Monday Morning Thoughts: Governor Newsom Has a Chance to Fix What He Helped to Break in Yolo County

The Judges of The Yolo County Superior Court prior to Dan Wolk’s 2020 appointment

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Woodland, CA – Governor Newsom has been rightly lauded for appointing the most diverse bench in California history—both at the Supreme Court level and the trial court level.  But you wouldn’t know it by looking at Yolo County.

When Governor Newsom in 2020 appointed Dan Wolk to Yolo Superior Court, that meant the Yolo County bench had nine of its 11 judges as white males, only two women, and only one person of color.

But Governor Newsom has a chance to fix this problem as he shifted Judge Peter Williams, a Sacramento resident, back to Sacramento in May and Judge David Reed last week announced his retirement.

In theory, that should give the governor a chance to appoint more women, more people of color and perhaps a public defender—something that hasn’t happened for a long time in Yolo County.

In March of 2019 after Governor Jerry Brown stepped down, a survey found that for the 13th straight year, California’s judicial bench has grown more diverse, according to new data released by the Judicial Council.

Governor Brown’s appointments, including the nearly 200 appointments made in his final year in office: women accounted for more than half of those appointees, and 41 percent identified as non-white.

Governor Newsom continued that trend as last year, his first, he appointed a majority of women and nonwhites to the bench.

That continued on Tuesday. Governor Newsom appointed 14 people to the bench—8 women and just two white males.

So why is Yolo County different than other counties?

A big part has to do with its location, roughly 15 minutes from the State Capitol on the other side of the Sacramento River.

It is a small county, but it is prominent—the home of UC Davis, a major law school and academic center.  Davis also happens to be the home of a number of State Capitol employees and staffers.

The problem here is actually very clear, and it goes back to the last six governor appointments to the bench starting in 2008.

In 2008, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed employment lawyer Samuel McAdam. In 2010, he appointed Dan Maguire, who was his deputy legal affairs secretary.

In 2012, Janene Beronio, one of the two women on the bench, was elected when retiring Judge Stephen Mock stepped down at the end of his term.

In 2015, Governor Brown appointed Sonia Cortés, the first Latina to be judge in Yolo County.

In 2018, he appointed Tom Dyer and Peter Williams, both of whom were attorneys in his administration.

Finally, in 2020, Governor Newsom appointed Dan Wolk, the former Mayor of Davis and the son of State Senator Lois Wolk.

While the 2018 appointees did not live in Yolo County, Sam McAdam, Dan Maguire, and Dan Wolk all live in Davis and Sonia Cortés lived in Woodland.

There is no real reason why Yolo County should be so lopsided, away from women in particular, and yet, the Board of Supervisors has for the last several years been all male.

The bench is even more embarrassing because, since 2010, the two governors have made it a point to appoint more women and people of color, and yet we have seen Yolo County actually move in the other direction.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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15 Comments

    1. Keith Olsen

      Seriously, what’s broken.

      Is the Yolo County Superior Court not functioning properly?

      Or is it broken because there are too many whites and too many male judges even though they might be doing a good job?

       

  1. Ron Glick

    “There is no real reason why Yolo County should be so lopsided away from women in particular and yet, the Board of Supervisors has for the last several years been all male.”

    There is no barrier to entry. Women have served on the Board of Supervisors and have run as recently as the last two cycles. A women is running in the next cycle. The BOS is also ethnically diverse.

    As for the courts being on the Davis City Council or working for an outgoing Governor have long been a path to a court appointment in Yolo County. Now you can advocate for more gender and identity politics in judicial appointments but I think there is another consideration that is more important. For a long time, during the Deukmejian and Wilson administrations, the path to a judicial appointment was experience as a prosecutor. At least Newsom has appointed people with diverse legal backgrounds.

  2. Ron Glick

    Your cheap shot headline implies that Newsom’s appointment of Dan Wolk somehow degraded justice in Yolo County since he is the only appointment the current Governor has made here. As Keith points out you don’t provide any evidence of how the courts are broken. What I do believe is that your veiled insult about Judge Wolk is more a reflection of your personal animus than it is about the state of affairs in the Yolo County Courts.  To paraphrase what Newsom said recently about another Governor you look small and petty.

  3. Ron Glick

    You also overlooked that Newsom appointed a minority woman, UC Davis law grad and former public defender to the Third District Court of Appeals that presides over the Yolo County Courts.

    1. David Greenwald

      I said that overall, Newsom had done just fine. Just not in Yolo County. The headline wasn’t about Dan, the headline was about the embarrassing fact that Yolo County has a bench that’s 80 percent male and 90 percent white. Dan was merely the latest in a long string of such appointments. I happen to also know some of who put their names into the ring last time – all of whom had immense criminal and legal experience in Yolo County.

      1. Keith Olsen

        the headline was about the embarrassing fact that Yolo County has a bench that’s 80 percent male and 90 percent white.

        David, white male students are underrepresented UC Davis, is that embarrassing?

        1. David Greenwald

          Relevance?

          I don’t know what the relevance is of Keith’s point, but he appears to be flat out wrong anyway.

          According to UCD – 23.7 percent of students are white female while 15.9 percent are white male.

          That sounds like a low number? Except, in 2022, California’s population of white’s is at 35 percent white, which would put the white male population within one standard deviation of the UC Davis population.

          So not only has Keith attempted to distract with his irrelevant point, but he’s also just wrong.

        2. Keith Olsen

          There are 40,050 total students at UCD of which 3940 are white males which puts white males at less than 10% of the UCD population.  California has a 35% white population of which there are approx. 17% white males.

          So white males are underrepresented at UCD by 7%, which is a wide margin.

          Is that fact embarrassing David, or is it only when white males are overrepresented that is embarrassing?

          https://www.univstats.com/colleges/university-of-california-davis/student-population/

          https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/CA/PST045222

           

          1. David Greenwald

            Even using this data as opposed to the UCD data which I was using, you seem to miss the MAGNITUDE OF DIFFERENCE (there is a different between 10 or 15 versus 17 percent and 18 percent women on the court versus 55 percent in society. It’s not a close call). And as noted earlier it’s not an apples to apples comparison anyway – there is an admissions process at UC Davis versus a governor appointment process whereby the governor has absolute discretion over who they select. At the end of the day, you are attempting to distract from the debate by inserting this and even then, you don’t have anything close to the disparity.

        3. Walter Shwe

          Comparing the makeup of the UCD student population to that of the Yolo County Superior Court is a false comparison. Keith seeks to misdirect, but David and I can see right through his ploy. Nevertheless, since Keith desires to play, I will do so. I just got an A+.

          Getting in to UC Davis depends first on applying to go there and then being offered admission. The most likely reasons more white students don’t go are they simply aren’t interested and they can’t “cut the mustard”. Below is a link to the UCD criteria to be admitted as a freshman followed by transfer student criteria.

          https://www.ucdavis.edu/admissions/undergraduate/apply/application-review-criteria

          You must earn at least a 2.40 GPA in your UC-transferable classes to meet UC requirements; California non-residents must earn at least a 2.80 GPA. However, UC Davis requires a minimum 2.80 GPA to be selected for admission, and many of our most popular programs may require a higher GPA.

  4. Ron Glick

    Since 1997, after the passage of Proposition  209, the University of California hasn’t used race in admissions decisions. If white males are underrepresented on campus it is because, despite whatever advantages they may have, there were better candidates among other groups.

     

    1. Keith Olsen

      Everyone knows that’s not true, there are other ways to skirt Prop 209.

      This article outlines how it is now done:

      We are evaluating applicants and looking for excellence, and not perfection. That means that it allows us to take a look at students in the context of where they are coming from, everything from the curriculum that they are attempting, to the extracurricular activities that are available to them in their schools.
      We are measuring students up against what what’s available to them, rather than comparing students, because we recognize that the K-12 system is not apples to apples for all the students who are going through it.
      https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/university-makes-major-push-for-diversity-without-considering-race-gender-in-admissions

      1. Ron Oertel

        Everyone knows that’s not true, there are other ways to skirt Prop 209.

        You’re right about that.  Universities in general (including the UC system) are “determined” to increase “diversity”, despite Proposition 209. 

        And despite California voters’ more-recent rejection of Affirmative Action.

        This includes the elimination of SAT scores.

        UCLA devotes up to $2 million annually to aggressively recruit diverse students and then convince them to accept their admission offers. In the early 2000s, the UC system launched two major reforms to boost diversity: an admission guarantee to top-performing students statewide and at most California high schools, and a comprehensive review process that uses several factors — including special talents and location of home and high school — in addition to grades and coursework to evaluate applicants.

        In 2020, UC regents voted to eliminate standardized test scores as an admission requirement in another landmark step to widen access to underserved students.

        “We’re very proud of the progress we’ve made”, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said in an interview.  “We also recognize how far there is to go.”

        Walter:  Getting in to UC Davis depends first on applying to go there and then being offered admission. The most likely reasons more white students don’t go are they simply aren’t interested and they can’t “cut the mustard”.

        In regard to Walter’s comment, this is the same argument against Affirmative Action (which would primarily discriminate against Asian applicants, not white applicants).

        For sure, I’d recommend “against” disclosing one’s skin color these days, if you’re not a member of a preferred group. (Of course, that won’t prevent others from making guesses and “reporting” the results – e.g., in a photo lineup such as the one which accompanies this article). Guilty as charged, probably.

        The REAL issue regarding this is why the son of a local politician was appointed as a judge.

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