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

Inspire the Next Generation: Judicial Pipeline Programs

Creating a judiciary that reflects the vast diversity of California depends on our ability to build a more diverse pipeline of judicial candidates.

To meet this goal, we should start at elementary school and continue through college and law school with a concerted effort by judges, lawyers and educators to make sure students from underrepresented communities know the path available to them in the legal profession.

In fact, California Rules of Court rule 10.5 states, “judicial participation in community outreach should be considered an official judicial function to promote public understanding of and confidence in the administration of justice.” Judges who take an active part in their community help increase public understanding and promote confidence in the integrity of our court system.

Here are some ways you can help:

  1. Create mentoring programs for students interested in the law, focused on under resourced schools in low-income areas, in partnership with local and specialty bars and educators.
  2. Support an annual mock trial or moot court competition.
    • Provide court facilities as competition venues, in compliance with facility use policies.
    • Volunteer to coach a team, especially from underrepresented and underserved areas.
    • The Constitutional Rights Foundation has a mock trial program that would be useful to explore.
  3. Launch law academies or educational programs (e.g. Law Day) that teach students about the judicial branch and legal careers, working with school boards and administrators, and local and specialty bars. The California Law site has a list of law academies.

Programs in Action

Statewide Programs

Appellate Court Proceedings in High Schools

The Appellate Court Experience includes high school curriculum, followed by visiting an appellate court to watch oral arguments in the case students learned about in their classroom. After oral argument, students interact with justices and attorneys.

Color of Justice Program

The National Association of Women Judges developed this half-day program to encourage minority students in grades 7-12 to consider a career in the law or judiciary. The program includes panels of judges and justices who discuss their career trajectory and the challenges and rewards of their profession.

Court Tours

Courts may partner with local school districts to provide tours to elementary and middle school students. This may include meeting with a judge to learn about the job and spark interest in a career in law or law enforcement. Students may also tour courts, watch part of a trial, and participate in a mock trial during the lunch hour in a courtroom. Learn about San Diego Superior Court’s program.

High School Law Academies

Many high schools have developed law academies for students interested in law or criminal justice. Many of these academies field teams for the mock trial competition sponsored by the Constitutional Rights Foundation, so courts can often identify local law academies by their participation in this competition. Teachers in charge of law academies generally welcome help from local judges and lawyers.

Youth, Peer and Teen Courts

Youth courts offer an alternative to the juvenile justice system. Also called peer, student, or teen court, this model presents real consequences for first-time offenders and involves teen volunteers and former defendants in the court process. Youth charged with an offense forgo juvenile court and agree to be sentenced by a jury of their peers; other teens have been trained to assume various roles, including those of attorneys and court staff. Under the Judicial Council–approved model, an adult judge presides over the court proceeding.

County Programs

Alameda County

The Center for Youth Development through Law provides transformative educational programs to youth from under-resourced East Bay communities, in cooperation with UC Berkeley School of Law.

Marin County

Courts for Kids teaches children about the court system and the services it provides.

Orange County

Orange County Superior Court holds an annual Constitution Day conference to introduce high school students to the importance of the Constitution, registering to vote, and participating in the election process.
Materials can be found at the court’s Student Resource Center.

San Joaquin County

Youth Leadership Academy is a collaborative “courtroom as classroom” program for high school students operated by the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s office, in coordination with the court, Public Defender’s Office, and county Bar Association. This program allows students to engage in hands-on learning to develop personal and professional leadership skills.

To add your outreach program to our list, use this brief survey.