Oakland hearing to probe judicial diversity

corbett.jpgState Senate Judiciary Committee chairwoman Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, will convene a hearing Thursday in Oakland on diversity and transparency in California’s judicial appointments — a topic on which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has taken some heat.

Corbett issued a news release saying she called the hearing in the wake of a State Bar of California report showing a lack of ethnic and gender diversity in California’s superior courts.

“The governor is going to have a historic opportunity in the next two years to shape the superior courts of California,” she said. “That is why we must act now to ensure that the process is open and provides an equal opportunity to increase ethnic and gender diversity in our state courts.”

Among those scheduled to testify at the hearing — open to the public, at 10 a.m. Thursday in the Alameda County Board of Supervisors’ hearing room at 1221 Oak St. in Oakland — are California Chief Justice Ronald George; Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brenda Harbin-Forte; Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation chairman William Kopeny and director Bilganna Sivanov; former State Bar president Anthony Capozzi; and others. Sharon Majors-Lewis, the governor’s judicial appointments secretary, was invited but has not yet confirmed whether she’ll attend.

2006 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Phil Angelides had criticized Schwarzenegger’s alleged lack of diversity in judicial appointments last year, and legislative Democrats made it the subject of a budget battle this summer. But the governor has always insisted his administration is making progress on diversifying the state’s bench.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.