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SACRAMENTO � Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday named San Diego County prosecutor Sharon Majors-Lewis as his new judicial appointments secretary. Majors-Lewis, 58, is the first African-American and the first woman to hold the job, and she’s the first active prosecutor named to the post in recent memory. “Sharon’s legal expertise makes her a great asset and a fantastic addition to my administration,” Schwarzenegger said in a press release. “I look forward to working with her to appoint qualified and diverse individuals to the bench.” Majors-Lewis’ appointment comes as the governor prepares to name 50 trial court judges in the coming months � the first wave in what judiciary officials hope will be 150 new bench positions created through 2009. Schwarzenegger and his former judicial appointments adviser, John Davies, were heavily criticized by Democrats and minority bar organizations last year for not doing more to diversify the bench. In selecting Majors-Lewis, Schwarzenegger appears to be addressing those critics while assuaging Republicans who feared he would add another prominent Democrat to his administration. Majors-Lewis is a registered Republican. “I look forward to working with a governor who has demonstrated he has the conviction to think outside the box to make positive changes,” Majors-Lewis said in a prepared statement. The press offices of the governor and San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis declined to make Majors-Lewis available for an interview on Thursday. Majors-Lewis is a chief deputy district attorney in San Diego County, where she oversees cases in three court branches as well as in the juvenile division. Before joining the DA’s office in 1987, Majors-Lewis worked for the Department of Defense for two decades. Deputy Public Defender Lei-Chala Wilson met Majors-Lewis in 1989, when she was the only African-American woman prosecutor in the district attorney’s office.
‘I think the governor, in naming the first minority and the first woman to be judicial appointments secretary is really an indication that he’s going to take seriously his pledge to diversify the bench in California.’


“I thought she was very fair and open to our point of view,” Wilson said. “She wasn’t one of those hard-line prosecutors who say it’s got to be my way or no way.” Wilson said she thinks public defenders will get a fair shake from Majors-Lewis if they apply for judgeships. “I don’t feel that she’ll be one of those judicial appointments secretaries who say no, we’re not going to appoint public defenders because we don’t want to seem soft on crime,” Wilson said. “She knows that’s not what the judicial system is all about. We all have a part to play.” Wilson is president and Majors-Lewis is a member of the Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association, an affiliate of the California Association of Black Lawyers. Majors-Lewis is also a member of the Lawyers Club of San Diego, a group advocating more opportunities for women in the legal profession. One of Majors-Lewis’ first tasks as judicial appointments secretary will be working with the judiciary and the Assembly speaker on rewriting the state’s judges application to expand the pool of applicants. Schwarzenegger’s critics sought the revision last year as a means of encouraging more minorities to apply. In the office of Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, who briefly stalled authorization of 50 new judgeships last year in a spat with Schwarzenegger over the diversity of his previous picks, counsel Fredericka McGee said “we’ve heard nothing but great things” about Majors-Lewis. “The proof is in the pudding, but based on the endorsements we’ve heard, we’re happy with the choice,” McGee said. Leaders of ethnic bar groups around the state were equally supportive of Majors-Lewis’ appointment. “I think the governor, in naming the first minority and the first woman to be judicial appointments secretary is really an indication that he’s going to take seriously his pledge to diversify the bench in California,” said Christopher Arriola, the judicial chairman of La Raza Lawyers. Majors-Lewis is relatively unknown around the Capitol and was not mentioned by insiders as a candidate to replace Davies. The early favorite was Timothy Simon, Schwarzenegger’s chief appointments secretary. Schwarzenegger on Thursday named Simon to the California Public Utilities Commission. Over the last year, Simon had increasingly become the governor’s liaison to bar groups disenchanted with judicial picks made under Davies’ watch. Although he defended Davies and Schwarzenegger vigorously, Simon was popular among both the administration’s critics and supporters. “I’ll really miss him,” said State Bar President Sheldon Sloan. “He’s been outstanding and he’s really gone above and beyond the call of duty. He’s been everywhere on behalf of this administration.” In a press release, the governor’s office said Majors-Lewis would work with chief of staff Susan Kennedy and legal affairs secretary Andrea Hoch to vet potential appointments. Majors-Lewis lives in Chula Vista, and earned her Juris Doctorate degree and a Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration from National University in San Diego.

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