A few years ago, back when Jimmy Carter was in town, it looked like a majority of the city's judges were going to be black at some point in the not-too-distant future. Carter made 17 appointments to the 9-member D.C. Court of Appeals and the 44-member Superior Court. Just over half his appointments, 53 percent, were black.
But the trend to putting more minorities on the court has clearly stopped. President Reagan, in his first two years in office, has appointed 12 judges to those city courts, but only 25 percent -- two blacks and one Hispanic -- were minorities. Women appointees didn't fare all that well under Carter -- only four of the seventeen he appointed were women -- but they've done worse under Reagan, who has only appointed one woman to the bench so far.
As it now stands, 18 of the city's 53 judges are black. Reagan's appointments haven't altered that ratio much from Carter's days, since many of those he nominated were replacing white males who were retiring. And most of those expected to retire in the next two years or even six years are expected to be white.
Lawyers at the courthouse say the White House has made it clear that affirmative action will not be a predominant factor in its appointments. Several lawyers who have seen the Reagan appointees in action say that his picks have been at least as good, some say better, than Carter's. The only complaint heard among the lawyers is that, in a city that's 70 percent black, the city's judiciary could be a lot more reflective of the population it judges.