Another overreaching mandate, this time a California attempt to resuscitate affirmative action, has been axed in court. The law was challenged by conservative legal watchdog Judicial Watch, and its overturning was made public Monday.
A Los Angeles judge ruled a law mandating that a woman serve on the board of directors of publicly-held companies based in the state to be unconstitutional. Then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Women on Boards bill into law in September 2018, but even then it was shaky.
Brown himself said the measure was to send a message in the #MeToo era.
Apparently it did, because the gender-focused non-profit California Partners Project says there was a drastic change in boards of directors. Before Women on Boards was signed, 15.5% of seats were held by women. That number as of Sept. 2021 reached 29%.
The state consistently defended the law by saying companies could add seats to their boardrooms. This meant that males would not lose opportunities based on gender. It also claimed that the measure was necessary because other attempts to diversify corporate leadership failed.
Good intentions, however, do not always translate into good law. Superior Court Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis ruled that the measure is unconstitutional. It required boards to have as many as three female directors by the end of this year.
The law carried hefty penalties as punishment for failure to comply with its provisions or file the required disclosures. However, even its proponents acknowledged it was toothless because there was never intent on enforcement.
In fact, former California Secretary of State Alex Padilla advised Brown before he signed it that the law was likely unenforceable. He wrote to the governor that any attempt at enforcement or collecting fines by Padilla’s office “would likely exceed its authority.”
Knowing this, less than half of the 650 corporations in the state who fell under its purview bothered to file disclosure statements, and there was never a penalty. Ask any parents, police, or teachers. Rules without consequences are worse than no rules at all.
This is only the latest attempt by California bean-counters to apply quotas, direct or indirect, onto institutions in the state. On every level, courts have consistently ruled that this practice violates the Constitution. Good intentions or not, you’d think they would eventually learn.