More Diversity needed on Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court bench

By Retanio Rucker, Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court Magistrate

In September, President Joseph R. Biden announced three judicial nominees for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. President Biden Names Eighth Round of Judicial Nominees | The White House

President Biden was widely praised for the diversity of his selections: Bridget M. Brennan, a woman; Charles E. Fleming, an African American; and David A. Ruiz, a Hispanic. If confirmed, Fleming would be the second active Black judge on the Court, while Ruiz would be the first Hispanic district court judge in Ohio.

A review of the U.S. Census Bureau Quick Facts site gives a breakdown of the racial percentages in Cuyahoga County. U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Cuyahoga County, Ohio; United States

Whites represent 63.5% of the County’s total population, while African Americans represent 30.5%. Hispanics or Latinos represent 6.3% of the population, while Asians represent 3.4%. American Indians and Alaskan Natives represent 0.3% of the population.

The Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court has four divisions: Domestic Relations (DR), General, Juvenile, and Probate. The DR division has five elected judges. All of them are women and only one judge is African American. There are no Hispanic or other Persons of Color on the DR bench.

The General division has a total of 34 elected judges. Sixteen are women — three are African American. None of the African American judges are male. Moreover, there are no Hispanic or other Persons of Color on the General Division bench.

The Juvenile Division has six elected judges — three are women and two are African American. One of the African American judges is female, while the other is male. There are no Hispanic or other Persons of Color on the Juvenile bench.

Lastly, the Probate Division has two elected judges. One is female. None are African American, Hispanic, or any other Person of Color.

Given these statistics, I believe it is fair to say that the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas bench does not reflect the diversity which is Cuyahoga County.

Over the last decade or so, there has been much conversation concerning the issue of judicial reform, especially among Communities of Color. These conversations have focused on how best to reform a system which is seen by those Communities as broken and unresponsive to the people it serves. In other words, how we can best reform or change the administration of justice in this Country.

There are several ways to achieve judicial reform. One such way is diversity on the bench. Generally, people with diverse backgrounds bring various and differing viewpoints to the bench, thereby demonstrating that there is more than one way to administer justice. For example, finding creative sentencing alternatives for non-violent criminal offenders.

The easiest way to bring about judicial reform utilizing the tool of diversity is the ballot box. In 2022 and 2024, the people of Cuyahoga County will have the opportunity to elect a number of People of Color to the Common Pleas Court bench. As such, it is important that each of you register to vote, and then vote.

I sincerely hope that residents of Cuyahoga County will follow President Biden’s example and choose diversity at the ballot box as a means of reforming the administration of justice in this County. Make your voices heard. Again, register to vote and then vote. Otherwise, you have no basis to complain!