California Lawyers Association, Litigation

Mapping a Pathway to the Bench: The Litigation Section Equips Lawyers to Navigate the Judicial Appointment Process

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CLA’s Media Relations Manager, Angel Duan, speaks with Kathleen Brewer, Advisor to CLA’s Litigation Section, on the upcoming live event, “Pathways to the Bench,” set for June 7, 11:30-5:30, in San Francisco.

Lawyers considering a career on the bench can find the appointment process bewildering. Some even feel excluded from the process based on perceived inadequacies or societal biases. To demystify this journey and equip individuals with necessary information, tools, and confidence, CLA’s Litigation Section is presenting its annual “Pathways to the Bench” program on June 7 in San Francisco. Kathleen A. Brewer, a litigator at Brewer Law Office, with members of the Litigation Section’s Executive Committee, is organizing the program. This live event will provide comprehensive insights into the processes involved in applying for both state and federal bench positions.  

The program will feature a stellar lineup of speakers, including:

  • Luis Céspedes, Governor Newsom’s Judicial Appointments Secretary
  • Chhaya Malik, Chair of the Judicial Nominees Evaluation (JNE) Commission
  • David Casey, Statewide Chair, Senator Butler’s Judicial Evaluation ProcessDaniel Suvor, Statewide Chair, Senator Padilla’s Judicial Evaluation Com
  • Hon. Beth Freeman, U.S. District Court, N.D. Cal.
  • Hon. Kandis Westmore, Magistrate Judge, U.S. District Court, N.D. Cal.
  • Hon. Teri L. Jackson, Justice of the California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District
  • Hon. Linda Colfax, Judge of the Superior Court of San Francisco
  • Hon. Suzanne Bolanos, Judge, Superior Court of San Francisco
  • Hon. Brenda Harbin-Forte, retired Alameda County Superior Court Judge 

Judicial Appointments Secretary Luis Céspedes and JNE Commission Chair Chhaya Malik will provide the nuts and bolts of applying to the state court bench and will share their invaluable perspectives. 

David Casey and Daniel Suvor, the statewide chairs of the federal judicial evaluation processes, along with Judge Beth Freeman and Magistrate Judge Kandis Westmore, will map out the pathways to federal bench positions. 

The importance of a diverse and inclusive bench will be woven into all panel discussions. This year’s program will include an Elimination of Bias panel to specifically address obstacles faced by members of underrepresented groups on their journeys to the bench. Dynamic speakers such as Hon. Teri L. Jackson and Hon. Brenda Harbin-Forte (ret.) will engage in discussions aimed at fostering a more diverse judiciary.  

Kathleen shared her inspiration for initiating this program back in 2017. “Like many attorneys and judges in California, I’ve long been passionate about diversifying both the profession and the bench. Diverse student bodies in law schools translates to diversity in the profession, which is obviously critical to creating and maintaining an inclusive bench. Also critical is providing the information necessary for demystifying the judicial selection process. Attorneys of every persuasion must be able to enter the application process with the confidence borne of having both necessary information and a system that values diversity. And I use ‘diversity’ in its broadest sense—encompassing all types of differences—diversity in practice area, personal interests, age, faith, ethnicity, orientation, etc.” 

“Pathways to the Bench” aligns with the mission of the Litigation Section and provides real benefit to section members. The program aims to ensure that every attorney in California can access opportunities to pursue judicial roles. The program provides wide-ranging information in a single forum, connects potential judicial applicants with folks who can answer their questions, and facilitates networking—in short, a tremendously valuable resource for section members. 

Attendees can expect a format that combines informative panels with interactive breakout sessions, allowing for personalized discussions with judges and panelists. A program highlight will be a session on the Judicial Mentor Program, chaired by Hon. Linda Colfax, Judge of the Superior Court of San Francisco. This unique program is designed to diversify the judicial applicant pool and pair applicants with judges who will mentor them through the process. 

Kathleen emphasized the importance of accessibility and relevance, stating, “Our goal is to ensure that the information presented is accessible to a diverse audience. We want attendees to leave with a clear understanding of the judicial selection processes and the confidence to pursue their aspirations without limitation.” 

Beyond its immediate impact, the program aims to contribute to broader discussions and initiatives within the legal community, particularly concerning diversity on the bench. By encouraging greater inclusivity and transparency in the judicial selection process, the program seeks to foster a legal system that reflects the rich diversity of the communities it serves. 

“Diversity is at the heart of this program,” Kathleen remarked. “We want to break down barriers and ensure that everyone, regardless of background, feels empowered to pursue a career on the bench.” 

Registration is open for “Pathways to the Bench,” and legal professionals across California are encouraged to seize this opportunity to gain invaluable insights and embark on their journey toward judicial roles. Through knowledge, mentorship and community support, Kathleen and the Litigation Section of CLA are paving the way for a more diverse and inclusive judiciary, one aspiring judge at a time. Learn more and register for the Pathways to the Bench event.

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