The Murky News Fallout… Judge Lampe resigns the CJA

Posted on July 18, 2011


This was an ACJ email sent out to all ACJ Members obtained by JCW (who is not an ACJ member)

Dear Members:

Included herein is a San Jose Mercury News piece on the budget.  In it, CJA’s position is described as defending across-the-board cuts and holding the view that “the bureaucracy and tech projects are being unfairly targeted.”  CJA president Judge Keith Davis is quoted as saying that the latter approach, which favors trial courts over the AOC, “is an idea that doesn’t have a lot of support along the broad base of the judiciary.”

Immediately following the article we have included a letter from Alliance President and Kern Superior Court Judge David Lampe to the CJA director explaining his reasons for resigning from CJA today.

Thank you for your continued support.


This section edited to comply with copyright restrictions of the Murky News – JCW

Notable quotes from Keith Davis and Richard Loftus: Note- When one has a new courthouse under construction by the AOC you can expect all sorts of support from that court for the AOC.

“But the chief justice and other powerful groups, including the California Judges Association, defend the across-the-board cuts and say the bureaucracy and tech project are being unfairly targeted.”

“It (The Alliance Plan) is an idea that doesn’t have a lot of support along the broad base of the judiciary,” said Keith Davis, president of the judges association. “We want to try and make cuts that are fair and appropriate”

Then we have this from Richard Loftus:
“I think they did this very thoughtfully,” Loftus said of the proposed cuts. “But I think it’s going to be painful in a lot of ways.”


Dear Mr. Bissey:

I am writing this email to advise you that I will not renew my membership in the California Judges Association.  I originally joined in order to participate in an independent and venerable professional judge’s association.  I now must regretfully withdraw because the organization has proven itself anything but independent.

I resign because today the President of CJA, Judge Keith Davis, is quoted in the San Jose Mercury News, on behalf of the organization, in my opinion, defending AOC funding as equal in importance to trial courts, and defending continued expenditures on CCMS.  I interpret his remarks to state that it would be unfair and inappropriate to make greater cuts to these, and stated that further cuts to the AOC and CCMS “is an idea that doesn’t have a lot of support along the broad base of the judiciary.”  CJA’s own survey, and the surveys of the trial courts requested by the Chief Justice, reveal how broadly dissatisfied the judges of the state are with the CCMS project and with the AOC.

Judge Davis’s remarks, when considered with other actions (or inaction) by the organization, reveal that the CJA maintains absolutely no independence from the state bureaucracy.  I believe that CJA has become simply an “arm” of the AOC.

In August of 2009 I wrote a position paper that was widely circulated throughout the branch.  In that paper, I wrote of the need for a new judge’s group.  Even then I was not proposing to disassociate from CJA.  Since that time, I have devoted considerable time, effort, and money to help define, organize, and grow the Alliance of California Judges.  Until now, I have done so believing that I could belong to both organizations.

I no longer can maintain that belief.  I will obtain my insurance benefits from the market, if necessary.

The Judges of this state deserve an organization that maintains its independence.  I will continue to work toward that goal by building the Alliance of California Judges.

I originally wrote that the “California Judges Association does not appear to have the capacity or will to engage in an independent critique of the Judicial Council or the AOC. The CJA has become a pleasant, passive, professional organization that does a good job of member services and education, but seems to lack the vitality and energy necessary to press for internal review.”

I have now reached the conclusion that far from being passive, the CJA has been co-opted to uncritically support and advocate for the centralized management model.  The leadership of CJA has systematically destroyed any semblance of independence.  That leadership invited the AOC top administration to directly participate in board meetings.  That leadership stood by or assisted the co-opting of independent judicial education, and independent judicial ethics advice.

Recent reform debate has centered on AB 1208, proposed by the Alliance.  Even though we have invited dialogue, neither the Chief Justice, nor any Judicial Council leadership, nor the CJA has accepted that invitation.  Instead, what we see is categorical opposition in the form of “bunker” mentality.

Judge Davis went to Majority Leader Calderon’s office and opposed the bill before it was even introduced, and before CJA membership expressed any position.  I have spoken to Mr. Calderon.  He remembers that Judge Davis introduced himself as President of CJA.  Judge Davis has now stated that he was only expressing his personal view, but I have yet to see any public letter of clarification to the Majority Leader.

Next, in forming a survey of members, the CJA leadership permitted a “push” question that was proposed after the work of the committee tasked to draft it.  The question was obviously designed to undermine what proved to be a majority support for the reform represented by AB 1208, and it has been used for that purpose.

CJA leadership has sanctioned a letter by District 8 representative Judge Herman to mis-use the organization’s logo to promote a singular view that is contrary to the organization’s stated neutrality.  CJA tacitly watches while members of its own leadership demonize the judges of Los Angeles as something less than judges committed to their overall responsibilities as statewide constitutional officers, pitting judges from different regions against one another to preserve a failed status quo.

The American common law is an organic model of political organization and development. Far from being its fault, it is its genius. The vitality and power of law so structured depends upon the integrity of individual trial judges, each constitutionally empowered to render unique decisions in their own courtrooms, restrained by principles of stare decisis, to settle the actual controversies of the parties before them.

I pointed out by quoting authorities in management theory why management by central control is an anathema to the common law.  In such systems “[m]anagement, afflicted by increasing complexity and information overload, can react by becoming quite intolerant of ambiguity. Factors, targets, organisational structures all need to be nailed down. Uncertainty is ignored or denied. The management task is seen to be the enunciation of mission, the determination of strategy, and the elimination of deviation. Stability is sought as the ultimate bulwark against anxiety, which might otherwise become overwhelming….analysis loses its primacy, contingency (cause and effect) loses its meaning, long-term planning becomes impossible, visions become illusions, consensus and strong cultures become dangerous….”

CJA has now become part of the “group think” that is bringing our judicial system to its knees and causing it to lose its soul.  I will now devote myself exclusively to ensuring that the Alliance of California Judges matures into a responsible organization that may continue as a voice representing all judges of the state who are truly independent thinkers, regardless of political persuasion or personal points of view.

I realize and respect that other judges may disagree with me on this critical issue of independence and judicial freedom.  But I do not have to pay them $400 per year for the privilege.

Very truly yours,

David R. Lampe

cc:  Hon William Palmer

David R. Lampe

Judge of the Kern County Superior Court

1415 Truxtun Avenue

Bakersfield, CA 93301

Posted in: CJA Resignations