Council Reports Slow Increase in Diversity on Bench

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Metropolitan News-Enterprise

 

Wednesday, March
2, 2016

 

Page 1

 

Council Reports Slow Increase in Diversity on Bench

 

By KENNETH
OFGANG, Staff Writer

 

Diversity on the
California bench has slowly but steadily increased over the last 10 years, the
Judicial Council reported yesterday.

The council is
required by statute to annually report demographic data on the ethnicity, race,
gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and veterans’ and disability status
of California state justices and judges on the bench. Yesterday’s report is the
10th under that legislation.

“Responding to
the questionnaire is entirely voluntary for judges,” the council noted. “On
that basis, the report reflects the responses of only those judicial officers
that provided demographic data.”

The council
reported that, as of Dec. 31, women are 32.9 percent of judges and justices,
compared to 27.1 percent when the first annual report was released in 2006.

African
Americans and Asian Americans now make up 6.5 percent of the state’s judicial
officers, d the council reported, whereas each group constituted 4.4 percent 10
years ago. Judges and justices identifying as Hispanic or Latino are 9.8
percent, compared to 6.3 percent in 2006.

The proportion
of judges describing themselves as American Indian or Alaska Native has risen
to 0.5 percent from 0.1 percent, and Pacific Islanders now make up 0.2 percent
of the bench, up from 0.1 percent. Self-described judges of “Some Other Race”
are now 1.2 percent of the bench, up from 0.2 percent, while the number who are
of more than one race has declined to 3.4 percent from 4.4 percent.

Whites make up
69.2 percent, compared to 70.1 percent in 2006.

Only 2.6 percent
of judges did not provide data at the end of last year, compared to 9.9 percent
in 2006.

Sexual
Orientation Data

In 2011, the law
was amended to add gender identity and sexual orientation to the reporting
categories. Of the state’s 1,672 judges, 64.2 percent said they were
heterosexual, 1.4 percent lesbian; 1.3 percent gay, and 0.1 percent
transgender. No judge reported being bisexual and 33.1 percent either didn’t
respond to the survey at all or didn’t answer the question.

Also, this is
the second year that the study includes data on veteran’s and disability
status. Nine judges reported that they have served in the military and four
indicated they have a disability.

The report
explained, however, that such information was only requested from judges new to
the bench in the last two years, although previously elected or appointed
judges did, in a few cases, update their profiles to provide the data.

Data by County

The data was
also broken down by county. Los Angeles Superior Court judges were 34.5 percent
female, 0.9 percent American Indian or Alaska Native, 9 percent Asian American,
9.4 percent African American, 14.4 percent Hispanic or Latino, 0.4 percent
Pacific Islander, 57 percent White, 1.8 percent other, 3.4 percent multiracial,
and 3.8 percent not reporting.

Of the county’s
446 judges, 176 did not respond to the question on sexual orientation. Of those
who did, four said they were lesbian and six said they were gay.

Two counties had
majority-female trial courts—Yuba, with three women out of five, and Contra
Costa, with 20 out of 38.

“Increasing the
diversity of California’s judicial officers to reflect the rich diversity of
California’s populace continues to be a key goal of the Judicial Council,” the
council said in a statement.

The Judicial
Council’s release followed Friday’s issuance of Gov. Jerry Brown’s statutorily
required report on diversity of both judicial appointments and judicial
applications.

The governor
reported that from 2011—the first year of his current tenure—through last year,
there were 1,817 applicants for judicial appointments and he appointed 311
judges, including 74 in 2015. Approximately 35 percent of the applicant pool
and 39 percent of those appointed identified themselves as American Indian or
Alaska Native; Asian; Black or African-American; Hispanic; Native Hawaiian or
Other Pacific Islander; or Other/Unknown.

The Governor’s
Office provided the following table summarizing its data:

 

 

Copyright
2016, Metropolitan News Company



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