Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Judicial Advocate Voices Optimism on Bid to Increase Judgeships
California Judicial Council Lobbyist Says Amendment Limiting New Positions to 25 Not Final Word
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A California Judicial Council lobbyist expressed optimism yesterday that the Assembly will restore the number of new judgeships called for in proposed legislation to 50 per year for the next three years, up from the 25 called for in a recent amendment.
At various times SB 56, by Sen. Joseph Dunn, D-Garden Grove, provided for the creation of either 50 new judgeships, or for an unspecified number, for each of three consecutive years. In the past week, however, the Assembly amended the bill to provide for only 25 new judgeships this year, with future increases to be considered following a new study by the Judicial Council.
Kate Howard, legislative director for the council, told the MetNews that council representatives have been meeting with aides to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Assembly Speaker Fabio Nunez and are “optimistic” that lawmakers will approve 50 new judgeships for this year. She said she hopes that such an amendment will be passed by the end of the week.
Howard said that Nunez’s office “clearly communicated the speaker’s concern that the governor has not done a good enough job in making appointments to the bench that reflect the racial and ethnic diversity” ofthe state.
The governor’s aides unsurprisingly disagreed with that assessment, Howard said.
The amendment followed Schwarzenegger’s appointments of former Republican Congressman James Rogan and Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura H. Parsky, daughter of President George W. Bush confidant Gerald Parsky, to judgeships in Orange and San Diego counties, respectively.
Michael Belote, the California Judges Association’s Sacramento lobbyist, told the MetNews :
“We were surprised by the reduction in the number of judges. We thought there was a commitment.”
As amended, the bill would require that 25 new judgeships be allocated on the basis of a 2004 update to an earlier study on judicial needs. That study identified San Bernardino, Riverside, Fresno and Sacramento counties as having the greatest need for new judges Los Angeles would likely receive no more than one new judge out of 25.
Belote said that there is currently a shortage of 450 judges throughout the state and that 50 new ones “would have been a good start.”
The Assembly also removed a provision in the bill that would have provided for the eventual conversion of 161 commissioner and referee positions to judgeships.
The bill passed the Senate last year by a vote of 36-2, but had been moribund until the funding agreement was reached. The cost of 150 judgeships, including support staff, would likely top $118 million.
Calls to members of the Assembly were not returned.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company