Landmark California law requiring women on corporate boards ruled unconstitutional

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Los Angeles judge has ruled that California’s landmark law requiring women on corporate boards is unconstitutional.

Superior Court Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis said the law that would have required boards to have up to three women directors by this year violated the right to equal treatment. The decision was dated Friday.

Conservative legal group Judicial Watch had challenged the law, saying it was illegal to use taxpayer funds to enforce a law that violates the California Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause by imposing a gender-based quota.

The law was on shaky ground from the start with legislative analysis saying it could be difficult to defend and at the time the government. Jerry Brown said he was signing it despite the possibility of it being overturned by a court. Brown said he signed the bill to send a message in the #MeToo era.

In the three years it was published, it has been credited with improving the position of women on corporate boards.

The state defended the law as constitutional saying it needed to reverse a culture of discrimination that favored men and was only put in place after other measures had failed. The state also said the law did not create a quota because boards could add seats for women directors without stripping men of their positions.

Although the law provided stiff penalties for failing to file an annual return or breaking the law, a chief of the secretary of state’s office admitted during the trial that he was toothless.

No fines were ever issued and there was no intention to do so, Betsy Bogart testified. Additionally, a letter that surfaced during the trial of former Secretary of State Alex Padilla warned Brown weeks before he signed the law that it was likely unenforceable.

“Any attempt by the Secretary of State to collect or enforce the fine would likely exceed his authority,” Padilla wrote.

The law required public companies headquartered in California to have a member who identifies as a woman on their board of directors by the end of 2019. In January 2022, boards of five directors were required to have two women and councils of six or more members. were to have three wives.

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