Judiciary Diversity Touted by California Chief Justice

California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye gives the annual State of the Judiciary speech to a joint session of the Legislature on Tuesday, March 19, 2019. (Cynthia Miranda / Judicial Council of California)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – California’s judiciary is more diverse than ever in terms of gender and racial makeup, but Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said in her State of the Judiciary speech Tuesday there is much more work to do.

Cantil-Sakauye opened her speech before a joint session of the Legislature with an homage to the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote.

With women making up nearly half of former Gov. Jerry Brown’s judicial appointments – along with 41 percent of appointees being people of color – Cantil-Sakauye said “the judiciary now is more representative of the communities we serve in every way.

But she also noted “the civil rights movement that began in the ’50s remains unfinished.” Cantil-Sakauye said the judiciary must ensure it doesn’t become a two-tiered justice system that penalizes the poor with fees and fines and criminalizes their minor traffic offenses.

And in a nod to reports that the courts have paid more than $600,000 since 2012 to settle gender discrimination and sexual harassment claims she said: “We must ensure that we keep our workplaces safe and free from discrimination and harassment and that we treat each other and the public we serve with respect.”

The chief justice pointed to her workgroup on workplace discrimination and harassment prevention, which just updated the Judicial Council on its work last week and is expected to propose some recommendations later this year, as a step toward making courts “safer, respectful, and better for all.”

Cantil-Sakauye has also directed the council’s staff to make unconscious bias part of its training curriculum for judges.

“I plan on taking the first class,” she said.

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