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November 05, 2012 Practice Points

New York Sees Slight Rise in Bench Representation

By Allison Kernisky

The number of women judges in New York has increased 6 percent over the last 10 years, according to a Law360 article on a study conducted at the Albany Law School. The decade-long study, titled Women in Federal and State-Level Judgeships, found that women currently comprise 31 percent of all federal and state judges in New York, up from 25 percent in 2002.  New York, which ranks 11th out of 50 states for percentage of women judges, beat the national average of 24 percent for women judges at the federal level and saw larger gains at the state level. 

The study reveals striking geographic disparities amongst the number of women judges in New York, with larger female representation in the southern part of the state, especially in and around New York City. For example, women make up over 40 percent of judges in the southerly United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, while there are only two female judges in the upstate Northern District. 

Additionally, the type of court and selection process both seem to affect how many women hold a judgeship in a particular court, according to the study.  Family courts and civil courts, where judges are elected, have seen the largest increases in women judges.  But in county-level courts and courts where judgeships are appointed, progress has lagged, the study shows.

Dina Refki, the study’s author and the executive director of the law school’s Center for Women in Government & Civil Society, expects women will have more opportunities in the coming years as many current male judges retire and create vacancies. Another indicator of the likelihood of increased numbers of women judges comes from law schools, where 50 percent of recent graduates are female.

Keywords: litigation, woman advocate, woman judges, federal and state-level judgeships, bench representation

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