Home » South Carolina’s Supreme Court will soon have no Black justices

South Carolina’s Supreme Court will soon have no Black justices

by The Grio

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — For the first time in nearly two decades, South Carolina’s Supreme Court will be entirely white.

Diversity on the bench is a big topic in a state where African Americans and Hispanics make up a third of the population. The General Assembly selects the state’s judges, and it has so rarely chosen non-white jurists that Black lawmakers briefly walked out of judicial elections five years ago over diversity concerns.

When a new justice is seated after next week’s election, South Carolina will join 18 other states with all-white high courts, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, which tracks diversity and other issues in court systems.

Twelve of those states have minority populations of at least 20%, the organization reported.

“It’s shameful. Whether people like it or not, we have a diverse state. The people who appear before the bench are diverse. The judges they appear before should be diverse,” Democratic Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter said.

Circuit Judge Jocelyn Newman was the lone Black candidate for the state Supreme Court seat coming open. The only African American on the high court, Chief Justice Don Beatty, has to leave because he has reached the mandatory retirement age of 72.

But Newman dropped out of the race after candidates could begin asking lawmakers for support. That leaves a white man and a white woman as the two remaining candidates.

Candidates for judges typically don’t campaign or speak publicly in South Carolina, outside of hearings in which a panel screens them to see if they are qualified and narrows the number of candidates sent to lawmakers to three.

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South Carolina’s Supreme Court already came under scrutiny as the nation’s only all-male high court. The justices ruled 4-1 last year to uphold the state’s strict abortion ban at around six weeks after conception, before many women know they are pregnant.


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