California Judicial Mentor Program

On July 10, 2021, Governor Newsom announced the formation of the California Judicial Mentorship Program, a statewide undertaking between the executive and judicial branches to advance the shared goal of an inclusive judiciary that reflects California’s diversity.

The California Judicial Mentor Program (Appellate) seeks to assist in recruiting and developing a qualified and diverse applicant pool for service on the state’s courts of appeal. We seek to demystify the application process and improve transparency and accessibility for all members of the legal community who are interested in serving on the appellate court.


Outreach efforts are directed at all superior court judges and attorneys eligible for judicial office in California. In visits to counties around the state, court of appeal justices talk to interested individuals about the work of the court of appeal and the process of applying to join it. If you would like to help organize a visit to your county or to a regional or statewide bar group (including video outreach sessions while pandemic conditions make travel inadvisable), please contact us at

As part of our outreach efforts, the Judicial Mentor Program (Appellate) will send interested persons an email announcement of an impending vacancy when a current member of the court of appeal makes public a plan to retire, or a vacancy is otherwise anticipated. If you would like to receive such an email, please send a request to, specifying which district’s vacancies interest you.


Mentoring is available for individuals interested to learn more about the appellate court and the process for applying for an appointment. Mentors are active and retired appellate justices, often chosen from outside the district in which a superior court judge sits (or an attorney is most active) in order to minimize the need for judicial recusals. (See CJEO Expedited Opinion No. 2022-045, posted Jan. 4, 2022.) Mentors do not promote or recommend candidates to the Governor but do discuss with the candidate and demystify the work of the court and the process for applying to join it.

Mentors are available for those who meet the formal requirements of appointment and have not yet submitted to Governor Newsom’s office an application for appointment to the court of appeal. For those uncertain about whether to apply for appointment, a judicial mentor can help the individual consider how best to prepare for a future application. To the extent demand for mentoring exceeds the number of mentors available, group mentoring sessions will be available for those not yet matched with a one-on-one mentor.

Note that participation in the mentor program is neither a prerequisite to, nor a guarantee of, appointment. Mentors will not serve as references in the appointment process, and participation in the program will be confidential.

If you are interested in being matched with a judicial mentor, click for the Judicial Mentor Program Application. Completed applications should be emailed to Applications will be considered on a rolling basis.

This program is open to all and does not discriminate on the basis of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, geography, or otherwise.

Frequently Asked Questions

The California Judicial Mentorship Program will operate through separate initiatives in the trial and the appellate courts.  Its overall goal, designed to enhance public trust in the courts, is to improve transparency and accessibility for all members of the legal community throughout California, fostering the development of a qualified and inclusive judicial applicant pool.

To answer some basic questions about this program and how it is set up to work, we have prepared the following set of questions and answers:

Why is it necessary to have a Judicial Mentor Program?

California is fortunate to have a longstanding tradition of merit-based judicial selection. Our judiciary, while not yet representative of the public demographic, is also one of the most diverse in the country. But we cannot take either of these features of California’s judicial system for granted. Governor Newsom has recognized that we must continue to work proactively at improving these features of our judicial system.

Several Superior Courts around the state have already established judicial mentorship programs in their counties.   These programs are typically designed to have an outreach component, in which judges work with bar groups and other sources of applicants, and a one-on-one mentoring component, in which prospective applicants are paired with participating judges.

How is the California Judicial Mentor Program (Appellate) different from counterpart programs that have been developed for the trial courts?

The structure of our program is similar to the programs that have been set up in the Superior Courts.  But there are many unique aspects of judicial selection at the appellate level.  Because there are so few appellate vacancies compared to those in the superior courts, because so much of our work takes place outside of public view, and because there is even less publicly-known information about career pathways to the appellate bench than there is for the trial courts, our program is designed to provide information that may assist prospective applicants in evaluating whether to apply for an appellate vacancy, when to do so if they choose to apply, and to prepare them for the selection process.  We will be providing pre-application support, not support during the application process itself.  The goal is to bring as many applicants into the application process as possible based on the self-assessment of each prospective applicant about whether it is worthwhile to apply.  While we will be providing information about the application process, we will not be vetting the merits of any judicial application.  That is the exclusive prerogative of the Governor as the appointing authority.     

How does the California Judicial Mentor Program (Appellate) work?

The program has two components, an outreach component and a mentoring component.  Described generally, these two components of the program will work as follows.

For the outreach component of our program, we will work with Superior Courts and bar associations to arrange visits by participating Justices, who will make presentations and answer questions for groups of interested prospective applicants.

For the mentorship component of our program, we will take applications from prospective mentees. Please note that these applications are not designed to be short-form applications to the bench. The application form is designed to gather enough basic information about the applicant so that appropriate matching to a mentor can be done. It may also be that we will have to place some applicants to the program on a waiting list or place mentees in a group until enough mentors are available to meet the need for mentoring services.

Once applicants are accepted into the program, we will offer two forms of mentoring. First, depending on the number of Justices who are available to serve as mentors, we will provide one-on-one mentoring. Second, since at any given time we may have more mentees in the program than we can serve on a one-on-one basis, we expect that some mentees will be assigned to mentoring groups. Whether mentoring takes place on a one-on-one basis or in a group setting, the assigned mentor Justice will arrange to meet or speak by phone with the mentee(s) at least twice over a six month period.

What are the eligibility criteria for mentees in the California Judicial Mentor Program (Appellate)?

Since there are statutory minimum eligibility requirements to be a judicial officer, we will screen mentee applications according to those requirements.  To be eligible for appointment to the California Court of Appeal or any other California court, a person must have been a member of the State Bar of California or a judge of a court in this state for at least 10 years.  (Cal. Const. Art. VI, § 15.)   We will also be screening applicants for public discipline imposed by the State Bar or by the Commission on Judicial Performance (CJP).  Any applicant with a public record of State Bar imposed or CJP imposed discipline will be ineligible for acceptance into the program.

How much individual time from mentors can mentees expect to receive?

In order to be successful applying for the bench, at either the trial or appellate level, serious commitment to and considerable investment of time in the process of applying for an appointment is required. Our mentors will be available to discuss what that level of commitment entails. As noted above, we expect that mentors will meet with mentees twice over the course of six months. But depending on the level of readiness and commitment applicants show, mentors in their discretion may decide to spend more time with their mentees over a longer period.

What kind of information can mentees expect to receive from their mentors?

We hope to “demystify” the process of appellate judicial selection by giving prospective applicants access to insights from those who made the decision to apply, went through the process from beginning to end, and are able to share insights about the process based on personal experience.   

We also hope to provide information about the responsibilities of an appellate judge, the skill-set that is required in the job of an appellate judge, and the work regimen of an appellate judge. 

Finally, we hope to provide information about what might be characterized as the “mechanics” of applying for an appellate vacancy that may be helpful to prospective applicants and what kind of information about themselves that they should be ready to provide on the application.

Is there an optimal “profile” for someone who is applying for an appellate vacancy?


Obviously, however, given the specialized nature of our work in the appellate courts, it is helpful for appellate court applicants to have experience with the appellate process and a well-honed skill-set that matches the work we do as appellate judges.  Excellent writing skills are essential.  Experience with criminal matters can be helpful, since over half of our work consists of criminal law matters or cases that arise in areas that are closely related to the criminal law (e.g. juvenile delinquency cases).  Experience with complex civil litigation can also be helpful.  But beyond general considerations such as these, the strengths of successful applications to the appellate bench tend to vary widely.     

Will participation in the California Judicial Mentor Program (Appellate) help me to plan for a future application to an appellate court vacancy, even if I conclude I am not ready to apply yet?


Planning to apply for an appellate court vacancy, sometimes years in advance, is very important. Our mentors will be available to discuss planning topics such as (1) record-keeping during the course of one’s career that may be of assistance in filling out an appellate judicial application (2) career choices and career experiences that it may be helpful to consider pursuing so that, one day, they may enhance the range of skills shown in an appellate judicial application (i.e. different kinds of judicial assignments handled by a sitting judge, or subject matter expertise in an attorney’s case experience); volunteer work (i.e. committee work, pro tem assignments) and (3) teaching experience or publishing activity that might strengthen an appellate judicial application.

Is application to and participation in the mentoring component of the program confidential?

We will endeavor to keep confidential any application to this program and any notifications of expected appellate court vacancies.  Once mentee applicants are accepted into the program, we also expect the conversations between mentors and mentees will be held in confidence, by both the mentor and the mentee.  This will promote frankness and a willingness to share information, on both sides. 

What should mentees know about things they cannot expect to get from participating in the California Judicial Mentor Program (Appellate)?

First, mentees who participate in the program should not expect that, in an application for an appellate court appointment, listing the fact of their acceptance and participation in the program will give them an advantage in the selection process.   The Governor’s office has emphasized that, in its own review and vetting of judicial applications, it will give no weight to the fact that an applicant has been a mentee in our program.

Second, absent a pre-existing relationship that gives a mentor prior personal knowledge of the mentee, mentors will not serve as references to mentees, should the mentee decide to apply for an appellate judicial vacancy.

Third, mentees should not expect to receive assistance from mentors in filling out or editing an application for an appellate court vacancy.