By Ona Alston Dosunmu
Having a diverse judiciary comprised of individuals whose experiences give them a window into the lives of the human beings impacted by their rulings is important for many reasons. It promotes the appearance of fairness, impartiality and neutrality, which may be as important as actual fairness, impartiality and neutrality—at least with respect to public perceptions. Diverse judges and justices contribute to litigants feeling heard—that is to say, helping litigants feel that, regardless of the outcome, they had their proverbial “day in court.” This is particularly important for litigants who are poor, for whom English is not their first language, people of color, or others who, for whatever reason, may feel like they won’t fare as well in the justice system as wealthy White litigants or corporate interests. These positive results of judicial diversity bolster the legitimacy of the justice system.
While the State of California has a long way to go before its judiciary mirrors the population, it appears as though policymakers at every stage of the process are committed to working towards that goal. CLA is proud to partner with the Judicial Council of California to accelerate this trend. According to a 2019 Judicial Council of California report, the bench was 66% White, 11% Hispanic/Latino, 8% Asian Pacific Islander, and 8% Black/African American. These are not, of course, the sole indicia of diversity—CLA would like to see more highly qualified judges who are the first in their families to receive a formal post-secondary education, to see more LGBTQ+ judges and others who have historically been shut out of the corridors of power.
On Friday, February 19, the Judicial Council of California and CLA presented “Pathways to Achieving Judicial Diversity,” a panel discussion featuring the Honorable Elizabeth G. Macias and the Honorable Connie R. Quinones, both of whom told their personal stories about ascending to the bench. Governor Gavin Newsom’s Judicial Appointments Secretary, Luis Cespedes; Deputy Appointments Secretary Gonzalo Martinez; and Chair of the Judicial Nominees Evaluation (“JNE”) Commission Aminder Singh helped demystify the judicial nomination and appointment process.
CLA encourages all of its members to consider a career in the judiciary.