In addition to Yew's work on the board and her
previous day job practicing law, Yew has served as a volunteer judge
pro tempore and as a court-appointed arbitrator. She also has been
honored for her pro bono work and is active in a variety of civic and
professional groups. In addition, she is a past president of the Asian
Pacific Bar Association of the Silicon Valley.
Yew said she found that applying for appointment
was a complex process based on merit and the recommendations of
respected individuals. She believes that serving as a State Bar board
member helped raise her profile in the community and showed an
important vote of confidence to the governor.
"To get on the board of governors, you have to
have demonstrated your worthiness," she said. "People aren't
going to vote for you if you've never shown any dedication to
Diego attorney John Davies, former judicial appointments secretary for
Gov. Pete Wilson, said that, among other qualities, Wilson considered
whether candidates were "contributing members of the community."
State Bar board experience would qualify, he said, but would not have
carried any more weight than other community service, such as serving
on a city planning commission.
"Every candidate is a bundle of different
sticks," he said. "You really need to look at that particular
Davies said he suspects that a high percentage of
judges also exists among former county bar presidents. "It
demonstrates to the appointing power that you're highly respected by
your colleagues," he said. "It means something to a governor
who's looking at something on paper."
State Bar records indicate that at least 26 of
the 181 attorneys elected or appointed to the State Bar's board
since 1971 have become judges. Stretching back to 1927, the number is
45 out of 410 board members. Some of the bar's early records,
however, offer limited information.
While data was unavailable to show the percentage
of attorneys from the general attorney population who join the bench
over time, the sheer number of attorneys versus judges suggests the
percentage would be lower. Currently, state and federal judges in
California total less than 2,000. In addition, fewer than 3,100
California judges - from municipal court judges to Supreme Court
justices - have entered the judges' retirement system since 1937,
according to California Public Employees Retirement System records. In
contrast, roughly 215,000 attorneys have joined California's State
Bar since 1927. The number of active and inactive California attorneys
currently is nearing 175,000.
Rob Waring, legislative counsel to the California
Judges Association, suggested that State Bar board members may have an
aptitude and interest in some areas that are useful in judging, he
said. For example, they have experience in elections or at least a
tolerance for them, he said.
"There's also some sort of interest in making
judgments about things that lawyers do, in looking at the profession
and making judgments about issues concerning the profession of law,"
he said. "Judges look at the conduct of lawyers every day."
Fresno Superior Court Judge Robert H. Oliver said
he never considered seeking appointment or election to the bench when
he served on the State Bar's board. But his board experience may
have influenced his later decision to seek appointment.
"My observation of members of the board of
governors is then and now that the experience of serving seems to be a
precursor to a lifestyle change," he said. "And that has evidenced
itself by changes in law firms. It has evidenced itself by changes in
marital status. It has evidenced itself in changes in practice
emphasis or specialization, which would include members of the board
who have gone on to become members of the bench."
Oliver, who was appointed to the bench in 1995 by
Gov. Wilson, suggested that State Bar board experience opens an
attorney's mind to new possibilities. "The opportunity for service
as a member of the board carries with it the opportunity for a thought
process and reflection that many of us perhaps didn't have in the
day-to-day practice of law," he said.
In addition, he said, he found fellow board
members to be hard-charging, ambitious, hardworking and bright -
"all traits that lead one to some measure of success and some
measure of accomplishment."
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lawrence W.
Crispo, also a former State Bar board member and a Wilson appointee,
said he regularly encourages his law student externs to become
involved in community and bar activities. Crispo stresses that such
activities will broaden their horizons, introduce them to a "superb
group of people" and help them lead more rewarding lives
professionally and personally. The number of former board members who
have gone on to the bench, he says, ties in with his message.
"I would say it validates the importance of
public service activities and community activities and bar
activities," he said.
Pauline Weaver, a former State Bar board member
and the current chair of the Commission on Judicial Nominees
Evaluation (JNE), is not surprised by the percentage of judges among
former board members.
"My immediate reaction is that the people who
become involved in the bar are going to be leaders in other areas,"
she said. "Those are naturally the kind of people whom you would
expect to apply for judicial positions."
As chair of the volunteer commission which
investigates judicial candidates for the governor, Weaver also points
out that the JNE Commission gets a better return on its confidential
evaluation forms when candidates are well-known in the community. The
respondents often know them better and have seen them in various
roles, she said, which helps the evaluation process.
As for why so many former State Bar board members
wind up as judges, Weaver suggests: "They get involved. . . . I
think it has to do with involvement rather than the bar board in