Thursday, February 28, 2008
Studies: Female and Minority Judicial Applications and Appointments Up
By STEVEN M. ELLIS, Staff Writer
The overall number of females and minorities applying for judicial appointment, as well as their proportion of the total judicial applicant pool, rose in 2007, according to statistics released by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office.
Additional statistics also released yesterday by the governor’s office showed that the number and relative proportions of female and minority applicants who were ultimately appointed by the governor, also rose in the last year, and that the proportion of appointees who are female or a member of a minority is generally higher than the proportion of State Bar members who are female or member of a minority.
The release marked the first time Schwarzenegger’s office has shared statistics on judicial appointments, and included cumulative data for all judicial appointments the governor has made while in office.
According to the figures released by the governor, applications for judicial appointment by minorities increased from 29 percent of the total pool in 2006 to 31 percent in 2007, while applications by females increased from 33 percent of the total pool in 2006 to 36 percent in 2007.
They also indicated that females account for 33.55 percent of all of Schwarzenegger’s appointees to the bench, and that 22.37 percent of all appointees have been minorities.
In separate news, the State Bar Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation also released statistics on applicants recommended by the commission that showed 32 percent of recommended applicants are female, while 8 percent are Asian, 11 percent are Black or African American, 12 percent are Hispanic, 51 percent are White and 17 percent are “other” or “unknown.”
The governor’s office and the commission released the figures pursuant to a provision in SB 56, which was enacted in 2006. The law requires the governor to annually release aggregate statewide demographic data provided by all judicial applicants relative to ethnicity and gender by March 1, and imposes a similar requirement on the commission with respect to applicants recommended to it.
In a statement released with the figures, Schwarzenegger said that “[c]reating a more diverse bench starts with having more diverse applicants and as the numbers show we are getting there.”
Appointments Secretary Credited
Thanking his judicial appointments secretary, Sharon Majors-Lewis, for her efforts to “bring the best, brightest and most qualified individuals to our courts,” Schwarzenegger said that he was “incredibly proud” of his administration’s efforts to bring together “talented people from a wide variety of backgrounds to serve the people of California.”
Lewis, the first woman and first African American to hold the post, agreed that there was “more work to be done,” but said that she was “proud of what we have already accomplished,” adding that the “key” to having a diverse bench was to start with a more diverse state bar and more diverse law schools.
Under SB 56, gender and racial/ethnic data is collected on a voluntary basis. The data-collection requirements were added to the bill after some lawmakers, including Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, questioned whether Schwarzenegger had appointed enough Asian-American, African-American, and Latino judges.
Yesterday’s numbers show that 151 of the 414 total applicants in 2007 indicated that they were female, 1 indicated being American Indian or Alaska Native, 30 indicated being Asian, 41 indicated being Black or African-American, 54 indicated being Hispanic, 2 indicated being Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, 192 indicated being White or Caucasian, and 94 indicated that they were “other” or “unknown.”
The figures reflected a change in the way the governor’s office is collecting the data. In figures released last year for 2006, data was only allocated among six categories: female, Caucasian, Latino, African-American, Asian-American and “unknown.”
Females also made up 37.5 percent of all appointments during the 2007 calendar year, while Asians made up 6.82 percent, Blacks or African-Americans made up 11.36 percent, Hispanics made up 12.5 percent, Whites or Caucasians made up 64.77 percent, and “other/unknown” made up 4.55 percent. No American Indians or Alaska Natives, or Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders were appointed in 2007.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Marguerite Downing, an African American and former deputy public defender in Los Angeles County, told the MetNews that she was happy with the progress.
A former member of the State Bar Board of Governors, Downing attributed the increase in female and minority representation to the board’s work on increasing diversity, and said that work had started a “snowball effect” that had generated good feelings about the application and appointment process.
Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company