Survey: California Bench Continues to Grow More Diverse
For the 13th straight year, California’s judicial bench has grown more diverse, according to new data released by the Judicial Council.
Gov. Jerry Brown's judicial appointments contributed to this increase, including the nearly 200 appointments made in his final year in office: women accounted for more than half of those appointees, and 41% identified as non-white.
The Judicial Council surveyed California judges and justices in December 2018 to get a snapshot of the demographics of the California bench—including gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Responding to the questionnaire is voluntary for judges, and the data only reflects the responses provided.
Among the findings:
Data show the percentage of female justices and judges has increased to 36.3%, compared to 27.1% in 2006, continuing a steady upward trend.
Race and Ethnicity
The data also show changes over the past 13 years in the percentage of justices and judges reported in the following race/ethnicity categories:
- American Indian or Alaska Native (0.5% in 2018 compared to 0.1% in 2006);
- Asian (7.7% in 2018 compared to 4.4% in 2006);
- Black or African American (7.7% in 2018 compared to 4.4% in 2006);
- Hispanic or Latino (10.6% in 2018 compared to 6.3% in 2006);
- Pacific Islander (0.2% in 2018 compared to 0.1% in 2006);
- White (66.3% in 2018 compared to 70.1% in 2006);
- Some Other Race (1.0% in 2018 compared to 0.2% in 2006);
- More Than One Race (3.9% in 2018 compared to 4.4% in 2006); and
- Information Not Provided (2.1% in 2018 compared to 9.9% in 2006).
These changes reflect judicial retirements and other departures from the bench, new judicial appointments, and an increase in the number of trial court judges who voluntarily provided race/ethnicity information.
Gender Identity/Sexual Orientation
This is the 8th year that the study includes data on gender identity and sexual orientation, as required by a law passed in 2011. More than 70% of respondents provided information about gender identity/sexual orientation, reporting the following:
- Heterosexual, 70.7%;
- Lesbian, 1.5%;
- Gay, 1.8%;
- Bisexual, 0.1%;
- Transgender, 0.1%; and
- Information not provided, 25.8%.
Veteran and Disability Status
In addition, this is the 5th year that the study includes data on veteran and disability status. These questions were first asked of justices and judges who were new to the bench during the 2014 calendar year, although judges appointed before this date are free to update this aspect of their demographic profile as well. Of the 582 trial court judges responding to the question about their status as a veteran, 44 respondents (8%) indicated they have served in the military. Of the 587 judges responding to the question concerning their disability status, 12 judges (2%) indicated they have a disability.
About Judicial Officer Demographic Data
Government Code section 12011.5(n) requires the Judicial Council to collect and release aggregate demographic data on California state justices and judges by March 1 every year. This is the 13th year that the information has been collected and released.
Increasing the diversity of California’s judicial officers to reflect the rich diversity of California’s populace continues to be a key goal of the Judicial Council.