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Diversity rises among California judges

The percentages of female, African American, Asian and Latino judges edge up, although they are still underrepresented compared with California's general population.

February 28, 2013|By Maura Dolan, Los Angeles Times
  • A report finds that 31.3% of California judges at the end of 2012 were women. Above, L.A. County Superior Court Judge Stephanie Sautner presides over a hearing for actress Lindsay Lohan at the Airport Branch Courthouse in January.
A report finds that 31.3% of California judges at the end of 2012 were women.… (David McNew / Getty Images )

California's judiciary slowly is growing more diverse, with women now making up nearly a third of the state's judges and ethnic minorities showing slim gains, according to figures released Thursday.

The legislatively mandated report by the Administrative Office of the Courts, the bureaucracy that runs the state court system, found that 31.3% of California judges at the end of 2012 were women, up from 27.1% in 2006. Ethnic groups also increased their representation, but they continued to be underrepresented compared with their proportion of the population, the survey found.

Latinos accounted for 8.3% of state judges in 2012, up 2 percentage points from six years earlier, the largest gain of any minority group. About 6.5% of California lawyers are Latino, and Latinos make up nearly 38% of California's population.

African Americans, who make up 7% of the state's population, accounted for 6.1% of the judiciary, up from 4.4% in 2006. Nearly 6% of state judges identified as Asian, up from 4.4%, the court system found. Asians represent nearly 16% of the state's population.

The data also showed that 1.1% of the judges identified as lesbian, 1.1% as gay and 0.6% as transgender. About 2.3% of Californians identify themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

Many judges did not state their sexual orientation, including one on the California Supreme Court, 34 on the Court of Appeal and 612 on the trial courts. Participation in the survey was voluntary.

Governors appoint the vast majority of judges.

Joel Murillo, president of the La Raza Lawyers of California, said he expected the number of Latino judges to grow as more Latinos graduate from law school.

"I think it will improve as time goes on," Murillo said. "The number of attorneys who are Spanish surnamed in California has remained on a very slow but upward course. As the law schools are able to admit more Latinos, then we will have more Latino lawyers and we will have more Latino judges."

Emi Gusukuma, president of the Asian American Bar Assn. of the Greater Bay Area, said she was pleased that the bench was growing more diverse but lamented that Asian Americans were "shockingly underrepresented" among judges in parts of the state, including the Central Valley.

The report said that 11.7% of the judges on the Los Angeles County Superior Court were Latino, 7.7% Asian and 9% African American. In Orange County, 6.1% of the judges were Asian, 4.4% black and 7.0% Latino.

The Ventura County Superior Court reported no Asian or African American judges. Nearly 4% of the judges on the Ventura bench were Latino. Of the San Diego County Superior Court judges, 2.4% identified as Asian, 4.8% as African American and 6.5% as Latino.

maura.dolan@latimes.com

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