Bo Tefu, California Black Media
Three African American judges are among 10 new members of the California Judiciary Gov. Gavin Newsom tapped last week to join the Trial Court Mentor Program, an initiative created to promote diversity and inclusion in the state’s executive and judicial branches. The program is designed to make the Appellate Court and Trial Court application process more transparent and accessible for those interested and to develop a qualified and diverse pool of judicial applicants across California, the governor office says. Gov. Newsom emphasized that diversity is one of California’s greatest strengths and that the state is committed to ensuring that various communities are represented at every level of government. “This mentoring program supports our efforts to identify the best and brightest judicial candidates from throughout the state, contributing to a stronger, more inclusive bench to better serve all Californians,” said Newsom.
A seven-judge executive committee is responsible for facilitating the Judicial Officer Mentorship Program, including African American Justices Teri L. Jackson of California’s First District Court of Appeal and California Supreme Court Associate Justice Martin Jenkins. The executive committee, co-chaired by Jenkins, will spearhead actions that will identify and provide judicial mentors for lawyers and judges interested in serving on the appellate and trial courts. The ten judges appointed by the executive committee to the trial court mentor program include African American judges from Northern California, San Diego, and Los Angeles. They are joining other judges from the Bay Area, Central Coast, Central Valley, Inland Empire and greater Los Angeles area of California.
The African American judges are Judge Monique Langhorne of the Napa County Superior Court; Judge Roderick Shelton of the San Diego County Superior Court; and Presiding Judge Eric Taylor of the Los Angeles County Superior Court, according to the governor’s office. The co-chair of the executive committee, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Bacigalupo, highlighted the importance of transparency and accessibility on the state’s judicial benches. “In making justices and judges accessible to prospective judicial applicants, we hope to demystify the application process and recruit a wide array of qualified candidates to serve our courts and administer justice fairly, equitably, and honorably,” said Bacigalupo. Prior to the Trial Court Mentor Program, the state implemented the Appellate Court Mentor Program as a pilot in the First District Court of Appeal.
Retired Judge Jenkins said that he looks forward to working with the executive committee, “to build a mentor program throughout our great state to meet the Governor’s goal of diversity, equity, and inclusion in our judiciary.” Administrative Presiding Justice Jim Humes of the First District Court of Appeal said that the pilot program will be expanded across the state of California. “We plan to conduct outreach events and provide mentors for those interested in an appellate court appointment,” said Humes. The state’s judicial initiatives were implemented following the creation of the Opens Judicial Selection Advisory Committees in 2019. That year, Newsom announced eight selection committees that are responsible for providing preliminary and non-partisan feedback on candidates nominated for California’s judiciary.
The selection committee is made up of judges and attorneys chosen by the retired Justice Martin Jenkins who serves as California’s Judicial Appointments Secretary. “Judges make decisions every day that affect every Californian,” said Gov. Newsom. “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,” he said.
Candidates for the selection committee also included nominations from affinity groups across the state’s judiciary. Among those that participated in the candidate selection process were the Association of African American California Judicial Officers, Judicial Council of the California Association of Black Lawyers, California Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Judges Association, and the California Women Lawyers. Gov. Newsom said that the state implemented the initiatives to promote diversity and inclusion in the judicial process, which is an, “essential
function of our democracy.”