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MEANING OF STATS STUBBORNLY REMAINS IN EYE OF THE BEHOLDER Numbers don’t lie, but when it comes to the issue of judicial diversity, they don’t always add up the same on everyone’s ledgers. Case in point: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office, the Judicial Council and the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation all released a slew of demographic numbers last week. The gush of figures was the product of a legislative deal last year that authorized 50 new judgeships while requiring all three entities to publish figures detailing the gender and ethnicity of active judges, judicial applicants and potential jurists evaluated by the JNE Commission. Critics, including many legislative Democrats, wanted proof the governor is doing everything he can to diversify the bench. The governor wanted to show that he’s doing all he can with a limited pool of minority State Bar members. By the end of the week, nobody seemed persuaded by the numbers to change their positions. On Monday the governor was crowing about figures that show blacks, Asian Americans and Latinos comprised a higher percentage of judicial applicants (19 percent) under his administration than their representation in the State Bar (11 percent in 2006). “Since taking office, my administration has focused on expanding the pool of minority judicial candidates, which is the key to making our bench more diverse,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement. Then on Thursday, the JNE Commission released its report (.pdf) on the gender and ethnicity of its evaluated candidates, and Schwarzenegger’s critics saw failure where he saw success. For instance, JNE considered 32 Latino candidates in 2006 and found 27 of them qualified, well-qualified or exceptionally well-qualified to be judges. But Schwarzenegger named just eight Latinos to the bench last year. “The bottleneck is not JNE,” said Christopher Arriola, the judicial chairman of California La Raza Lawyers, “but rather the governor’s office.” La Raza and other groups say judicial appointments should reflect the diversity of California, not the State Bar. Adding to the debate, the Judicial Council also issued a report last week that breaks down the number of women and ethnic minorities serving on the bench in all the state’s courts. Twenty percent of judges described themselves as Native American, Asian, black, Latino, Pacific Islander, of “some other race” or of “more than one race.” Just under 10 percent of jurists statewide did not respond to the Judicial Council’s survey. Judiciary leaders are now waiting for another set of numbers: the 50 new judges Schwarzenegger will start appointing as early as April. Observers say legislative Democrats’ happiness with those picks will have a lot to do with whether they authorize another round of 50 judgeships this summer.

Cheryl Miller

ROBOT DOG CASE ENDS IN WHIMPER Daniel Blank is taking the week off. And if you had won his recent verdict, you probably would, too. Blank, an assistant federal public defender in San Francisco, was lead counsel in the trial of David Lin, who spent the past six years incarcerated, awaiting trial on charges that he killed a man by sending him a pipe bomb disguised as a robot dog. On Feb. 23, a federal jury in San Jose acquitted Lin; he was released that afternoon. The case was never an easy one for prosecutors. Lin admits he sent the package in 2001 but said he didn’t know what was in it � and even the prosecutors agree that it was Lin’s friend, Anthony Chang, who built the bomb to kill Chang’s ex-wife’s brother, Patrick Hsu. But the U.S. attorney’s office had one major leverage point: Officials with the Justice Department in Washington decided to aim for a death verdict against Lin, the only defendant in the case since Chang is on the lam in Venezuela. So for five years the efforts of the defense team � then led by Assistant Federal Public Defender Nicholas Humy � were directed at ensuring Lin wouldn’t be killed. “The strategy before was just to hold out to make sure he didn’t get death,” Blank said Monday morning, speaking from his cell phone on his way to spend a day in the redwoods. “It took five years to do that.” Blank said it was Humy’s work that got death off the table about a year ago. But after Humy was diagnosed with cancer last year (he’s currently in remission and back at work), Blank stepped in to take over the case. Even without a capital case, the prosecutors pursued a first-degree murder charge, creating a tough standard for themselves since the jury had no option to convict Lin of a lesser crime. The severity of the charge, Blank said, played a big part in the victory. “What should have happened when they withdrew death is they should have offered some sort of negligent homicide, which we might have taken,” he added. Instead, the government went to trial, and Blank, along with Assistant Federal Public Defender Angela Hansen, managed to convince the jury that the sole murderer was Chang. By the time the jury went out, Blank said, he was optimistic his client would go free. “We had 10 good days,” he said. “We had a good day, and another good day, and another good day, and I thought, ‘When would we have a bad day?’ We didn’t.”

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