Tri-counties Judicial Mentor Program Map


Tri-Counties Judicial Mentor Program Offers Guidance to Attorneys Seeking Judgeships

Two-year-old program in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties has 22 volunteer judges mentoring 29 attorneys.
Dec 13, 2023

Judicial Mentor programs identify and encourage a broad range of qualified attorneys to consider careers on the bench, while providing them guidance on how to get there.  

Three-Counties Solution to Mentor Central Coast Candidates
In September 2021, the Superior Courts of San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties launched their Tri-Counties Judicial Mentor program. Judges from those courts volunteer their time to provide information and demystify the judicial application and vetting process. The mentor judges also help potential judicial candidates develop career plans and skills to navigate their pathways to the bench.

When a court from an attorney’s home county cannot pair the mentee with a judge who specializes in their practice area, the court will refer the mentee to one of the other two collaborating courts. Mentor judges commit to a minimum of four meetings with their mentees per year via phone, videoconference, or in person. The mentorship ends once the mentee submits an application to the Governor’s Office.

Mentorship Program Reaches out to Diverse Candidate Pool
To promote inclusivity and diversity of judicial candidates, the mentorship program reaches out to lawyers from underrepresented communities, specialty bars, diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, LGBT communities, and those with disabilities.

I come from a blue-collar background and none of my close professional colleagues and friends had gone through the process before me,” said newly appointed San Luis Obispo County Judge Crystal Seiler. “The mentor program helped me understand what to expect at every stage of the process. In the midst of a process that can leave applicants feeling very vulnerable, having a mentor program that focuses on access, support, and understanding is really wonderful.”

Mentorship Program Expanding
Over the last two years, the three courts have received a combined 29 applications and 22 volunteering judges. All applicants have been successfully matched with a mentor.

Number of volunteer judges and mentees in each county from 2021–2023.


San Luis Obispo County Judge Rita Federman

“The mentor program has been an invaluable tool to demystify the process and make it more transparent,” said San Luis Obispo County Judge Rita Federman, chair of the Judicial Mentor Committee, the body that oversees the tri-counties program. “Mentees have uniformly expressed their appreciation that they are able to speak directly to a judge who can offer suggestions and guidance about completing the application and respond to questions about our day-to-day work.”

Learn more about the Tri-counties Judicial Mentor Program.

Statewide Effort to Increase Judicial Diversity
According to data from the Judicial Council of California, for 17 years in a row, California’s judicial bench has grown more diverse. But even with this encouraging trend, approximately 60% of the state’s justices and judges are white men.

In addition to making diverse appointments to the bench, California Governor Gavin Newsom in 2021 announced the creation of the California Judicial Mentor Program as a statewide undertaking between the executive and judicial branches to advance the shared goal of an inclusive judiciary that reflects California’s population. That program includes an appellate court program, as well as a trial court mentor program that launched in Los Angeles County and has expanded across the state. A key tool in developing the mentoring programs, the council’s Judicial Diversity Toolkit encourages courts to reach out to underrepresented groups, including individuals with diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.