Court Appointments: ‘Amplifying Racial Disparities’?

Queens Surrogate’s Court (Image via

A detailed review of seven years worth of data on appointments to the Queens Surrogate’s Court “suggests that a pattern of favoritism may be creating a systemic barrier to entry for lawyers of color, and even amplifying racial disparities throughout the judicial system,” writes Rachel Silberstein in Gotham Gazette.

This seems especially true in the case of guardianship appointments, which the Surrogate’s Court makes for those who die or become incapacitated without wills. The appointment can provide an annual supplement of up to $75,000 for those lawyers who are designated as guardians by the court.

Of 929 lawyers who are eligible for Surrogate’s Court assignments, and the fees that come with them, only 153 have received appointments from 2010 through 2016, the vast majority of them – 129 – are white. A similar ratio exists on the eligibility list: of 929 lawyers, about 850 of them are white.

Of nearly $7.2 million issued to attorneys over seven years of Surrogate’s Court appointments, around $6.4 million (88.1 percent) went to white attorneys, but just $699,249 (9.7 percent) went to black attorneys; $137,325.00 (1.9 percent) went to Latino attorneys; and just $21,795 (.3 percent) went to Asian attorneys.

A year-by-year analysis of the data reveals a widening racial gap regarding the frequency and size of appointments. In 2015, almost 92 percent of the guardianship money paid made by the court went to appointees who were white, up from nearly 82 percent white just five years earlier. In 2016, percentage of money earned by whites dipped again to 88 percent.

Go to Gotham Gazette to learn the role that seems to be played by the Queens County Democratic Party machine, and to find out more particulars about individuals named as guardians by the Court.

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