State courts of last resort continue to have majority female justice membership

As of June 2023, 15 out of the 53 courts of last resort in the United States had a female justice majority membership. This is a net increase of one state since 2022, adding California, Illinois, and Utah, while Ohio and Oregon had decreases in their membership of female justices. According to the National Center for State Courts, only five courts of last resort had a female majority in 2011.

Each state within the United States, plus the District of Columbia, has at least one supreme court or court of last resort. Oklahoma and Texas both have two courts of last resort, one for civil appeals and one for criminal appeals. The supreme courts do not hear trials of cases. They hear appeals of the decisions made in the lower trial or appellate courts. The number of justices on each court varies between five and nine from state to state.

Here is the recent breakdown:

  • 2023: 15 of 53 Arkansas, California, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Utah, Tennessee, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming
  • 2022: 14 of 53 Arkansas, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming

The first instance of a female majority membership on a court of last resort occurred temporarily in Texas in 1925 with the appointment of three women to a special state supreme court. In 1991, the Minnesota Supreme Court became the first state to have a majority of female justices.

The Brennan Center for Justice releases an annual State Supreme Court Diversity report. The report posted on March 1, 2023, by the National Center for State Courts noted 13 courts with 50% or more female justices, which at the time of publication did not include the changes in court membership in Wyoming and New York.

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