Judge rules California gender quota for corporate boards unconstitutional


For the second consecutive month, a judge has struck down a California law requiring diversity on corporate boards.

SB 826, signed into law in 2018, required every publicly traded California company to have one female director on its board by the end of 2019. By the end of 2021, firms with five-member boards were required to have at least two female directors, and companies with six or more members on their boards were required to have at least three female directors. 

In 2019, conservative legal group Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit challenging SB 826 in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Last week, Los Angeles Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis ruled in Judicial Watch’s favor, finding that the gender quota law violated the Equal Protection Clause of the California Constitution. 

On Monday, Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) released a statement calling Duffy-Lewis’s ruling disappointing. Atkins co-authored SB 826 with former state Sen. Hannah Beth Jackson, of Santa Barbara.

“This disappointing ruling is a reminder that sometimes our legalities don’t match our realities,” Atkins said. “More women on corporate boards means better decisions and businesses that outperform the competition – that’s a studied, proven fact. We believe this law remains important — despite the disheartening ruling from the Los Angeles Superior Court — and it exemplifies equal access and opportunity, the very bedrock of our democracy. For those still afraid of women in positions of leadership, they need to work on figuring that out because the world is moving on without them.”

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton released a statement lauding the ruling, the second such victory for his organization in recent weeks.

“The court eviscerated California’s unconstitutional gender quota mandate. This is the second California court decision finding that quotas for corporate boards are unconstitutional. The radical left’s unprecedented attacks on anti-discrimination law has suffered another stinging defeat,” Fitton said.

Last month, following a separate Judicial Watch legal challenge, a Los Angeles judge ruled that a California law requiring corporations to include members of underrepresented groups on their boards of directors was unconstitutional. Underrepresented groups, as defined by the law, could be LGBT, Black, Latino, Asian, Native American or Pacific Islander.

“Thankfully, California courts have upheld the core American value of equal protection under the law. Judicial Watch’s taxpayer clients are heroes for standing up for civil rights against the left’s pernicious efforts to undo anti-discrimination protections. Judicial Watch’s legal team has helped protect the civil rights of every American with these successful lawsuits,” Fitton added.