Probably the only benefit from the steady beat of violent public deaths of young black men — a public fuse lit with Floridian Trayvon Martin, continued with Jacksonville's Jordan Davis, and that now includes the litany of Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, and others — is that these tragedies have laid fresh heat on the criminal justice system.
People are asking tough questions. Pressing for ugly answers. Tuning up questionable facts. And asking: Why are there so few minorities sitting in seats of power in the American justice system?
That was the question guiding a pretty incisive survey conducted by the Reflective Democracy Campaign, a project of the Woman Donors Network. In an effort to create a demographic picture of the top officials calling the prosecutorial shots in courthouses across the United States, the organization created a comprehensive database of the country's prosecutors — including their sex and race. According to "Who Prosecutes in America?," these seats are overwhelmingly filled with white males. Florida is no different.
The overall national numbers are pretty grim if you think an elected group should reflect the demographic of the community it's representing (this, class, is also known as representative democracy). According to the report, 95 percent of the elected prosecutors in the United States are white. We're talking about more than 2,400 prosecutors. Only 1 percent are nonwhite women.
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So, Florida. In one respect, Florida is on progressive footing. The state's attorney general, the top law enforcement figure in the state, is a woman, Pam Bondi. The state also has a state attorney who fits into that 1 percent of nonwhite women (in this case, Hispanic): Katherine Fernandez-Rundle, the state attorney in Miami.
But besides that, in Florida's 20 judicial districts, the state attorney job is held by women in only two — district 16 (the Florida Keys) is bossed by Catherine Vogel; and in district 4 (which is for some reason not included in the database but includes Jacksonville), Angela B. Corey holds the job.
Every other state attorney position — 18 out of 20 — is held by a white male. In Broward, the job belongs to Michael Satz; in Palm Beach, David Aronberg holds the job.