Pathways to Judicial Diversity
A Judicial Council Initiative to Promote Diversity on the Bench

Mentor Future Judicial Officers: Judicial Officer Mentorship Program

A Judicial Officer Mentorship Program relies on experienced judges to give valuable guidance and feedback to potential judicial candidates, helping them assess their suitability for the bench, develop career plans, and develop skills to improve their opportunities to become judicial officers. The mentoring program provided below is only one model and courts are encouraged to create more customized programs that are best suited for local needs, partnerships, and resources.

Program Overview

  • Mentors are judges and justices—active or retired—who agree to mentor at least one attorney per year. Lawyers interested in seeking judicial appointment in the county or region who want to be mentored submit applications.
  • Mentors are expected to commit to a minimum of four meetings per year with their assigned mentees and be reasonably available by phone. Mentors and mentees can agree to an appropriate schedule of more or fewer meetings.
  • Assignments depend on the number of judges who volunteer to mentor. Both mentors and mentees should be allowed to approve the match or request a different assignment.

Participant Outreach

To ensure an inclusive group of participants, courts should encourage lawyers from underrepresented groups or communities to be involved in the mentoring program. This includes outreach not only to local bars but to specialty bars and attorneys with diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds; attorneys with disabilities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) attorneys; and attorneys who regularly serve these communities.

Role of Court Leadership and Committees

A successful mentoring program must have the support of court leadership, and court diversity committees can also play an important role. Diversity committees can meet with the presiding judge, assistant presiding judge, and court executive officer to discuss the program and to resolve any concerns, such as cost, time commitment, fairness, conflicts of interest, publicity, geographical challenges, and outreach. However, the committees’ role should be to assist the Judicial Officer Mentorship Program committee with administration and outreach.

Partnering with Other Courts and/or Bar Assocations

Mentoring programs are often joint efforts between courts and local bar associations. Larger counties often have enough participants to sustain their own program, while smaller counties may need a regional program to recruit enough participants while avoiding disabling conflicts of interest.

While courts alone can create mentoring programs, local bars can help by communicating directly and efficiently with their members, and even provide administrative support for the program.

Sample Timeline: Setting Up A Judicial Mentoring Program

First, a Judicial Officer Mentorship Program committee must be established with input from county court leadership and/or local bar associations. The following is a sample timeline of the committee’s activities:

  • Appoint a Judicial Officer Mentorship Program committee.
  • Meet with regional court and/or bar association leaders.
  • Create administrative structure.
  • Present program to county bench officers.
  • Prepare publicity/outreach materials.
  • Identify people and groups who can assist the judicial branch in achieving its stated goal to “reflect the diversity of the state’s residents.”
  • Solicit applications from mentors and mentees.
  • Pair mentors and mentees.
  • Disseminate guidelines, discussion topics, and activities to mentors and mentees.
  • Committee distributes evaluations.
  • JMP committee /matching committee reviews and reports on evaluations.
  • JMP committee/matching committee/local bars adjust program to respond to evaluations

Ongoing:

At least once a year, launch new round of publicity and reopen the application period.

Sample Materials

The Judicial Officer Mentorship Program is based on the award-winning project sponsored by the Alameda County Bar Association and the East Bay Diversity Bar Coalition, working in concert with judges of the Alameda County Superior Court.