Friday, May 20, 2011
Calderon Draws Fire From State Bar President Over Comments
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
State Bar President William N. Hebert has called on Assembly Majority Leader Charles Calderon, D-Montebello, to apologize for comments the lawmaker made about the chief justice’s personality and appearance during a legislative meeting earlier this month.
Hebert yesterday told the MetNews that he was “disappointed, in this day and age, we would talk to our judges in such a way that denigrates or demeans them as a way to sort of undermine their authority.”
A spokesperson for Calderon said the legislator was traveling yesterday and could not be reached for a response to Hebert’s Tuesday letter.
Calderon has also drawn fire from Sen. Noreen Evans—a Santa Rosa Democrat who heads the state Legislative Women’s Caucus—as well as the National Association of Women Judges and California Women Lawyers for his statements at a May 3 Assembly Judiciary Committee hearing.
Not an Attack
While introducing AB 1208, Calderon defended the bill, which proposes decentralizing control over the judiciary and has been a divisive issue for the state’s bench officers. He said it was not an attack on Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, but an effort to bring about needed changes in branch governance.
According to a tape of the meeting later made public, Calderon said:
“It isn’t ‘Is she nice?’ Cause she is; ‘Is she smart?’ Cause she is; ‘Is she attractive?’ Cause she is. It isn’t about that.”
Hebert said yesterday that “a lot of us in the Bar have long supported the work of the State Bar Council on Access and Fairness” in encouraging greater diversity on the bench, and “I think that work is starting to pay off.”
The elimination of bias, Hebert said, is important to him, and “to see our policy makers do something that undermines that goal…just discouraged me.”
In his letter to Calderon, Hebert contended that “comments about women that denigrate them, on the basis of their sex do not promote our interest in advancing women to positions of authority, but rather tend to undermine their credibility on non-policy grounds.”
He went on to suggest that “[s]tatements by public officials that are directed at a personal level cause harm to both the prestige or out public institutions as well as those who dedicate their career to public service.”
The chief justice has not yet commented publicly about Calderon’s statement, but Evans fired off a letter the day of the hearing condemning the remarks by her party’s floor leader in the Assembly as “degrading and inappropriate.”
“As the leader of California’s Judiciary, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye should be taken seriously and not spoken about in such a dismissive and frivolous manner.”
Orange Superior Court Judge Marjorie Laird Carter, president of the National Association of Women Judges, and Sacramento attorney Patricia Sturtevant, head of CWL, sent a joint letter to Calderon one day later, expressing a similar sentiment.
“Your comments show that your characterization of women is insensitive, and unacceptable,” the association leaders wrote, demanding that Calderon “apologize for your disrespectful remarks.”
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company