The U.S. Supreme Court is one-third female, an all-time high. California’s legal profession has also reached historic levels in gender diversity — nearly one-third of the state’s judges and 40 percent of its lawyers are women.
The state Supreme Court, all-male for its first 128 years, had a majority of female justices from 2011 through April 2014 and still is 50 percent women. The three-member commission that confirmed the latest nominee to the state’s high court, drawn from the top ranks of legal officials in California, consisted entirely of women.
So is it time to proclaim, in the words of a bygone cigarette commercial, “You’ve come a long way, baby”?
No way, says California’s chief justice.
If women make up 50 percent of the population, “then there should be 50 percent representation on the bench and in the (legal) profession,” Tani Cantil-Sakauye, the second woman to head the state Supreme Court and preside over the nation’s largest judicial system, said at a panel discussion in San Francisco last week.
When she was first appointed to the bench in 1963, said Joan Dempsey Klein, a state appeals court justice in Los Angeles who is now the state’s senior presiding appellate justice, “male lawyers would come in and call me 'dearie’ and 'honey.’ Anything but 'Your Honor.’”
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