Community activists in New York and across the nation have taken to the streets to protest the mistreatment of Black Americans by police departments around the country. Some activists say that racial disparity among the ranks of prosecutors and trial judges may play an even larger role in creating a discriminatory environment for the criminal justice system.

African Americans make up 13% of the population in the United States, and 39% of the nation’s residents are people of color. However, criminal law experts explain that more than 9 out of 10 prosecutors elected in the country are white.

Once a defendant steps into a courtroom, the judge overseeing his or her case is white 80% of the time. The percentage of white judges is a little higher in 16 states at more than 90%. According to the executive director of the organization Prosecutor Impact, legal professionals from minority groups do not receive adequate opportunities to become judges.

Other activists feel that the problem starts long before attorneys apply for high-level legal positions. In 2019, about 7% of the first-year students at American law schools were Black. A report from the American Bar Association also showed that Black students were more likely to leave law school before finishing than other groups. Activists say the effects of this decreased pool for potential black judges clearly shows in America’s courtrooms.

Racial disparities add further challenges for an individual who needs to defend themselves against criminal charges. Individuals awaiting their day in criminal court may be able to improve their prospects for a favorable outcome by working with an experienced attorney.