Splitting hairs as to whether Scott, Crist or Bush appointed more black judges

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The Tampa Bay Times‘ Steve Bousquet reports today that Governor Rick Scott is on pace to appoint fewer African-Americans to judgeships in Florida than either of his two predecessors, Charlie Crist and Jeb Bush. At first glance, such a story should be cause for alarm. In a state as diverse as Florida, racial and ethnic diversity in the judicial branch has been debated for decades because it’s paramount to the integrity of the court system that those folks in the black robes not all have white faces.

However, after you drill down into the numbers, it seems to be a matter of splitting hairs as to whether Scott, Crist or Bush appointed more black judges. 

Statistically, 6.6 percent of Scott’s judicial choices are black at the midway point of his term, compared with 8.3 percent for the term of Crist, governor from 2007-2011, and 10 percent for Bush, who served the previous eight years. African-Americans make up 16.5 percent of Florida’s population, according to the Census.

In other words, none of the three Republican governors — for whatever reason — appointed enough black judges to accurately reflect the racial diversity of Florida’s population. And the difference between Scott and Crist and Bush – 1.7% between Scott and Crist; 3.4% between Scott and Bush – is too statistically insignificant to assume there is a nefarious reason why more blacks have not been appointed.

By the way, Scott has appointed proportionally more women and Hispanics to judgeships than Crist, and about the same as Bush. 

The reality is that neither Scott nor Crist nor Bush have been able to do a decent job of appointing black judges because the Judicial Nominating Commissions (local committees which screen judicial candidates and can recommend up to six candidates for each court vacancy) have not forwarded enough black candidates for consideration.  The reasons for this are not clear. 

But to infer that there is something malevolent afoot based on 1.7 percentage points is simply out of order. 

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.