In September 2018, then-California governor Jerry Brown signed legislation mandating that the board of directors of every publicly held company in the state appoint at least one female member or get hit with steep fines. Though Brown himself acknowledged that the legislation would likely face significant legal challenges, he nonetheless declared that he was signing the bill because “recent events in Washington, D.C. and beyond make it crystal clear that many are not getting the message.” That was a not-so-oblique reference to the Senate confirmation hearings of Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court justice, amid accusations by Christine Blasey Ford that he had sexually assaulted her when they were in high school. Just to accentuate his point, Brown added to his statement on the bill: “CC: United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary.”
In November 2019, a shareholder of a publicly-traded company incorporated in Delaware and headquartered in California challenged the legislation in the US District Court for the Eastern District of California. The case is Meland v. Padilla. From the Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief:
In 2020, all publicly traded companies incorporated or headquartered in California will be required to meet a quota of female board members or face fines. This “Woman Quota” (SB 826) applies to all businesses across every industry. It applies in perpetuity and irrespective of whether there is any evidence of discrimination in the relevant industry. The law is not only deeply patronizing to women, it is also plainly unconstitutional. As the Ninth Circuit has observed, “[t]he notion that women need help in every business and profession is as pernicious and offensive as its converse, that women ought to be excluded from all enterprises because their place is in the home.” Associated General Contractors of California, Inc. v. City and County of San Francisco, 813 F.2d 922, 941 (9th Cir. 1987).