CALIFORNIA'S GOV. JERRY BROWN continues to diversify the state's judiciary with the appointment last Thursday (May 25) of five Asian/Americans to preside as judges in Superior Courts.
“It’s critical that our judiciary reflects our communities," said Assemblymember Rob Bonta, chair of the API Legislative Caucus. "As the fastest growing population in California, Asian Pacific Islanders have not been represented in appropriate numbers on the bench. This is a step in the right direction.”
The new judges are:
|Benjamin T. Reyes|
Benjamin T. Reyes' appointment to the Contra Costa County Superior Court makes him the county's first Filipino/American on the bench. He is a principal at Meyers, Nave, Rhack, Silver and Wilson PLC and city attorney for the cities of Union City and Pinole, both in the San Francisco Bay Area. Reyes, 51, earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of San Francisco School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, Berkeley. resident of Alameda is a lactive in the Bay Area legal community. He is a longtime supporter, former Vice-President and current advisory board member of the Filipino Bar Association of Northern California.
- Somnath "Raj" Chatterjee was appointed to the Alameda County Superior Court. Chatterjee, 47, of Oakland, has been a partner at Antolin Agarwal and Chatterjee LLP since earlier in 2017. He was a partner at Morrison and Foerster LLP from 2006 to 2017, where he was an associate from 1997 to 1999 and from 2000 to 2005. The Indian/American attorney served as a deputy public defender at the Contra Costa County Public Defender’s Office from 1999 to 2000. He earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
- Neetu Badhan-Smith has been appointed to Los Angeles Superior Court. Badhan-Smith has served as a deputy public defender at the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office since 2004. The 40-year-old Los Angeles resident was formerly an attorney at the Southern California Housing Rights Center. The Indian/American lawyer earned a Juris Doctor degree from Southwestern Law School and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, Los Angeles.
- Rubiya Nur, 52, will be joining Badhan-Smith on the bench of the Los Angeles Superior Court. She was born in Bangladesh. She has been a solo practitioner since 2008. Nur formerly served as a deputy public defender at the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office from 2001 to 2008. She earned a Juris Doctor degree from Southwestern Law School and a Bachelor of Science degree from California State University, San Bernardino.
|Winston S. Keh|
- Winston S. Keh will serve in the San Bernardino County Superior Court. Keh, 54, of Stevenson Ranch, has served as a commissioner at the San Bernardino County Superior Court since 2015. The Filipino/American was senior litigation attorney at Tharpe and Howell LLP in 2015, senior counsel at Diederich and Associates from 2012 to 2015 and an associate at R. Rex Parris Law Firm in 2012. Keh is a member of the Los Angeles-based Philippine American Bar Association, earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of La Verne College of Law and a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of West Los Angeles.
RELATED: Judge's son appointed to the benchAccording to the annual report released by the Judicial Council released prior to these latest appointments, over two-thirds of the state's judges are white as of Dec. 31, 2016. The report also showed slight increases of judges of color.
- Asian (6.5 percent in 2016 compared to 4.4 percent in 2006);
- Black or African American (6.9 percent in 2016 compared to 4.4 percent in 2006);
- Hispanic or Latino (10 percent in 2016 compared to 6.3 percent in 2006);
- Pacific Islander (0.2 percent in 2016 compared to 0.1 percent in 2006);
- White (68.8 percent in 2016 compared to 70.1 percent in 2006);
The report shows that despite the increases, the courts have a ways to go to be fully representative of California's diversitiy. For example, Asians mamke up 10 to 11 percent of the state's population but only 6.5 percent of the judges.
“A diverse judiciary ensures a wider range of perspectives and allows for more decision-making power among underrepresented groups,” he said.