A Look Inside the Judiciary of California


A Look Inside the Judiciary of California – Judge Diane Ritchie

judge diane ritchie gavel and scale

For a society to function smoothly, it must be able to maintain order while processing the grievances and legal challenges of its populace. This can be challenging, and the difficulty scales according to the size of the area being served.


California, for example, is a very large state. It covers over 250,000 square miles and acts as the home of almost 40 million proud and hard-working residents.


As one can imagine, the judiciary of California is a complex and sophisticated machine that constantly turns in order to ensure that Californians are safe and happy with the environment they live within. In fact, California’s judicial system is the largest in the United States. More than 2,000 judicial officers work around the clock to process more than 10 million cases each year.


But how exactly does the Judiciary of California function? Here’s a closer look at the structure and how the judges within that system are selected.


An Established Structure

A hierarchical structure is used to shape the judiciary. The Supreme Court of California is at the top. This is the highest and final courts within the judiciary and it is found in the State Building in San Francisco. From here, the California courts of appeal act as the primary appellate courts. There are six districts, making it the largest state-level appellate court system in the United States.


The trial courts come last, represented by the California superior courts. These courts are the ones responsible for covering civil and criminal cases. It is within these courts that professionals like Judge Diane Ritchie work around the clock to resolve matters as simply, fairly, and transparently as possible.


Appointing Judges

But when it comes to appointing those judges, what is the process?


To answer this question, we must first grow acclimatized with the Missouri Plan. This method for selecting judges emerged from Missouri in 1940. Under this system, a non-partisan commission is responsible for reviewing candidates and sending that list to the governor. The governor is then responsible for selecting the judges from that shortlist.


Of course, judges like Judge Diane Ritchie are subject to a retention election after a full year of service and at the next general election. In this process, voters are asked whether or not the judge should receive another term of service. This binary choice determines which judges will continue to go forward and continue serving.


Supporting the Rule of Law

There are a range of levels which determine the shape and function of California law. Constitutional, statutory, regulatory, and case law all play a role in shaping the decisions of the courts.


This can be complex and requires that legal professionals at all levels have a good understanding of the various laws and legislation that is in place. This is why the caliber of legal professional is incredibly high, and those professionals must pass through many years of rigorous study and experience before achieving their desired legal role.

The Qualities of a Legal Professional

For California’s complex legal system to keep turning, the various stakeholders within it must call upon shared values and common courtesy. Professionals like Judge Diane Ritchie, for example, demonstrate impeccable communication skills.


The language used in California’s legal environment must be impeccably precise, with no room for interpretation left at all. A part of this superior focus on communication is also good judgement, meaning that the legal professionals are able to interpret clear communication to draw logical conclusions and assumptions.


The ability to critically analyze information is understandably quintessential. Legal professionals must be capable of absorbing large quantities of information to reach reasonable conclusions. Analytical skills must also be complemented by strong research skills, meaning that legal professionals are able to properly understand the sources of information available to them.


People skills are another essential ability, and in her role as a mediator, Judge Diane Ritchie believes that this is a make-or-break ability. Legal professionals must be able to work alongside a range of stakeholders to encourage the pursuit of the fairest outcomes, and to also work in a transparent way that engages everybody.


California’s legal system is incredibly complex, but remarkably, all of the above factors come together to ensure that Californians can live safe, free, and happy lives.

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