Newsom Shines Light on Process of Picking California Judges

California Gov. Gavin Newsom. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

(CN) – In California, the world of judicial appointments can seem murky and secretive to the public. But on Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom made the process a little more transparent by releasing the names of the 111 advisers who will help him vet judicial candidates.

This is a departure from previous governors, who have kept those names private.

“The people of our state have little insight on the process by which judges are chosen; it is only fair that the public knows who is helping to select the people who will serve them,” Newsom said in a statement.

After filling out the application, the Judicial Selection Advisory Committee’s review process is the first step toward a judicial appointment. There are eight of these committees representing eight regions of California, and they are made up of state court judges, appellate justices, prosecutors and other attorneys who live and work in those areas. The members, chosen by Newsom and Judicial Appointments Secretary Justice Martin Jenkins, will provide “preliminary, nonpartisan feedback on candidates and help promote a diverse and inclusive nomination process” for judges.

“For the first time in California history, the individuals who provide important feedback on judicial candidates for nomination and appointment will be known to the public,” Newsom’s office said in a statement.

In an email, Judge Steve White, president of the Alliance of California Judges, applauded the move.

“I think the governor’s decision is commendable. The advisory committee members perform a central role in the process that leads to appointment or rejection of judicial applicants.  There is no good reason for keeping this from the public. There never has been,” White said.

The Bay Area committee includes Facebook vice president and general counsel Paul Grewal – a former federal judge – as well as class action defense attorney Quyen Ta of Boies Schiller Flexner, Kim Hunter with the Alameda County District Attorney’s office and plaintiff attorney Niall McCarthy with Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy.

Former California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno was chosen to represent Los Angeles, along with Beverly Hills lawyer Thomas Girardi, the husband of “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Erika Jayne.

Others are also current members of the Judicial Council, like Justice Marsha Slough of San Bernardino, Justice Brad Hill of Fresno and Judge Stacey Boulware Eurie of Sacramento.

Judge Paul Baciagalupo, the president of the California Judges Association – which represents the state’s more than 2,000 judges – said the move promotes transparency and inclusivity.

“The California Judges Association applauds Governor Gavin Newsom for taking a historic step to increase transparency in the judicial selection process,” he said in a statement emailed to Courthouse News, adding, “CJA especially recognizes its colleagues who have been invited to join the JSACs and are grateful for their public service to promote a diverse and inclusive nomination process for California’s judiciary.”

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