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Missouri's chief justice calls for increased diversity in legal system

January 14, 2004
By: Sara Bondioli
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri's first black Supreme Court Chief Justice called for increased diversity during the annual State of the Judiciary address Wednesday.

Chief Justice Ronnie White said the state's legal system needs to reflect the diversity of the state.

"Equal access to justice only can be realized fully when there is equal opportunity for all to serve in our system of justice," he said.

White said that, of 39 appellate judges, he was the only black in 1994 when he went to his first judge meeting. Only three appellate judges were women at that time.

Today, four black judges and nine women serve on the Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court currently includes its first Jewish judge as well.

But White said there is still room for improvement. He suggested diversifying selection panels as a first step.

"Without diversifying the ranks of those who aspire to become trial judges and appellate judges, we will struggle to develop the array of applicants we seek," he said.

He urged those present to further diversity by encouraging minorities to consider legal careers.