California’s judges grow in gender and racial diversity — but more needs to be done
California’s judicial bench is becoming more representative of the state’s racial and ethnic populations, according to new findings by the Judicial Council of California. Among other findings, women now compose 35 percent of superior court judges, a rise from 2006’s 27 percent. While the racial and ethnic diversity remains incredibly low, those figures increased as well. The council reported that the west coast state’s diversity of judges grew for the 12th consecutive year.
As of 2017, Black or African American justices or judges form 7.3 percent of the state’s total, besting 2006’s 4.4 percent. Hispanic or Latinx judges or justices composed 10.3 percent in 2017, in comparison with 6.3 percent in 2006. (It seems fair to note that Latinx and Hispanic people can be any race, and that many increasingly distance themselves from the “raced” labels of Latinx or Hispanic after several generations in the U.S.)
Multi-racial judges or justices represented 3.4 percent in 2017 and were 4.4 percent in 2006. Indigenous Americans and Pacific Islanders remain incredibly underrepresented at 2017 rates of .5 percent and .2 percent respectively. In 2006, Indigenous Americans and Pacific Islanders were a mere .1 percent each.
White justices or judges represented 67.5 percent in 2017 and were 70.1 percent in 2006. Gender identity and sexual orientation diversity remains incredibly low, according to the council’s findings.
California Governor Jerry Brown’s recent judicial appointments added to the growing, albeit slowly, bench diversification.
The council noted that judges voluntarily responded to this survey and self-identified their classifications. While seeing oneself in positions of power is symbolic, much more work remains. Increasing diversification within the profession without also diversifying their lived experiences, academic credentials, cultural analyses and willingness to sensitively deploy discretion will not suffice.