Tuesday, October 31, 2006
George: Diversity in Judiciary Will Increase
By TINA BAY, Staff Writer
Chief Justice Ronald M. George yesterday told members of Southern California’s legal community that he predicts the ethnic diversity in judicial appointments will “substantially increase” in coming months.
“A lot of efforts have gone forth this year,” he told an estimated 150 judges and attorneys at the Administrative Office of the Court’s Southern region outreach meeting at the Stanley Mosk courthouse.
George focused on strides made through the recently adopted Senate Bill 56, which along with adding judgeships provides that the ethnic background of individuals applying for judicial positions and those selected for Judicial Nominations and Evaluations commission review will be a matter of record.
Revisions in the personal data questionnaire given to judicial applicants will place a less exclusive emphasis on trial court experience in order to encompass other types of experiences less likely to or discourage minority applicants, the chief justice added. He also said the governor was committed to ensuring that minority bar associations are notified of the existence of new vacancies in minority communities.
The chief justice’s remarks came during the question-and-answer portion of the outreach program, which was the last of three town hall-type meetings put on by the AOC this month—with the first two in Sacramento and San Francisco—to review progress in the state courts over the past decade and address reform concerns going forward.
Responding to a question by Beverly A. Williams, judicial nominations chair for Black Women Lawyers of Los Angeles, George said there was a commitment to making strides in diversity despite the lack of immediately visible improvements.
“It is a long process in terms of the pipeline that goes from even being approved to being appointed,” he noted.
William C. Vickrey, Administrative Director of the Courts, added that the AOC would be holding a meeting today in San Francisco with representatives from the trial, appellate and supreme courts, as well as various bar representatives, to talk about possible improvements in the court’s community outreach efforts.
Since the legislative session has ended, he said, the judiciary has met with the governor’s office regarding reports on demographic data that will for the first time help to assess the justice system’s progress in the area of diversity.
“I think there is for the first time some momentum in terms of the attention on this issue and the joint education opportunities that are taking place in the legal community and all three branches of government to focus on this issue, so I’m optimistic that we’ll make progress,” he said.
Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge William A. MacLaughlin, who also spoke at the gathering, said he and Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza—along with the chief justice and Justice Carlos Moreno—would be attending today’s meeting
“This is a statewide problem, but it’s a problem that here in Los Angeles we intend to increase the level of rhetoric and attention to” he said. “Hopefully what will come from the statewide effort is to encourage the dialogue to simply raise the issue. I think one of the things that the judiciary can do, while we’re not the executives, is we certainly can create greater discussion and elevate the issue by making it something simply more apparent to everybody.”
MacLaughlin noted a number of efforts by the Los Angeles Superior Court to address the subject, including plans to call the court’s first minority bench-bar meeting and to hold the court’s first ever diversity conference on Jan. 20.
“We have a number of things started,” MacLaughlin said. “Inertia’s hard to overcome. Established customs and habits and practices are hard to overcome, so all of us are going to have some patience,” he said.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company