Are New Cal Judicial Survey Questions an Invasion of Privacy?

By Robyn Hagan Cain on March 14, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Of the 1,005 California judges who responded to the sexual orientation inquiry in the state’s latest judicial survey, 969 identified as heterosexual and 36 identified as gay or lesbian, reports the Los Angeles Times. Approximately 40 percent of the state’s judges selected the “none of your business” option; they refused to answer the question.

What is wrong with California that we’re asking for such private information from our jurists? Like most bureaucratic ills, this demand for disclosure originated in the legislative branch.

Equality California, the largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights advocacy organization in California, proposed the idea last year in SB 182, also known as the Judicial Applicant and Appointment Demographics Inclusion Act. According to the group, sexual orientation demographic information is "essential in creating a more diverse judiciary," reports Fox News.

The bill, which was sponsored by state Sen. Ellen Corbett, requests optional information from judicial candidates about sexual orientation and gender identification. Equality California hopes that providing this information to the Governor will lead to more judicial applicants and appointments from underrepresented groups, according to CitizenLink.

Several judges, however, told Fox News that the judicial survey was a waste of time and offensive.

Judicial privacy arguments aside, we're curious about the impact this additional disclosure will have on litigants. It's interesting that Equality California was lobbying for this bill last year while ProtectMarraige was arguing that retired-Judge Vaughn Walker committed judicial misconduct by failing to disclose his sexual orientation before hearing the Prop 8 challenge. Don't sexual orientation and gender identification surveys open the door for more accusations of bias in the courts?

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