Writing our obit is a bit premature…

Posted on April 6, 2017

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Welcome to 2017! Yeah, we know, a bit of time has passed since we’ve been hyperactive here. We’ve been a bit busy frying other fish.  If you consider yourself a progressive, you’ve already read and possibly even recognized our work elsewhere. We will be continuing those projects and check in here as not to neglect our favorite kleptocracy.

So what’s been up in the branch as of late? Let’s start with the most recent of events and work backwards.

First up is TCS, who is still trying to abridge the very California constitution she swore to protect but will touch on that a bit later, You might know her better as

About a week ago, TCS asked the Trump administration to stop going into California courts and performing immigration apprehensions. In our opinion, that’s one of the few stand-up things she’s done recently. Immigrants are now avoiding California courts like the plague, afraid of being detained by ICE and this is screwing up cases right and left when the feds nab them and they have a future scheduled state court date they will never make. Fees are piled on thick and warrants are issued because being nabbed by ICE is apparently no excuse for missing your court date. Neither is not appearing in court because you’re terrified of being apprehended by ICE.

…..and the Trump administrations reply? We’re going to keep arresting them in California courts because you all are kind enough to screen them for weapons, making them easier to apprehend. We wonder if TCS is going to push the issue and enhance senate bill 54 and ban ICE officers from official ICE business in the California courts (stripping them of weapons, handcuffs, badges, etc at the metal detectors) or she made her point and is going to return to the star chamber with much bravado and appreciation, yet few results.

What we’d really like to see given that California is well on its way to becoming a sanctuary state is the judicial branch backing and enhancing SB 54 to provide strong protections for immigrants and a very unwelcome environment for ICE officers performing their jobs inside the courts. When DACA / DREAMERS are deported for misdemeanor DUI’s then we as Californians are obligated to step up and fight the good fight for our fellow citizens. Then again, TCS more apt to study the issue for a year and review committee recommendations on how to deal with the fact that a huge percentage of immigrants fear showing up in court – so they don’t.   You know what we want to see….

Back to that constitutional thing we mentioned earlier from the ACJ:

Like a zombie, the proposal to give the Judicial Council the power to strip away judgeships from certain counties and divvy them up among others has sprung to life yet again. Last week, Assembly Member Jose Medina introduced AB 414, a bill that would let the Judicial Council reallocate up to five vacant judgeships away from courts it deems overstaffed. You can check out the legislative language here.

Also percolating in the Legislature is SB 39, a bill that would give the Council the authority to “suspend” and reallocate up to four judgeships, subject to gubernatorial—not legislative—approval.

These bills represent at least the third and fourth times that some version of this idea has been floated in Sacramento. AB 414 is identical to AB 2341, which died in committee last year, and to a proposed amendment to AB 938 that went nowhere when its sponsor apparently got wind of judicial opposition.

This idea is a really bad one, and perhaps an unconstitutional one to boot. Article VI, section 4 of the California Constitution gives the Legislature—not the Judicial Council or the AOC—the authority to decide how many judges should sit in each county: “[T]he Legislature shall prescribe the number of judges and provide for the officers and employees of each superior court.”  [Emphasis added.] As we’ve said before, we believe that the allocation of judges is best decided after vigorous and public debate by our elected representatives, not according to some obscure calculation performed by bureaucrats using a formula that can be tweaked at will, to be ratified by a Judicial Council largely hand-picked by the Chief Justice. If the Governor won’t give us additional funding until judgeships get moved from one county to another, then the Legislature can say so—and specify whose ox is getting gored. It should not delegate that essential power to a body with a track record of poor decision-making.

This bad idea didn’t start in the Legislature. The Futures Commission’s Fiscal/Court Administration Working Group, picking up on a line in one of the Governor’s veto messages back in 2015, recommended the idea last April. The reallocation of judgeships is a priority of the AOC’s lobbying arm, the Office of Governmental Affairs; check out the materials from the last meeting of the Policy Coordination and Liaison Committee (PCLC) starting at p. 29. So the impetus behind this major affront to local court autonomy and to the authority of the Legislature is coming from within our own branch.

The Alliance of California Judges and the California Judges Association both took a stand against this proposal last year. Many presiding judges publicly opposed the idea. But the Council itself has never debated the idea publicly. The Council did apparently approve it, along with six other legislative priorities, in a single vote without any specific discussion whatsoever at its December 16, 2016 meeting. The AOC persists in lobbying for it behind our backs and over our repeated objections.

The AOC’s continued advocacy of a bill that so many of us oppose, without meaningful debate and so much as a separate public vote of the Judicial Council, is a slap in the face of every trial court judge in the state. Let this latest lobbying campaign serve as a reality check to any of us who still clings to the illusion that the Judicial Council and the AOC hear our voices and care about what we think.

One final note: In that same December 16 vote, the Council delegated to the Policy Coordination and Liaison Committee the authority “to take positions or provide comments on behalf of the Judicial Council on proposed legislation.”  So now an advisory committee that operates largely under the radar has license to push for legislation that can profoundly affect us all—something they’ve apparently been doing all along. Not a single word was said in the Council about this blanket delegation of authority. A democratically elected Judicial Council would never have approved it.

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Yeah, they’re back to their old crap again, nothing new… and in our absence and slowly over time, the AOC’s ministry of disinformation has resumed bullshitting people again. Sorry about that – we’ll try and keep them honest.

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Anyways, we’ll be back later and write some more. In the meantime, have a blessed day!

 

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