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Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly

Abstract

From slavery to civil rights to affirmative action, America’s history has been plagued with the issue of race. The federal bench is no exception. For almost two centuries, the highest court of the nation did not represent the public that it served. This Note aims to determine how the presence of minority judges on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit impacts Equal Protection doctrine. This Note shows that a Ninth Circuit judge’s race is important in providing procedural and substantive contributions to the federal bench. Diverse judges use their life experiences to ensure that every person is heard and treated fairly, thereby instilling public confidence in the legitimacy of the court and educating their colleagues on the panel on the unique issues that minority groups encounter. However, this Note also proves that race alone does not influence the court’s equal protection jurisprudence due to two major factors: the Ninth Circuit, as an appellate court, is bound by the decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court, and judges are committed to their duty to “faithfully and impartially” uphold the Constitution.

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