By Professor Laurie Levenson and Courtnee Draper '14
This op-ed originally appeared in the Friday, Feb. 15, 2013 edition of the Los Angeles and San Francisco Daily Journal.
As Thomas Jefferson proclaimed, "The most sacred of the duties of a government is to do equal and impartial justice to all its citizens." To accomplish this goal, it is imperative that we have a diversified bench. Recent national studies show that minority groups lag far behind in their confidence in our judicial system. While 62 percent of white voters view the courts as fair and impartial, only 55 percent of non-whites feel the same. In fact, 85 percent of some minority groups believe there are two systems of justice: one for the rich and powerful, and one for everyone else.
Overall, judges of color account for just 12 percent of all state court judges chosen since 2000. In California, we have a long way to go until our bench reflects the population that it serves. For example, Asians comprise 15 percent of the state's population; however, they represent only 5 percent of all judges. A more concerted effort has been made to appoint African-Americans to the California bench. African-Americans constitute 6 percent of the state population, and they too represent only 5 percent of the current judges.
The greatest focus has been on the appointment of Latino judges. Since January 2011, 15 new Latino judges have been appointed to the bench, increasing the representation of Latino judges to 8.2 percent. Yet in a state where 37.6 percent of the population is Latino, there is still a long way to go before the bench is diverse enough that Latinos are anything other than "token" appointees.