Choices for judgeships run the political gamut | TheUnion.com

Choices for judgeships run the political gamut

Trina Kleist

President George W. Bush’s nomination of the solidly conservative John Roberts to the Supreme Court has polarized the political community, as a handful of federal court nominees did earlier this year. In contrast, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has so far chosen moderates from both sides of the political spectrum to fill local judicial vacancies.

Schwarzenegger is expected to appoint two new judges to the Nevada County Superior Court, replacing retiring judges Ersel Edwards and John Darlington. No date has been set for the appointments, but several local lawyers have applied for consideration.

Schwarzenegger so far has appointed 85 judges to county benches. Of those, 41 are Republican, 33 are Democrat and 11 declined to state a political affiliation, gubernatorial spokeswoman Julie Soderlund said.

The appointees seem to have caused little concern about their ideological leanings, said state Assemblyman Dave Jones. Jones, D-Sacramento, is chairman of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, which oversees the state judicial system though it does not play any role in judicial confirmations.

“I do give the governor credit for his even-handedness with regard to appointing Republicans and Democrats,” Jones said. “The chief concern is the diversity of the appointees.”

Though the governor’s appointments closely reflect the gender and ethnic mix of the state’s lawyers, that pool under-represents the proportion of women and ethnic minorities in the general population.

“That goes back to what’s happening in law schools and our educational system,” Jones said. “Our judiciary does not fully reflect the broad ethnic diversity of the state. That’s an area we’d like to see the governor do better in.”

The near-equality of Republican and Democrat appointees is historically unusual, said Santa Clara University School of Law Professor Brad Junda, who followed Schwarzenegger’s early appointments.

San Diego County Superior Court Judge Francis M. Devaney, a former city attorney, told the Los Angeles Times that he had heard about “a litmus test” for judicial candidates. Instead, Schwarzenegger judicial appointments adviser John Davies “mostly just gossiped with him about San Diego politics,” Devaney said the July 6 article.

“There’s also a broader diversity (of legal experience) than in the past,” Junda said. “Under governors (Pete) Wilson and (George) Deukmejian, we saw a lot of prosecutors. Schwarzenegger is appointing some public defenders and criminal defense lawyers. I think legal diversity is a significant factor.”

State Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley, said he hopes Schwarzenegger chooses candidates with deep roots in the local community.

“There is a longstanding tradition of a united Superior Court in Nevada County, thanks in part to the efforts of these two retiring judges,” Aanestad said. “It is my hope that (the governor) looks for someone who is committed to being a team player.”

To contact staff writer Trina Kleist, call 477 4231 or e-mail trinak@theunion.com.,/I>


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