On Tuesday, May 7, 2024, the East Bay Times reported that the California Legislature’s Judiciary Committee passed a bill aimed at improving equal justice for women and minorities in the state’s courts.

The bill, SB 1356, looks to expand existing judicial training programs to help address issues of gender bias and discrimination facing women. It would require judges to receive instruction on understanding gender-based discrimination in different aspects of women’s lives. Judges would also learn how power dynamics have historically impacted women and minorities.

The training mandated by SB 1356 would educate judges on implicit and explicit biases, as well as common stereotypes about women that arise in judicial decision-making. Judges are intended to gain sensitivity on issues affecting vulnerable groups, such as women and minorities.

Currently, California law only requires judicial training on domestic violence and its effects on children. However, advocates argue more is needed to promote impartial and fair treatment for all residents. A recent UCLA report found that lengthy prison sentences often punish women in ways not connected to rehabilitation. It also noted that female defendants frequently have backgrounds involving gendered violence.

Proponents of SB 1356 believe the bill would help counter biases that can influence the judicial process and case outcomes. They point to the disproportionate numbers of women and minorities involved in California’s criminal justice system compared to their populations. Supporters say the legislation would help ensure the state’s courts provide equal treatment under the law.

The proposed changes to judicial training have earned support from the Silicon Valley Ethics Roundtable, a community group focused on ethical decision-making. SB 1356 was introduced by State Senator Aisha Wahab, a member of the Legislature’s Women’s Caucus, with the intent of addressing gaps in impartial justice and comprehensively training judges. The California Judicial Council has also reacted positively to the bill.

 

 

Source: East Bay Times