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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

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