Source: The Guardian
By David Smith in Washington
When Donald Trump remarked that “it’s possible” Muslim judges would be biased against him, he probably did not know how many Muslim judges there are in America’s federal courts. The number might surprise other people too. It is none.
This is despite a record-breaking push by Barack Obama to diversify a judiciary long dominated by straight white men. There are more female, black, Latino and gay judges than ever before, but the absolute absence of Muslims from the bench illustrates the scale of the deficit he inherited. And some observers fear that a Trump presidency could undo years of hard-won progress.
The Republican presumptive nominee has been roundly condemned for his comments not only about Muslims but accusations of bias levelled at Gonzalo Curiel, an American judge of Mexican heritage who allowed the release of some unflattering documents from Trump University.
“It’s very damaging to the entire perception of how the judiciary is viewed,” said Christopher Kang, a former deputy assistant and deputy counsel to Obama. “The judiciary is, and should be seen as, a fair and independent branch of government, and I think that means those sorts of broad, frankly racist characterisations just do damage to the institution.”
There are currently 785 federal judges, according to the Federal Judicial Center, with about 90 vacancies outstanding. They consist of 520 men and 265 women. The racial breakdown is 107 African Americans, 80 Hispanics, 25 Asian American Pacific Islanders, one Native American and 579 whites. (Some judges identify as more than one race.)
Religion is not measured in official figures but several non-government organisations confirmed that there are no federal judges who identify as Muslim. It is estimated that Muslims make up about 1% of the US population.
Farhana Khera, executive director of the group Muslim Advocates, said: “Our nation’s justice system is strengthened when judges reflect the rich diversity of America. There are a number of American Muslims who serve or have served with distinction as judges at the state level, and it is time for a Muslim to be nominated to the federal judiciary.”
Obama is widely praised for doing more than any other president, perhaps all other presidents combined, to make the judiciary more representative of the nation. Some 43% of his nominees have been women and 36% non-white, compared with George W Bush’s tallies of 22% and 18% respectively and Ronald Reagan’s of 8% and 6%.