Asian American Bar Association calls attention
to need for bench diversity
By Elizabeth Daley, Bay City News Service
March 15, 2007
The Asian American Bar Association has joined with public defender
Jeff Adachi and District Attorney Kamala Harris to speak out against
a lack of Asian American representation on the Superior Court
bench throughout the Bay Area, the organization announced yesterday.
"Recent Judicial Council data clearly shows that the Bay
Area bench fails to reflect our communities," said David
Chiu, President of the Asian
American Bar Association.
"Now the judicial applicant pool has been increased, we
look forward to seeing the Governor take the next step to select
judges that come from our diverse Bay Area communities."
However, according to Sabrina Lockheart, a spokeswoman for Gov.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, "they are making unfair comparisons
because we are only allowed to appoint judges that have been on
the state bar for 10 years."
Lockheart said while the bar may be diverse today, judges from
minority groups who have 10 years of experience are either not
applying for appointments or are scarce.
Still, data from the Judicial Council of California show some
Bay Area counties such as Napa, don't have a single judge from
a minority group and Caucasian judges outnumber judges from all
other ethnic groups combined in every Bay Area county.
"The Governor recognizes bench must reflect diversity and
he wants to achieve this goal," said Lockheart.
"The under-representation of Asian Americans on the bench,
especially in the Bay Area, is cause for alarm and concern. The
Governor's rhetoric on this issue bears scant resemblance to reality,"
said Vincent Pan, executive director of Chinese for Affirmative
"Every day, our local courtrooms - attorneys, plaintiffs,
defendants and jurors - reflect our local communities," said
Victor Hwang, managing attorney for Asian Pacific Islander Legal
Outreach. "It is critical that our judges also reflect our
communities, so that Bay Area residents will have trust and faith
that our legal system is fair and just."
Citing progress made by the Governor, Lockheart mentioned the
appointment of Sharon Majors Lewis, the first African American
woman in history to advise the Governor on judicial appointments.
Lockheart said Lewis "does outreach to ethnic bar associations,"
and that the Governor's office is "looking at ways to change
the online application to encourage diverse applicants to apply."
However according to Patrica Kim, president of the Korean American
Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area, "There are a number
of well-qualified Asian American attorneys who have submitted
their names to be considered for judicial appointment. At present,
there are no Korean American judges in the Bay Area."
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