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Regional News

State lawmaker says Massachusetts needs more Latino judges, Parole Board members

A picture of a gavel.
Brian Turner
/
Creative Commons
A picture of a gavel.

A state lawmaker is calling on Governor Charlie Baker to appoint more Latino judges and members of the Parole Board from western Massachusetts.

State Rep. Carlos Gonzalez of Springfield said he wants to see the change across the state court system.

"We need to be very intentional about making sure that everybody is allowed to serve and that diversity is included in the decision making of selecting judges and Parole Board members," he said.

The chief justice of the Massachusetts trial courts, Paula Carey, declined to be interviewed. In a statement, Carey acknowledged the gap in representation on the bench.

"We believe that increasing the diversity of judges in the court system is important and the number of diverse judges representing different racial and ethnic backgrounds is not adequate," Carey said. "To that end, the Trial Court conducts outreach to bar association members and law school students in an effort to increase interest in and encourage application to judicial and the clerk magistrate positions.'

Carey also said the governor's office is "working hard to identify diverse candidates for appointment." Baker's spokesperson did not answer requests for comment.

Statewide, the trial court classifies about 11% of judges as racially or ethnically diverse, but could not provide detail about western Massachusetts. The percentage of judges classified as racially or ethnically diverse has dropped slightly since fiscal year 2016, although the raw number of judges also grew in that time.

judges (1).png

According to a report from the Massachusetts Trial Court, the ranks of other positions within the system, including associate probation officers and chief probation officers, have experienced increases in diversity in the past few years.

A spokesperson for the Parole Board has not yet provided similar numbers.

Ruth Adeyinka, a lawyer who helps Latino attorneys become judges, said she agrees with the call by Gonzalez to diversify the bench in Massachusetts. Adeyinka, who works with the Massachusetts Association of Hispanic Attorneys, said candidates who aren't white face an unlevel playing field.

"There's a political imbalance when it comes to political clout that the Latino community has that does create barriers to candidates moving forward through that process," she said.

Adeyinka said the clout can come in the form of lobbying for and coaching of more well-connected candidates.