec(2013) an examination of the representation of women in the various states across the different levels of the judiciary revealsthe female gender isgreatly represented in trial courts than on appellate courts. According to the National Association of Women Judges, in the State Final Appellate Jurisdiction Courts out of the 361 judges, 116 are women representing a 32% representation. On the State Intermediate Appellate Jurisdiction Courts, women have a 32% representation with 316 women out of a possible 977, while in the State General Jurisdiction Courts, there are 2,768 women out of a total of 11,049 representing a 25% women representation. Finally, on the State Limited and Special Jurisdiction Courts, there are 1596 women out of a total of 5,072 representing a 31% representation of women. In Virginia, out of a possible 407 judgeship seats, only 85 are occupied by women representing a 21% representation. A majority of these women judges are in the State Limited and Special Jurisdiction Courts, while the least are in the state intermediate appellate courts with a 9% women representation.

According toWilcox & Thomas(2014)the greater representation of women on the trial courts is partly due to the numerical dominance of trial seats. The apparent greaterrepresentationof women on state trial courts than on appellate courts has been attributed to the apparent differences in prestige for the two levels of the judiciary. The authors state that theappellate courts are more prestigious for four reasons:  there are fewer seats on these high courts, they generally address matters of the law, not fact, they offer decision makers the opportunity to render opinions that are rarely reviewed by a higher authority, and finally, they involve greater pay. The greater prestige of, and resulting greater competition over appellate court seats make the representation of women less prospective. Also makingseats of the appellate court harder for women to secure is the high cost of lobbying and campaigning for appellate judgeships seats, along with the need for relocation.Additionally, according to a study byWilliams(2007), the pool of women eligible to serve, state ideology, states ideological bent, and some methods of judicial selection influence a woman likelihood to gain the bench and in extent the number of women serving on state courts.

Importance of Women Representation in Courts

Jensen(2009)conceived whys and wherefores for having women represented in courts. The author states that when women are fairly represented in state trial and appellate courts, the benches are perceived to be more representative of the varied population of the United States and will result to the public having more confidence that the courts understand the real-world implications of its rulings. She adds that increased inclusion of women on the bench improves the quality of justice as women judges bring an understanding of the impact of the law on the wellbeing of women and girls to the bench, and enrich the court’s understandingof how to best fulfil the expected intention and purpose of the law that the courts are responsible with applying.


The less than proportionate representation of women in higher courts is a matter of concern for many people in the legal profession. However, statistics have shown that increasingly the representationof women has increased in recent times and it is worth noting that in time, women will enjoy representation proportional to their numbers. Women will eventually increase their representation in higher courts with no concerted or intentional effort.



Jensen, J. M. (2009, June 1). The Effects of Race and Gender on the Judicial Ambitions of State Trial Court Judges. Political Research Quarterly, 62, 379-392.

Kastellec, J. P. (2013, January). Racial Diversity and Judicial Influence on Appellate Courts. American Journal of Political Science, 57(1).

Wilcox, C., & Thomas, S. (2014). Women and Elective Office: Past, Present, and Future. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Williams, M. (2007, December). Women’s Representation on State Trial and Appellate Courts*. Social Science Quarterly, 88(5), 1192-1204.

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