AB1208 press release – Alliance of California Judges

Posted on June 6, 2011

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Dear Members:

We wish to report that Majority Leader Calderon did not take up AB 1208, the Trial Court Rights Act, for a floor vote last Friday. The bill remains held on the floor of the Assembly to be taken up later within this two-year session of the Legislature. The Alliance of California Judges remains satisfied with the progress of the bill. We trust Majority Leader Calderon’s judgment on when to take the bill up and we defer to his management of the bill. Calderon said. “I think it will be useful to have some time between now and when the bill does move to the Senate.” The bill enjoys strong bipartisan support, and we look forward to its further consideration and enactment.

The Trial Court Rights Act is the most significant trial court funding bill in a decade. It insures that funds appropriated by the Legislature for trial court operations will be available for that purpose and not diverted. It has been through two policy committees and is on the floor. The AOC had paid lobbyists working full time to kill this bill. With all of the AOC and Judicial Council resources that were brought to bear, AB 1208 will move forward.

The Chief Justice was reported last week as calling the bill an effort to curtail her power. We do not seek to challenge the authority of the Chief Justice nor do we see this issue as a question of any particular judge exercising power over another judge. We are working judges trying to deliver services to the public. Funds that the Legislature declares appropriated for trial court operations should not be used otherwise. Unelected bureaucrats should not be permitted to impose these projects on the court or fund them at the expense of persons who depend upon open and operating trial courts. This fundamental precept drives AB 1208.

The dialogue started by the Alliance and advanced by this bill has led to legislative scrutiny of the questionable spending priorities of the AOC and Judicial Council, including the payment of overly generous pension benefits to the highest paid bureaucrats, out of control spending on courthouse maintenance and construction projects, and the irresponsible funding of the CCMS project without adequate oversight and at the expense of the delivery of trial court services to the public.

AB 1208 will be just the beginning of the process to reform the judicial branch. All of the judges of this state are now participants in that process.

Directors,
Alliance of California Judges

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Calderon Shelves AB 1208, the Trial Court Rights Act
Cheryl Miller
The Recorder
June 03, 2011
The Trial Court Rights Act, controversial legislation that divided the judiciary and put the chief justice on the defensive early in her tenure, was quietly shelved today.

Assembly Floor Majority Leader Charles Calderon, D-Montebello, declined to bring up AB 1208 for a full floor vote on the final day to move Assembly bills to the state Senate. The legislation now becomes a two-year bill, which, barring some procedural maneuvering, means lawmakers will take no action on it until next year.

Calderon said he had secured 41 votes for the bill but was concerned about a partisan voting atmosphere that had turned the Assembly floor “caustic.”

“I just didn’t want to take the bill up under those circumstances and I just ran out of time,” he said.

Supporters and critics of AB 1208, including many judges on both sides, engaged in heavy lobbying this week. Opponents questioned whether Calderon ever had enough floor votes for his bill as some Assembly Democrats appeared hesitant to vote on polarizing legislation that seemed doomed to fail in the state Senate. Assembly Speaker John Perez had endorsed AB 1208, but on Friday his office’s official floor alert to fellow Democrats took a “no position” stance on the bill. Calderon said the position simply reflected the contentious debate surrounding AB 1208.

Curtis Child, the director of the Administrative Office of the Courts’ government affairs office, called on both sides to put aside “divisive” issues and present a unified front on the state budget and other issues.

“As the chief justice has stated, she is looking at the branch, at both the AOC and branch issues, and she is moving quickly to address what she sees as concerns,” Child said.

Sponsored by the Alliance of California Judges, AB 1208 was heavily amended over the past four months and eventually became a bill that would have curbed the Judicial Council’s power to divert trial court money for statewide or special initiatives. And while judicial branch leaders fought the measure as an unwelcome intrusion by the Legislature, the bill exposed serious divisions among judges over the benefits and problems associated with a strongly centralized branch.

“We’re very satisfied with the progress of the bill,” said Kern County Superior Court Judge David Lampe, an alliance director. “We’re not the legislator, and we fully trust the majority leader’s judgment on when to take up the bill. … We’re on the right side of this issue and that’s why I have confidence.”

Calderon insisted that he’s not abandoning the bill and that he has political momentum on his side.

“I don’t see any action on the part of the Judicial Council that suggests to me that they’re going to deal with these issues,” Calderon said. “I think it will be useful to have some time between now and when the bill does move to the Senate.”