California Lawyers Association

Chief Justice Highlights State’s Progress in Judicial Diversity

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Among newly appointed judges and justices in California, more than half are women and 41 percent self-identify as nonwhite.

“The judiciary now is more representative of the communities we serve in every way,” Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye said during her annual State of the Judiciary address to the Legislature last month.

About a third of the state’s judicial officers relatively new to their positions. Gov. Jerry Brown appointed more than 600 judges and justices during his eight-year tenure – 200 of them in his last year alone, Cantil-Sakauye said.

While drawing attention to the remarkable strides California has made in making its judiciary better reflect the gender and racial makeup of its citizens, she also highlighted the progress in increasing access to justice through the three dimensions of her Access 3D initiative.

The first prong is physical access to courthouses. The Judicial branch maintains over 500 buildings and is constructing 10 more with money allocated by the governor and Legislature, she said.

To meet the second prong, remote access, the courts have used the Legislature’s innovative grant program to launch 50 new incubator projects to provide online and video access to courthouses at the request of litigants. Those projects that succeed can be rolled out to courts statewide.

Finally, she said, “Justice will always require a human touch…to listen to people in crisis, to guide them and to help them resolve their disputes.” On that front, she is advocating for money the addition of court navigators to help the 4.5 million litigants each year who come to court without an attorney.

In her speech, the chief justice also acknowledged the judicial branch’s role in addressing the challenges that California faces in income equality and civil rights.

“We must make sure that income inequality does not translate into a two-tiered justice system,” she said. “We must ensure that minor traffic offenses do not turn poor drivers into poor criminals; and we must ensure that our workplaces are safe from discrimination and harassment and that we treat each other and the public we serve with respect.”

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