A measure, authored by Assemblyman Mike Davis, to release the names of individuals who assist the Governor in choosing court judges, cleared the Assembly House Monday and is ready to be considered by the Governor. Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas, chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, is a principal co-author of the bill.
AB 2095 seeks transparency in the judicial applicant process to ensure fairness and equitable decision-making when vetting California court judges. Currently, the Governor shares applications of potential judges with regional judicial selection committees, which are composed of a variety of citizens, often District Attorneys, Prosecutors and Law Enforcement officials, whose identities are unknown to the general public. Once those individuals determine the applicant’s qualifications, the Governor submits the applications to the State Bar for further evaluation.
The bill further requires members of the State Bar’s Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation (JNE) to complete mandatory training in the areas of fairness and bias in the judicial appointments process.
“Among our goal of assessing leading candidates for merit to the judiciary, which includes professional capacity, personal characteristics, there should also be diversity to the extent that the court’s composition adequately reflects the diversity of California’s population,” Assemblyman Mike Davis continued.
The California State Conference of the NAACP, sponsoring the bill, is most concerned with the lack of diversity on the bench. They point out that of the 105 seats on the California Court of Appeals only four are African American and four are Latino American.
The Governor will have a chance to appoint 150 new judges over the next couple of years, as well as replace retiring judges.
Other joint-authors of AB 2095 include Assemblymember Ted Lieu (chair, Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus), Assemblymember Dave Jones (chair, Assembly Committee on Judiciary), Assemblymember Joe Coto (chair, Legislative Latino Caucus), Assemblymember John Laird (chair, LGBT Legislative Caucus) and Assemblymember Todd Spitzer (chair, Select Committee on Prison Construction and Operation).