[OP-ED]: Pa Supreme Court Takes Dive On Diversity In Employment
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania compiles a lot of data on many things related to its administrative functioning and the operations of courts in each of the Keystone State’s 67-counties.
The Court has hundreds of pages of data on things like the number of cases pending in the states appellate courts, the number of guilty pleas in county criminal courts and how many protection from abuse orders are issued annually.
Remarkably, the data compiled by Pennsylvania’s highest court, which is also America’s oldest state Supreme Court, does not include demographic data on its own employees…at least that’s what it tells the public.
The data compiling Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has no record of the racial composition of persons working in the offices of the seven justices and in the administrative office for Pennsylvania’s court system.
“We don’t keep that information,” a spokesman for the state’s court system said last week. “The courts have not found a need to do it.”
This is an astounding stance from an institution where duties include deciding cases involving racial discrimination – where litigants must present detailed data to back their respective arguments.
The same Supreme Court that compiles data on the exact number of cases for drugs and DUIs does not keep data to determine if it and its administrative office really implements equal opportunity employment.
Pennsylvania’s Code of Judicial Conduct – that applies to all judges including justices of the Supreme Court – contains a section that states: A judge shall perform the duties of judicial office, including administrative duties, without bias or prejudice.
How can the public have confidence in the fairness professed by Pa’s judicial system if Supreme Court justices withhold data that reveals whether they discharge ‘administrative duties’ like their employment without bias or prejudice barred by the Judicial Code?
It’s hard to accept a ‘trust us’ on diversity hiring from an institution with no record of high marks on equitable employment and scandalous lows like justices participation in Porngate Scandal exchanges of sexist/racist emails and the U.S. Supreme Court criticizing one justice for seriously unjust behavior.
The two candidates running for a seat on Pa’s Supreme Court in next week’s election were asked about their plans to increase diverse employment during a debate at Harrisburg’s Widener University Commonwealth Law School last week.
Justice Sallie Mundy, a Republican currently serving on the Supreme Court, responded with stating her support for “geographic diversity” – perhaps reflecting her roots from Tioga County, located on Pa’s remote north-central border with New York State.
Judge Dwayne Woodruff, a Democrat from Pittsburgh where he once was a standout player for the Steelers, stated he already has racial diversity on his staff and will continue if elected.
Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court has had only one black elected member in its 300-year history. No Latinos have served on Pa’s Supreme Court or the state’s two mid-level appellate courts.
Remember, next week’s election includes candidates for Philadelphia’s Common Pleas and Municipal courts plus statewide appellate courts.