Many residents of California have questioned the treatment of people of color at the hands of law enforcement personnel. Activists warn that the same level of scrutiny should apply to the prosecutors and judges who decide the outcomes of criminal cases.

Activists point to two studies they say provide insight into the problems that minority defendants face while mounting a criminal defense. The studies show that 95% of attorneys elected to become prosecutors in the country are white. Activists say that this number is problematic when 39% of American residents are people of color.

Additionally, more than 80% of the criminal trial justices in the country are white. This number increases to more than 90% for a group of 16 states with the largest gap in racial disparity for trial judges.

A professor of law at Vanderbilt University co-authored the 2016 study “Gavel Gap,” which says the lack of representation for people of color in the court system undermines both the perceived and actual legitimacy of the system. The former Boston-area ADA and Prosecutor Impact executive director echoes this sentiment and says the lack of representation is a clear sign that there is a problem with the selection process for officials of state trial courts.

Some observers feel the problem is the lack of minority representation throughout the legal profession. Only 5% of the lawyers in America are Black. Likewise, another 5% are Hispanic while 85% of the lawyers in the country are white.

The defendant’s chair in a criminal court is never the best place to sit, but for some Americans, defending themselves against criminal allegations includes difficulties not faced by others. Individuals who wish to clear their name against criminal charges may have a better chance to do so with the help of an experienced criminal attorney.