Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Tuesday, October 16, 2001


Page 4


Davis Vetoes Truancy Court Bill, Others Affecting Legal Community


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Gov. Gray Davis has vetoed a bill to appropriate funding for a Los Angeles Superior Court truancy court, citing a faltering economy.

“Given the rapid decline of our economy and a budget shortfall of $1.1 billion through the first three months of this fiscal year alone, I have no choice but to oppose General Fund spending,” Davis said in his Sunday veto message, using language that has become standard for bills that the governor deems too costly.

But Davis said that even though he could not sign the bill—AB  1536 by Assemblyman Tony Cardenas of Sylmar—that the program still could be funded from a $121 million Juvenile Justice Prevention fund.

The bill would have reserved $750,000 for the special pilot program to start a truancy court that would rotate to various locations around the county. Staffing would have included a deputy district attorney, deputy public defender, school district liaison, probation officer, mental health professional, special education expert and a case manager.

The program would have been similar in its approach to other specialty courts now operating on a pilot basis in the Los Angeles Superior Court, including a homeless court near downtown and a neighborhood court near Van Nuys. The aim of the specialty courts, modeled in part on drug courts here and around the nation, is to direct defendants to social service resources to prevent them from becoming repeat offenders.

Davis also vetoed Senate Bill 1160, which would have provided raises to certain attorneys working for the state and for administrative law judges. The governor again cited the economy for his decision, saying the package would have cost at least $23.9 million annually by the time of full implementation in 2004-05.

He added that requiring salary levels of those lawyers and ALJs—represented by State Collective Unit 2—to be no less than the average amount paid to public sector attorneys “would circumvent the collective bargaining process.”

Also vetoed was SB 1018, which would have allowed counties and cities to provide prosecutors and defenders the same retirement benefits as police officers and firefighters.

Alluding to the deaths of police and firefighters involved in rescue attempts after the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., Davis said:

“The work of prosecutors and defenders is integral to our criminal justice system. I have the highest regard for their contributions. However, this level of enhanced benefit historically has been restricted to sworn law enforcement officers and firefighters who are required to maintain a high level of physical performance as they confront life-threatening danger. They uniquely put themselves in harm’s way day in and day out. The human toll can be extraordinarily high, as we have recently observed.”

But Davis also alluded to a recent murder of a prosecutor in Washington state, and said that “it may be time to revisit the question” of who should qualify for public safety retirement. He called for a report on the issue by April 30, 2002 from the Public Employees Retirement System.

Also vetoed was AB 256, which would have mandated California as the venue for suits filed by out-of-state sellers against California consumers even when an agreement between buyer and seller sets another jurisdiction.

“These venue issues are best left to the courts to decide and there are still differing interpretations at the United States Supreme Court and California appellate court levels,” Davis said in his veto message. “Moreover, California consumers are protected under existing law which permits a court to determine the appropriate venue to resolve a dispute.”

Davis also vetoed a bill to create and fund a California Innocence Protection Program for lawyers and certain nonprofit organizations to investigate and correct alleged wrongful convictions. The governor noted that there are already two innocence programs in the state—one operated by the California Western School of Law and one by Santa Clara University Law School.

Among bills the governor signed was AB 84, which protects court employees and their spouses and children. The measure prohibits the Department of Motor Vehicles from allowing public access to the home addresses of those people.

Those addresses now will be available only by subpoena after a request from an attorney in a civil or criminal action.


Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company