One year ago, Queen’s Bench renewed its work on civic & judicial appointments. In late September 2015, six Queen’s Bench members met to revive the organization’s historical emphasis on moving women and pro-woman candidates to the bench and into other non-partisan public offices. The Civic & Judicial Appointment Committee (CJAC) is a small, committed, active, and engaged group of Queen’s Bench women putting their smarts, skills, connections, and resources together to “provide an organization for collection action or expression in matters germane to” furthering “equal opportunity for all women,” as the Queen’s Bench Bylaws declares. Here’s what our first year looked like, broken down into our three primary areas of activity, plus a glimpse at 2017…
Often with partner organizations, CJAC coordinates QB’s sponsorship of training opportunities for becoming a judge or non-partisan public official.
- In May 2016, QB co-sponsored the judicial training, So You Want To Be a Judge, with California Women Lawyers, the event’s lead organizer. The training was held in San Francisco and featured the Governor’s Senior Advisor on Judicial Appointments, leadership of the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation, and many local judges. Other local bar associations co-sponsored, as well. The event was rich in detailed advice for would-be judges.
Recruitment and Publicizing Opportunities for Public Office
CJAC identifies and encourages candidates for appointment, sometimes via linkages with partners who have established appointment pathways, recruitment processes, and vetting processes.
- In October 2015, CJAC alerted QB members to two opportunities. One, to nominate candidates for Senator Feinstein’s consideration for a vacancy on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Two, to apply for a seat on the State Bar Board of Trustees.
- CJAC created a Candidate Roster for Judicial and Civic Office to: create a pipeline of QB women into judgeships/office; quickly contact present/past office holders who have broader networks when a public office opportunity becomes available on shorter notice; make linkages and mentorships; facilitate an organizational assessment of Queen’s Bench’s representation in public office; and serve as a ready source of information for newsletter spotlights on members in public office. If you, or a Queen’s Bench member you know, wants to be a part of this pipeline, please contact the committee chair (see below.)
Evaluations & Endorsements
CJAC makes recommendations to the Queen’s Bench Board for evaluations and endorsements of candidates for both judicial and non-partisan civic office.
- In April 2016, CJAC organized a Judicial Candidate Forum for San Francisco Superior Court, Seat 7. All 3 candidates—Paul Henderson, Victor Hwang, Sigrid Irias—participated in the event, which was held at Golden Gate University and moderated by Judge Ina Gyemant (ret.), a QB past President who won her judicial seat on the San Francisco Superior Court in a contested election. Candidates made opening comments, then answered questions from Queen’s Bench members.
- Following the Judicial Candidate Forum, CJAC organized a plebiscite of Queen’s Bench members, who voted to give the Queen’s Bench endorsement to Sigrid Irias.
- Judicial Evaluations—CJAC has developed a process, informed by JNE Commission procedures, for evaluating individuals seeking the Governor’s appointment to the bench. Upon request by the candidate or a nominating entity, CJAC will conduct an evaluation, to be formally acted upon by the Queen’s Bench Board, for use in the appointment process.
Upcoming in 2017
CJAC has several programs in development for 2017 in our three focus areas, and we are continuing to develop the full scope of the committee’s work.
- Civic Appointments Training—In partnership with California Women Lead, this event will provide information and answers to questions about obtaining appointment to public boards, commissions, and other non-partisan public offices. This training has not been offered in the Bay Area in some time, and CJAC is very excited to make this opportunity available in early 2017.
- Public Office Elections Training—With California Women Lawyers, the lead organizer of the event, Queen’s Bench anticipates co-sponsoring Elect to Run, an excellent event that educates and encourages women to run for public office.
- Panel on the Election and SCOTUS: Impact on Women—CJAC is working to organize a panel in conjunction with the January 2017 presidential inauguration that will explore the impact of the next President on judicial appointments, plus a review of the past year and a preview of next year on SCOTUS. We are currently contacting area law schools and constitutional law experts and are seeking a sponsor for the networking component of the event. If you have contacts or resources to contribute to this event, please contact the CJAC committee chair (see below.)
CJAC typically meets in person once a month in the Financial District, 5:30-6:45p, with call-in capacity. We get down to work, so if you’d like to roll up your sleeves with us, please contact committee chair Jodie Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton tussle over meaning of the “woman’s card,” its value might be increasing, at least in California. On January 1, 2016, California’s Fair Pay Act took effect to amend and strengthen the state’s existing equal pay law in a few notable ways. Although California’s former Equal Pay Law has been on the books since 1949, the authors of the Fair Pay Act noted that, even as of 2014, a woman working full time year round earned an average of 84 cents to every dollar a man earned—across almost all occupations reporting in California. The gap grows exponentially wider for women of color; for example, Latina women in California make only 44 cents for every dollar a white male makes, the biggest gap for Latina women in the nation. To eliminate this gap, the Fair Pay Act makes notable changes to the fair pay protections for employees working in California.
First, and most significantly, although employees could previously claim equal pay for only “equal work,” the Fair Pay Act expands that requirement and allows equal pay for “substantially similar work.” That is, employees must be paid equally not only if they have the exact same job title or job description. Employers must now look at “a composite of skill, effort and responsibility” and whether the work is “performed under similar working conditions.” The Fair Pay Act also eliminates the Equal Pay Act’s “same establishment” requirement, which previously required employees to work at the same office location to qualify for protection under the Equal Pay Act.
Employers, fear not. There are still ways to justify pay differentials among employees—although the burden is on the employer to do so. The Fair Pay Act clarifies that an employer may rely upon: a seniority system; a merit system; a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality; or a bona fide factor other than sex, such as education, training, or experience. To qualify as a legitimate bona fide factor other than sex, however, the employer must show it is not based on sex, is related to the position, and that there is a business necessity. But, if an employer argues that it pays its male employees more than female employees due to a bona fide factor other than sex, the employee has an opportunity to rebut that showing. An employee can demonstrate that an alternative business practice exists that serves the same business purpose without any wage differential and, in doing so, can prevail on her Fair Pay Act claim. And, the employer also cannot comply with the Fair Pay Act by reducing employees’ salaries.
How can employees figure out if they are victims of the wage gap? The Fair Pay Act contains pay transparency provisions that explicitly prohibit retaliation for inquiring about wages, or disclosing or discussing wages. The Fair Pay Act, however, does not obligate any employee to disclose wages.
In another step to strengthen the state’s already progressive equal pay laws, a bill (AB1676)—currently awaiting Governor Brown’s signature— would preclude employers from asking for an applicant’s prior salary during job interviews. The proponents of the bill state that, “the problematic practices of seeking salary history from job applicants and relying on prior salary to set employees’ pay rates contribute to the gender wage gap by perpetuating wage inequalities across the occupational spectrum.” Although Governor Brown already vetoed an earlier iteration of the legislation when it reached his desk in 2015, a similar version of the law recently passed in Massachusetts. If California wants to retain its hold as the nation’s leader on pay equity legislation, it should ensure that salary history remains a thing of the past.
Jessica Riggin is an employment law attorney at Rukin Hyland Doria & Tindall LLP, where she advises clients in pre-litigation matters and litigates individual and class action cases in a wide range of practice areas, including pay equity, discrimination,
Mentorship Committee Holds Member Mixer
By Kimberly Wong, Co-Chair, Mentorship Committee
On September 29, 2016, the Mentorship Committee hosted a Mentorship Mixer for Queen’s Bench members. At the mixer, current participants and prospective participants of the mentorship pod program were able to reconnect as well as develop new connections in an informal setting.
Queen’s Bench currently has mentorship pods in the areas of civil litigation, corporate/in-house, criminal law, working moms/part-time attorneys, family law/trusts and estates, and public interest/government. Mentorship pods are comprised of six to ten attorneys at different stages of their career. Pods are encouraged to connect over social activities and during meetings where members can candidly and confidentially discuss issues related to the members’ practice area, work-life balance, career advancement, and other shared interests.
Members who are interested in joining the program or have questions regarding the mentorship pod program may send an email to email@example.com.
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The project meets at Juvenile Hall - 375 Woodside Ave, SF - from 7-8:30pm. The committee also would like to reactivate its subcommittees. We are looking for folks interested in running a sub-group, such as volunteers and projects. Only requires a small time commitment - as low as 2 hours per quarter.
Anyone interested should email one of our chairs Beverly Brand (Chrisfirstname.lastname@example.org) or Christine MacDonald (email@example.com).