The number of lawyers applying for judgeships in California last year dropped 37 percent from 2007, according to numbers released today by the governor’s office.
Just 262 attorneys submitted applications in 2008, down from 414 the year before and 325 in 2007. Rachel Cameron, a spokeswoman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said no one is sure why the numbers fell.
“We don’t have one particular thing we can point to one way or another,” Cameron said.
Only white guys still apply. All kinds of blame, after the jump.
The biggest drop-off occurred among non-white applicants. The number of African Americans applying fell by half between 2007 and 2008, from 54 to 20. Just 17 Asian Americans applied last year, down from 30 in 2007. The number of Hispanic candidates fell, too, from 54 to 23.
The number of white applicants declined as well, but only slightly, from 192 to 182.
“I’m not entirely surprised,” said Maribel Medina, president of La Raza Lawyers. “We certainly as minority bar associations have been doing a lot of outreach. But with things like the governor’s secret [vetting] committees, where there’s no consistency in process, no consistency in selection, people are starting to lose trust.”
Medina also cited the lengthy application process; some lawyers who applied two years ago or more are still waiting for a response from the governor’s office.
“The governor has not prioritized judicial appointments,” Medina said.
Adrienne Konigar-Macklin, president of the California Association of Black Lawyers, also blamed the slow and sometimes secretive system. Konigar-Macklin said she knows of four applicants who gave up on the appointment process and decided to run for election to the court instead.
“A lot of it, too, has to do with the economy and the number of lawyers who can’t afford to sit on the bench, especially if they’ve been practicing for 20 years,” she said.
The governor’s 96 judicial appointments in 2008 broke down like this: One third are women; 56.3 percent are white; 13.5 percent are Hispanic; 8.3 percent are African American; 6.3 percent are Asian American; 1 percent are Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander and 14.6 percent were described as “other” or “unknown.”
The governor likes to point out that his appointments are more diverse than the State Bar’s membership as a whole. Just 1.7 percent of Bar members are African American, for instance. But minority bar groups argue that his picks should better reflect California’s tremendous ethnic diversity.
More data on the racial and ethnic composition of state judges and judicial applicants is expected as soon as tomorrow from the Administrative Office of the Courts and the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation. The Civil Justice Association of California has also compiled stats on the professional backgrounds of Schwarzenegger’s appointments here.
— Cheryl Miller