Last June, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the appointment of the first African-American to serve as an appellate justice in California, the Judicial Council unanimously approved a resolution commending the significant achievements of the 17 African-Americans who have served at that level of the state judiciary. Following passage of this resolution, a series of public ceremonies honoring these distinguished members of the California courts have been held at several locations around the state. At the latest of these events, a reception held on Dec. 6 by the Diversity Committee of the San Mateo County Bar Association, State Bar President Jon Streeter gave the following remarks.
There are currently 1,699 Article VI judicial officers in the state of California. Of these judges, 95 are African-American; and of those 95, five sit in the appellate courts. As stark as these figures are, they represent real progress. And it is that progress that we are assembled here this evening to celebrate. These numbers represent the great legacy of African-American jurists in the California courts.
Fifty years ago, the first African-American appellate justice was appointed to the Second District Court of Appeal by Gov. Pat Brown. That justice was Edwin Jefferson, who had become the state's first black trial judge 20 years earlier when he was appointed to the Los Angeles County Municipal Court. Jefferson was the first African-American trial judge west of the Mississippi. Fittingly, he was promoted to the Superior Court by Gov. Earl Warren.
Following the path blazed by Jefferson, 13 other African-American justices have been appointed to Courts of Appeal based in San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles and Riverside. Three have been appointed to the California Supreme Court, including two from here in the Bay Area: Wiley Manuel, who served on the high court from 1977 to 1981, and Allen Broussard, who was a Supreme Court justice from 1981 to 1991.
Justice Manuel, the first African-American on the California Supreme Court, had previously served for 23 years in the state attorney general's office, and also served one year as an Alameda County Superior Court judge, before serving a relatively brief term on the state high court, from 1977 to 1981. He was appointed to the court by our current governor, Jerry Brown, who profoundly changed the demographics of the California courts during his first stint in the governor's chair, and who deserves much credit for legitimizing the value of diversity in our courts.
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