This excerpt is from a piece that originally ran on September 1, 2022.
As we honor workers this Labor Day, we must commit to ensuring our court system serves all people fairly—not just the wealthy and powerful. Most people would recognize that a Black woman suing her employer for racial discrimination might be less likely to receive the justice she deserves if her fate is determined by a jury of white men. But there’s another, less obvious factor often working against her: the professional background of the judges who hear her case and appeals.
Of the 171 active federal judges serving on our nation’s circuit courts, only 11 have any experience as attorneys advocating for economic justice. That’s just 6 percent of our appeals court judges who have represented workers challenging wage theft or fighting to form a union, consumers who’ve been harmed by products, or who have served as civil legal aid attorneys. On the other hand, two out of three judges have experience representing the corporations who defend against such lawsuits, while more than one out of four have experience as prosecutors—in a criminal justice system that disproportionately punishes the poor and disadvantaged.
These details, and others found in a recent special report from Alliance for Justice (AFJ), speak to a significant imbalance in our justice system—one with consequences for everyday Americans…