Political Notebook: Slight increase seen in number of CA LGBTjudges
by Matthew S. Bajko
The number of LGBT judges serving on California state courts continues to inch upwards.
Since 2011, when the state first began compiling demographic information about judges' sexual orientation and gender identity, the number of judges and justices who self report being LGBT has increased by four.
As of December 31, 2013 the number of LGBT judges had grown to 41, according to the 2014 annual report issued by the California Administrative Office of the Courts and released Friday, February 28. There are a total of 1,681 judges serving on the state bench.
As has been the case in years past, no judges identified as being bisexual, while Alameda County Superior Court Judge Victoria Kolakowski remains the state's sole transgender jurist. Twenty judges said they were gay, and 20 identified as lesbian.
The LGT judges comprise 2.46 percent of the state's judiciary, compared to the 60.4 percent who identify as heterosexual.
Another 37.2 percent, or 625 judges, declined to state their sexual orientation or gender identity on the survey. It was the lowest number of judges who did not answer the question since it was first added.
The tally shows that the LGBT community remains under-represented on the state's bench, Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom Co-Chair Jamie Dupree told the Bay Area Reporter.
"It is BALIF's top priority to place more LGBT judges on the bench. The latest report demonstrates that we still have a lot of work to do," Dupree, an attorney with San Francisco law firm Futterman Dupree Dodd Croley Maier LLP, wrote in an email. "We are pleased that there is some progress in the number of LGBT judges, but the overall number of LGBT judges remains disappointingly low."
Kolakowski said she's not surprised that there aren't more openly transgender judges.
"It is still difficult for us to obtain the experience that people look for on a judge's resume," she said in an email. "Many transgender attorneys had to continually weigh being open about their gender identity against developing their career, a choice that nobody should have to make."
The vast majority of the LGT judges serve on the state's trial courts. Los Angeles has the most with 10, while San Francisco has the second highest with six judges. Twelve of the state's 58 trial courts have judges who identify as LGT.
Two gay men are serving on the state's Court of Appeal, one in the First District and the other in the Fifth District. Of the 95 total appellate court justices, 31 declined to answer the question.
Of the seven justices on the California Supreme Court, six marked heterosexual on their forms, with the seventh declining to answer the question. The identities of the individual justices are not disclosed, but it has long been rumored that one of the female justices is a closeted lesbian.
In his report on the diversity of his judicial picks, Governor Jerry Brown reported that his office had received 23 LGBT applicants for judicial seats last year. He appointed one LGBT person to the bench, however it is unclear who that person was as the governor's office rarely discloses the sexual orientation of its judicial appointees.
Over the last three years Brown reported receiving 39 applications from LGBT people and appointing five LGBT judges. With a vacancy to fill on the state Supreme Court and the local First District Court of Appeal, the governor could make history by naming LGBT people to the seats.
BALIF has publicly called on Brown to name San Francisco Chief Deputy City Attorney Therese Stewart to the appellate court bench.
"Governor Brown currently has an opportunity to appoint the first openly LGBT justice on the California Supreme Court and the first lesbian on the California Court of Appeal," noted Dupree. "The governor has made many historic appointments and we continue to urge him to do so with LGBT judicial candidates. A state as rich and diverse as California can only be served through a judiciary that properly reflects our population."
Castro biz group prez stepping down
After two years at the helm of the Castro's business association, Terry Asten Bennett has opted to step down and not seek another term as president.
Expected to succeed her is Daniel Bergerac , a co-owner of Mudpuppy's class=st> Tub and Scrub dog-washing service. His nomination for the post will be put forward at the group's meeting Thursday (March 6) and should be approved in April.
"I think this is a really exciting time in the Castro with the sidewalk widening project set to begin, and so much new retail space coming on line along Market Street," Bergerac told the B.A.R. "I'm very proud to have been asked to take over the helm of the Castro Merchants, and to follow such dynamic presidents as Terry Austin Bennett and Steve Adams. I believe in small business. I believe in the power of groups working together to effect positive change."
Bergerac doesn't expect any competition for the presidency, though he said he "would welcome it."
Bennett, whose family has long owned Cliff's Variety, oversaw the merchant group's recent name change from the Merchants of Upper Market and Castro to the shorter, and simpler, Castro Merchants and the re-launch of its website.
Her tenure was also embroiled by a series of highly public debates that buffeted the city's gay district.
The controversies ranged from chain stores coming to upper Market Street, homeless people congregating on benches at Harvey Milk Plaza, and the nudists who frequently gathered at Jane Warner Plaza.
Under her watch, the business group enacted a policy to never lower the over-sized rainbow flag flying above the intersection of Castro and Market streets and ended raising the leather flag during the city's annual Leather Week.
The issue had been percolating for some time due to complaints from activists upset that their demands to lower the flag in honor of high-profile people, whether LGBT or straight allies, when they died were not granted. The mishandling of a request to fly the transgender community's flag in 2012, which led some to call for a boycott of Bennett's family business, ultimately led to the decision to adopt the new flag policy.
Her term officially ends in April. Bennett told the B.A.R. she wants to focus on transitioning the management of her family's store to her and her husband from her elderly parents.
No fee hike for F-Line trolley
Don't expect to see fares rise to $6 for a ride on the historic F-Line streetcars running up Market Street from the waterfront to the Castro district.
During a meeting with the Bay Area Reporter last week, Tom Nolan, a gay man who chairs the city's Municipal Transportation Agency board, which oversees budget issues for the city's public transit system, was unequivocal in opposing a fare hike for the historic trolley cars.
"We are not going to do that," Nolan said.
The MTA board has until May 1 to submit its budget proposal for fiscal years 2015 and 2016 to Mayor Ed Lee and the Board of Supervisors.
Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check http://www.ebar.com Monday mornings at noon for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column reported on the plan to ban plastic water bottle sales in SF.
Keep abreast of the latest LGBT political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/politicalnotes.
Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 861-5019 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.