One of the most noticeable disparities to lawyers in the Washington, D.C., area and across the United States involves race. In most jurisdictions, judges and prosecutors skew white; the numbers show that up to 95% of American prosecutors are white. Increasingly, scholars are suggesting that this lack of proportionality undermines the integrity of the whole justice system.
The legal profession as a whole has been criticized for the outcomes that young people of color seeking entry to it face. For example, people of color are less likely to make it to law school. Once there, they are more likely than white students to drop out before obtaining a degree. Because almost all judges, particularly in criminal courts, have backgrounds as lawyers, this means that the problem will be persistent for years into the future. Whole cohorts of Black Americans aren’t getting the opportunity to sit on the bench and decide the future of other Americans simply because they can’t get into or finish law school.
These conversations about race and justice have become more prominent in American culture since the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. For many activists, there’s real hope that significant change is coming. It’s expected that changes to the system will improve outcomes for minority defendants. Activists point to studies suggesting that when women and people of color are on the bench, they often view criminal cases differently.
For people with criminal law cases in Virginia, it may be helpful to consult with defense attorneys about strategies and potential outcomes of their cases. Experienced criminal defense attorneys who understand the pressures affecting their clients may offer valuable insights and work to protect their clients’ rights.