Background Information

COMMITTEE'S PURPOSE

The Judicial Council Access and Fairness Advisory Committee was appointed in March 1994 to monitor issues related to access to the judicial system and fairness in the state courts. The advisory committee's charge is consistent with the council's Long-Range Strategic Plan, in which access and fairness are targeted as primary goals. It is also part of the committee's charge to ensure that the council's projects pursuant to these goals are implemented and that new areas of focus are developed as appropriate.

HISTORY AND ORGANIZATION

The Judicial Council has a long history of working to improve fairness in the California court system, beginning with the Chief Justice's appointment of a special committee to review issues of gender bias in the courts in 1986 and the creation of the Judicial Council Advisory Committee on Gender Bias in the Courts in 1987. In March 1991, the Advisory Committee on Racial and Ethnic Bias in the Courts was appointed to review issues of racial and ethnic fairness in the judicial system. Its successor committee, the Access and Fairness Advisory Committee, was appointed in 1994 to review and make recommendations about fairness issues in the courts related to race, ethnicity, gender, persons with disabilities, and sexual orientation. The advisory committee is also directed to implement the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Racial and Ethnic Bias and Gender Bias in the Courts.

Associate Justice James R. Lambden of the Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, Division Two, chairs the advisory committee. Judge Gordon S. Baranco of the Superior Court of Alameda County is vice-chair. The advisory committee has five subcommittees:

  • Access for Persons With Disabilities Subcommittee, co-chaired by Sheila Conlon Mentkowski, Chief of the Client Assistance Program of the Department of Rehabilitation and Gordon “Sam” Overton, Deputy Attorney General at the Los Angeles Office of the Attorney General of the California Department of Justice;
  • Gender Fairness Subcommittee, co-chaired by Judge Franz E. Miller of the Superior Court of Orange County and Commissioner Catherine Lyons of the Superior Court of San Francisco County;
  • Racial and Ethnic Fairness Subcommittee, co-chaired by Judge Manuel J. Covarrubias of the Superior Court of Ventura County and Judge Allen Joseph Webster, Jr. of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County;
  • Sexual Orientation Fairness Subcommittee, co-chaired by Justice Laurie Zelon of the Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division Seven and Professor Todd Brower of Western State University College of Law; and
  • Women of Color Subcommittee, co-chaired by Associate Justice Maria P. Rivera of the Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, Division Four and Raquelle Myers, Staff Attorney with the National Indian Justice Center.
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