Survey Results: California Bench Continues to Grow More Diverse
For the 17th straight year, California’s judicial bench has grown more diverse, according to new data released by the Judicial Council.
As of December 31, 2022, responding female judicial officers constitute 39.9% of judicial officers across all court levels, a 1 percentage point increase over the prior year and an increase of more than 12 percentage points since 2006—the first year that data were collected for this purpose.
The bench also has continued to become more racially and ethnically diverse. The proportion of responding white judicial officers has declined by more than 8 percentage points since 2006. The percentage of responding Asian, Black, and Hispanic judicial officers has doubled over the same time period.
Statewide, Multi-Branch Effort to Increase Judicial Diversity
The Judicial Council recently updated its Strategic Plan for California’s Judicial Branch, making explicit the branch’s commitment to a diverse and inclusive court system. The plan supports efforts like the council’s Judicial Diversity Toolkit, which encourages courts to reach out to underrepresented groups—including individuals with diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, disabilities, and sexual orientations—to educate and advise them about pursuing careers in the law. The council also supports the Chief Justice’s Civic Learning Initiative, which promotes civic learning and engagement in our public schools.
In addition, the Judicial Mentor Program is a statewide undertaking between the Governor’s office and the courts to develop and recruit qualified and diverse judicial applicants—and the state’s appellate and superior courts have also started their own local mentor programs.
Progress on increasing judicial diversity has also continued under our current Governor’s appointments. Of Governor Gavin Newsom’s 288 appointments during his first 4-year term in office, more than half were women and 59% identified themselves as Asian, Black or African-American, Hispanic, or Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander.
In addition, last year Governor Newsom nominated Justice Patricia Guerrero as California’s new Chief Justice, who became the first Latina to hold that position. He also appointed Justice Kelli Evans, an openly gay justice of color and the newest justice on the California Supreme Court. And earlier in his term, he appointed Justice Martin Jenkins, the first openly gay justice and third African American man ever to serve on the state’s highest court.
Survey of California Bench
The Judicial Council surveyed California judges and justices in December 2022 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 39.9%, compared to 27.1% in 2006, continuing a steady upward trend.
Race and Ethnicity
The data also show changes over the past 17 years in the percentage of responding justices and judges reported in the following race/ethnicity categories:
- American Indian or Alaska Native (.4% in 2022 compared to 0.1% in 2006);
- Asian (9.3% in 2022 compared to 4.4% in 2006);
- Black or African American (8.6% in 2022 compared to 4.4% in 2006);
- Hispanic or Latino (12.5% in 2022 compared to 6.3% in 2006);
- Pacific Islander (0.4% in 2022 compared to 0.1% in 2006);
- White (61.4% in 2022 compared to 70.1% in 2006);
- Some Other Race (1.1% in 2022 compared to 0.2% in 2006);
- More Than One Race (4.5% in 2022 and also 4.4% in 2006); and
- Information Not Provided (1.9% in 2022 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 12th year that the study includes data on gender identity and sexual orientation, as required by a law passed in 2011. More than 80% of respondents provided information about gender identity/sexual orientation, reporting the following:
- Heterosexual – 75.4%
- Lesbian - 1.8%
- Gay - 2.6%
- Bisexual - 0.2%
- Transgender - 0.1%
- Information not provided – 19.8%
Veteran and Disability Status
In addition, this is the 9th 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 831 active trial court judges responding to the question about their status as a veteran, 52 respondents (6%) indicated they have served in the military. Of the 834 active judges responding to the question concerning their disability status, 19 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 report’s 17th year.
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.