California bills to emphasize, track judicial diversity advancing

A great deal of emphasis has placed on obtaining diversity of the U.S. Supreme Court bench with more and more interest being paid to state courts as well. Two bills seek to better quantify diversity for the California judiciary and those chosen (or not) to become a judge.

On the Assembly side, AB 126 of 2011 requires the Governor to post on his/her Web site the names of all persons to whom the Governor (or his/her representatives) has provided judicial application materials in order to determine whether to submit the applicant’s application to the State Bar for evaluation, or to assist the Governor in the decision of whether an applicant should be appointed as a judge after he/she has been evaluated by the State Bar. The bill also requires members of the State Bar’s Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation to complete a minimum of two hours of training annually in the areas of fairness and bias in the judicial appointments process. Finally, the bill requires the State Bar, in collecting and releasing statewide demographic data on all judicial applicants*, and the Administrative Office of the Courts, in collecting and releasing demographic data on justices and judges*, to use specified ethnic and racial categories.

AB 126 passed the Assembly May 23, the Senate Judiciary Committee June 14, and the Senate Appropriations Committee June 23. It is currently in the Senate third reading file.

On the Senate side, SB 182 of 2011 adds gender identity and sexual orientation to the list of self-reported demographic data required to be collected and released by the governor, the Judicial Nominations of the State Bar (JNE) Commission, and the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC). As under existing law*, providing the specified information would be strictly voluntary, and any release of the data must be in the form of aggregated statistical data and cannot identify any individual applicant, appointee, justice, or judge. The bill also specifies that in the year following a general or recall election in which a new governor will take office prior to March 1, the departing governor must provide to the incoming governor all of the demographic data collected for the previous year. The bill would require that the incoming governor then becomes responsible for releasing that provided data as well as any demographic data collected by the incoming governor, if any, prior to March 1.

SB 182 passed the Senate on June 1, the Assembly Judiciary Committee June 21, and the Assembly Appropriations Committee July 6. It is currently in the Assembly third reading file.

*Existing law already requires the state’s governor and bar, when selecting nominees to fill judicial vacancies, record and report demographic data (Gov’t Code 12011.5(n))

(A) The Governor shall collect and release, on an aggregate statewide basis, all of the following:

(i) Demographic data provided by all judicial applicants relative to ethnicity, race, and gender.
(ii) Demographic data relative to ethnicity, race, and gender as provided by all judicial applicants, both as to those judicial applicants who have been and those who have not been submitted to the State Bar for evaluation.
(iii) Demographic data relative to ethnicity, race, and gender of all judicial appointments or nominations as provided by the judicial appointee or nominee.

(B) The designated agency of the State Bar responsible for evaluation of judicial candidates shall collect and release both of the following on an aggregate statewide basis:

(i) Statewide demographic data provided by all judicial applicants reviewed relative to ethnicity, race, gender, and areas of legal practice and employment.
(ii) The statewide summary of the recommendations of the designated agency of the State Bar by ethnicity, race, gender, and areas of legal practice and employment.

(C) The Administrative Office of the Courts shall collect and release the demographic data provided by justices and judges described in Article VI of the California Constitution relative to ethnicity, race, and gender, by specific jurisdiction.