Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Judicial Council Commends African-American Jurists
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Judicial Council has unanimously approved a resolution marking this year as the 50th anniversary of the appointment of the state’s first African-American justice, and the 70th anniversary of the appointment of California’s first African-American judge, Edwin L. Jefferson.
Presented by Justice Martin J. Jenkins of the First District Court of Appeal, Div. Three, and William C. Vickrey, Administrative Director of the Courts, the resolution, passed at a public meeting Friday, calls upon “the leadership of the judicial, legal, and justice community-including courts, bar associations, universities, law schools, legal aid providers, and others-to recognize and celebrate the occasion of these 50th and 70th anniversary historic milestones and to pursue opportunities to continue the dialogue on the need for ongoing efforts to enhance diversity within the judiciary.”
Jefferson was appointed to the Los Angeles Municipal Court in 1941 by then-Gov. Culbert Olson, becoming California’s first African-American judge, and the first African-American judge west of the Mississippi. Jefferson was elevated to the Los Angeles Superior Court in 1949 by then-Gov. Earl Warren.
In 1961, Jefferson became the first African-American appellate court justice in California when he was appointed by Gov. Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Sr., to Div. Four of this district’s Court of Appeal. He served until 1975.
The resolution notes that Jefferson opened the door for other historic appointments of African-Americans in California, including Wiley W. Manuel, who became the first African-American justice of the California Supreme Court, serving from 1977 to 1981; Clinton White, who became the first African-American presiding justice of a California Court of Appeal, heading Division Three of the First Appellate District from 1978 to 1994; and Arleigh Maddox Woods, the first female African American member of the state appellate court, serving as an associate justice in Division Four of this district’s Court of Appeal from 1980 to 1982, and as presiding justice, from 1982 to 1995.
Vickrey praised these individuals as “pioneers who inspire us all by their many contributions to the California judicial branch,” in a release yesterday from the Judicial Council. Vickrey said the accomplishments of Jefferson and those who followed in his footsteps, “show how far we have come, and how much farther we have to go.”
Jenkins also remarked that “service in the California judiciary is an attainable goal for those who aspire to it—if they are willing a make a commitment to their careers, as evidenced by those we are honoring” with this resolution.
A photographic exhibit of these African-American bench officers, titled “And Justice For All,” is currently on display in the Great Hall of the Hiram Johnson Building in San Francisco, through July 14. The exhibit is a collaborative project of the California Legislative Black Caucus and the Administrative Office of the Courts.
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