Monday, October 23, 2006
Judicial Council Rejects Mandatory Judicial Education Rule
By TINA BAY, Staff Writer
The Judicial Council on Friday voted unanimously to reject a proposed rule of court that would have required state trial court judges to complete 30 hours of continuing judicial education every three years, opting for an alternative treating the standard as a guideline.
At a public business meeting in San Francisco, which was broadcast over the Internet, the council declined to approve proposed rule 10.462 as drafted by the governing committee of the Center for Judicial Education and Research, and instead adopted a rule under which state trial court judges are only “expected to” satisfy the 30 hours in a three-year cycle.
The “expected to” rule was part of a unanimously accepted proposal submitted by the staff of the Administrative Office of the Courts as an alternative to the “minimum education requirements” scheme recommended by the CJER governing committee after three years of study and review.
The AOC’s proposal also amended CJER’s proposed rule by adding reporting requirements under which individual judges must give their presiding judge an annual record of their educational activities, and the presiding judge must report the aggregate records to the Judicial Council at the end of each three-year cycle.
The CJER proposal had the support of the State Bar, but caused great consternation within the judiciary.
Administrative Director of the Courts William C. Vickrey told the MetNews the AOC’s alternative was the council’s preferred approach to achieving the objective of ensuring judges have access to and receive needed education relevant to their respective assignments.
“The council members concluded that it was important to have a strong reporting process for accountability on education and a process to evaluate what was happening, and that a strong statement that it was an ‘expectation’ was the best way to ensure accountability for the judiciary’s commitment that judges and staff remain current in the law.”
He noted that although the council did not approve the CJER proposal as drafted, an “extraordinary” presentation by the governing committee’s chair, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Fumiko H. Wasserman, convinced members to take the important step of adopting a judicial education rule.
“The action they took is the first time in California that we’ve had a comprehensive rule for education that establishes a strong system of accountability, and I think it’s something that would not have gone as smoothly but for the terrific work that was done by the governing committee and the education staff over the last three years,” he said.
With regard to other court employees, the new rules incorporate the requirements proposed by CJER that subordinate judicial officers and court executive officers must take 30 hours of continuing education every three years, managers and supervisors 12 hours every two years, and court personnel eight hours every two years. The new rules authorize presiding judges to determine the subject matter of the continuing education for subordinate legal officers, and court executive officers have authority to determine the content and length of orientation courses for court personnel, and the subject matter for their continuing education.
Additionally, the new rules clarify that every court must include personnel education expenses in its budget, and is responsible for reimbursing judges for all judicial education expenses that are not otherwise reimbursed through the council’s central account.
With respect to appellate courts, the council members voted to commission the CJER governing committee to assess educational needs of appellate justices and court personnel and present their recommendations to the council next summer.
Friday’s Judicial Council meeting was chaired by Fourth District Court of
Appeal Justice Richard D. Huffman, in place of Chief Justice Ronald M. George who, along with Justice Marvin Baxter, was not present.
The chief justice had remarked earlier this month at the California Judges Association’s annual gathering in Monterey that he and Baxter would not take a position on the issue of mandatory judicial education and would not attend meetings involving discussion of the judicial education proposal, in order to avoid recusing themselves from possible future court challenges to any measures the council adopted.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company