Why are we so afraid of democracy?

Posted on April 22, 2013

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April 19, 2013

Dear Members and Others,

Below is an outstanding editorial from Bill Girdner, editor of the Courthouse News Service, that helps to illustrate the dysfunction of California’s judicial leadership structure. Until our Judicial Council is composed of independent judicial officers determined to make responsible decisions on behalf of the state court system, we will continue to see little more than head-nodding and cheerleading by the handpicked judges and justices whose primary qualifications appear to be their ability to provide unwavering support for the Chief Justice, while consistently deferring to the recommendations and actions of the Administrative Office of the Courts.

The Alliance has long advocated for a democratic process of selecting the voting members of the Judicial Council. Alternatively, we have proposed a formula for the election of a trial court advisory committee that would ensure the representation of small, medium and large courts from throughout the state. As explained below, the Ninth Circuit uses a system based largely on seniority that involves a rotation of judges from its 14 judicial districts. We are open to any other approach that would produce strong, independent leadership. By now it should be apparent to everyone that a governance structure based upon patronage is wholly unsuited to the task.

A constitutional amendment to change the composition of the Judicial Council will not make the ballot without a very expensive voter initiative campaign or the support of the Chief Justice. We urge her to accept the reality that a more democratic selection process is essential to restore faith in the decisionmaking process of the Judicial Council. We will advocate unceasingly for this critically important reform.

Directors,

Alliance of California Judges

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Note from JCW – The link to the article has been included as the article itself was mangled in transit.