On Monday 7-23 Assemblyman Lieu wrote an op-ed published in the SF Chronicle about the lack of diversity in the governors judicial appointments with a very small percent of Asian Pacific Islanders - Blacks - Latinos among the appointments. He then went on about the numbers of attorneys in those categories. He also briefly mentioned women appointments as well.
I immediately remembered a number of the old jokes about quotas and sent off a tongue in cheek riposte to the SF Chronicle. The SF Chronicle agreed and published.
Editor - Assemblyman Ted Lieu's diatribe (Open Forum, "Judges should look like those they serve," July 23) leaves out basic qualifications. An appointee to the Superior Court must be a practicing California attorney for at least 10 years immediately preceding appointment.
Lieu expresses concerns about the lack of diversity in appointments. Yet his missive glosses over the lack of women appointees. Based on his arguments, women should fill half the judgeships.
Lieu could help by listing all members of the California State Bar with more than 10 years of experience by race, sex, sexual preference, religion and disabilities and whether or not they are a veteran. Present this list to the governor so the governor could make a judgeship appointment of a transgender woman, black/API, Catholic, disabled veteran and kill a lot of quota birds with one stone.
California needs fewer laws - fewer prisons - fewer prisoners and fewer judges.
Judges should look like those they serve
Ted W. Lieu
Monday, July 23, 2007
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has been quietly shaping our judicial branch for decades to come during his time in office. In what way? He has the sole power to appoint Superior Court judges without any legislative confirmation. Unfortunately, the governor has chosen to exercise his power in a way that largely ignores the importance of judicial diversity. The result is a judicial branch that looks nothing like California. The problem is only getting worse.
Since taking office in late 2003, the governor has appointed 260 new judges. Of that group, only a fraction have been jurists of color. They are:
-- 4.6 percent (12) Asian Pacific Islander;
-- 5.8 percent (15) African American;
-- 8.5 percent (22) Latino.
Less than one-third of the appointments have been women.
Those numbers pale in comparison to the diversity of our Golden State, where, according to the U.S. Census, of all Californians:
-- 12.6 percent are Asian Pacific Islander;
-- 6.7 percent are African American;
-- 35.2 percent are Latino.
There is no lack of qualified candidates. Among practicing attorneys in California, there are more than:
-- 10,300 Asian Pacific Islanders;
-- 3,300 African Americans; and
-- 7,400 Latinos.
Before coming to the state Assembly, I was a lawyer for more than 10 years and experienced, first hand, our clogged court system. We need more judges. But we cannot allow that need to result in a judicial branch that fails to reflect the population it serves. At stake is the public's trust in the integrity of our judiciary.
That is why I joined with Assembly members Joe Coto (Chair, Latino Caucus), Mervyn Dymally (Chair, Black Caucus) and Alberto Torrico (Chair, API Legislative Caucus) in a letter to the legislative leadership with a copy to the governor warning that we will oppose authorizing the governor's entire budget request for new judgeships unless his record of appointments improves.
Particularly disturbing are the governor's last round of judicial appointments. The governor has used newly created judicial positions to make appointments that are even less diverse than before. This is unacceptable.
He appointed 26 new judges on June 22; three of those appointments filled vacancies and 23 were available only because of 50 new positions authorized in last year's budget. Rather than celebrate these appointments, the governor released most of the names after 5 p.m. on a Friday, presumably to avoid press attention. Why? Because none of the 26 judicial appointments was Asian Pacific Islander and only one was Latino.
While three African Americans were appointed in this last group, 43 of the state's 58 counties do not have any African American judges.
This lack of diversity on the bench could not have come at a worse time. Recent projections indicate that the Asian Pacific Islander and Latino populations will double in California in the coming decades.
If all the new judicial positions are authorized by the Legislature, the governor will have appointed 500 to 600 new judges by the time he leaves office. This would be approximately one-third of all Superior Court judges.
Former Gov. Gray Davis only appointed 360 judges.
Gov. Schwarzenegger cannot continue to stay the course. If his record does not improve, then cutting funding for new judicial positions will be one of the top priorities of the three caucuses for next year.
This issue is not going to go away, and neither will we.
Assembly member Ted W. Lieu, D-Torrance, is the incoming chair of the Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus.