Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, December 7, 2005




Judicial Council Adopts New Qualifications for Temporary Judges




The California Judicial Council has adopted new rules governing the use of attorneys as temporary judges, the Administrative Office of the Courts said yesterday.

The state Constitution, which authorizes each trial court to appoint temporary judges, only requires that they be members of the State Bar, although many individual courts, including the Los Angeles Superior Court, have stricter requirements.

Temporary judges may only serve with the consent of all parties.

The new rules deal with the rules will govern the selection, training, appointment, supervision and evaluation of temporary judges, and impose the first-ever statewide minimum education and experience requirements. They were adopted at last Friday’s council meeting, and take effect in July of next year, except that minimum training and experience requirements will not be in effect until Jan. 1, 2007.

‘Good Cause’

Under the rules, temporary judges will have to be 10-year members of the State Bar, unless the presiding judge finds “good cause” to reduce the requirement to five years. They will also have to be members of the State Bar in good standing with no disciplinary actions pending and must not be convicted felons

The training requirements, which are similar to those already implemented by the Los Angeles Superior Court, include a three-hour course in bench conduct and demeanor, taught by an AOC-certified instructor; three hours of ethics class, which may be completed online; and three hours of education in each substantive area in which the attorney is to serve.

The bench conduct course must include training in “[a]ccess, fairness, and elimination of bias,” as well as in how to deal with self-represented parties.

Additional courses must be taken every three years for the attorney to remain eligible for temporary judge service.

The Judicial Council voted to keep a controversial requirement, objected to by a number of lawyers when the proposed rules were circulated for comment, that precludes some lawyers from serving as pro tems in areas in which they concentrate in practice.

The rules will bar any lawyer from serving as a landlord-tenant or family law judge pro tem if the lawyer represents one “side” in 90 percent of his or her cases in that field, or if one party to the case is represented by counsel and the other is not.

Also, a lawyer who has a case in a particular courthouse may not sit as a judge pro tem in the same courthouse on the same day without a waiver from the presiding judge.

Local Requirements

The Los Angeles Superior Court currently requires that an attorney have been a member of the State Bar for at least five years and attend a two-part training session, beginning with the three-hour “Fairness in the Courts,” which gives attorneys a crash course in ethical issues, demeanor, accessibility and fairness, before serving as temporary judges.

After completing the introductory class, temporary judges are given an hour-and-15-minute briefing on the specific area of law where they will be assigned. Temporary judges are used to handle matters in small claims, traffic infractions, unlawful detainers, and civil non-jury trials.

Certified specialists are used as temporary judges in family law. 


Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company