As the governor prepares to name judges to 50 new bench positions this spring, critics of his judicial appointments record are gearing up too.
A coalition of civil rights organizations sent Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger a letter (.pdf) on Jan. 12, complaining again that the Republican leader hasn't appointed enough women or minority judges.
"We thought it was a good time to make the point that we need judges with the qualifications and backgrounds to do the work and inspire confidence in the courts among citizens across the state," said Jamienne Studley, co-chairwoman of the California Coalition for Civil Rights.
The complaint is the same one that Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez expressed last year when he temporarily blocked legislation creating 50 new judgeships. Nunez relented, but governor pledged to: rewrite the judicial application to downplay trial experience, to expand the pool of lawyers who apply; identify members of the private, regional vetting committees that Schwarzenegger uses to evaluate applicants; and increase outreach to minority bars.
Critics say they have seen more of Timothy Simon, the governor's appointments secretary, at bar gatherings but not Judicial Appointments Advisor John Davies. As for the other changes, "Those are all things we are still currently working on," said Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Sabrina Demayo Lockhart.
Thirty-one percent of judges appointed in 2006 were minorities, Lockhart said. Since 2003, 18.7 percent of Schwarzenegger's judicial appointees have been minorities, according to the administration.
"I am confident that when this Administration draws to a close, Governor Schwarzenegger's legacy of minority judicial appointments will compare favorably to that of any prior governor," Davies said in a prepared statement.
Critics don't seem so sure. And with the governor's recent budget calling for an additional 50 new judgeships in 2008, don't expect the issue to be resolved any time soon.
— Cheryl Miller