California Chief Justice Ronald M. George has asked the presiding justices and judges of the state's courts to lead the effort in fairness training for their colleagues and staff.
In a letter to the presiding justices and judges, George stated that reports from various court commissions through the years have revealed that many Californians "perceive themselves at a disadvantage in our justice system for reasons unrelated to the merits of their claims."
George said the judicial branch's response to the reports has been a continual process of self-examination, with steps taken to correct problems.
Tom Stolpman, president of the State Bar, praised the chief justice for his leadership in the area of access and fairness. "The lawyers of California applaud Chief Justice George for tackling a most sensitive issue," said Stolpman. "Although the California courts are far ahead of many in the nation, there is tremendous room for improvement in our efforts to avoid bias or insensitivity in the courts."
In his letter, Chief Justice George specifically asked the presiding judges to:
Improving fairness in the judicial branch has been and continues to be a priority of the Judicial Council of California, said Chief Justice George, who also chairs the council.
The Judicial Council is the state agency charged by the Constitution with improving the administration of justice. In 1995, the council adopted a long-range strategic plan, listing such goals as improving access, fairness and diversity in the judicial branch.