Battle For Judgeships May Hinge on Race

This week’s legislative compromise to create 25 new judgeships next year has left nearly everybody wanting more. The governor wants 50. The state Senate wants 50. The chief justice wants at least 50.

But Assembly Democrats, unnerved by the thought of giving a Republican governor 50 judicial picks, are holding firm at 25. For now. Three sources close to budget negotiations say Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez may be willing to bump the number of appointments higher if Arnold Schwarzenegger agrees to name more ethnic minorities, specifically African-Americans and Latinos, to the bench.

Schwarzenegger has drawn some praise from Democrats for appointing a fair amount of their party-mates to judicial openings. But critics say he’s named too few judges of color, particularly Latinos.

No one was talking publicly Tuesday as top lawmakers huddled behind closed doors to hash out budget figures. But legislative leaders have said the number of new judges is still on the table. How Nunez could ever ensure that Schwarzenegger would indeed appoint more minorities isn’t clear. Nor is it easy to see the governor selling any deal resembling a quota system to fellow Republicans, especially those who say his picks so far haven’t been conservative enough.

But money for new judges is just one tiny piece of a $100 billion-plus budget that’s supposed to be signed by Thursday. As budget-writer Sen. Wes Chesbro, D-Arcata, said Monday, “What remains to be worked out is the details.”

Cheryl Miller




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