Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Lawmaker Seeks to Mandate Disclosure of JNE’s ‘Not Qualified’ Ratings
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A state legislator who is also an attorney said yesterday he hopes to have the disclosure of “not qualified” ratings of Superior Court appointees by the State Bar Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation made mandatory next year.
Assemblyman Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, explained the thinking behind an amendment to AB 1725, an unrelated bill that was stripped of its original content in the state Senate last week at Lieu’s request.
The amendment would state legislative intent that “appropriate disclosure” be made when a judge is rated “not qualified” by the JNE commission. Lieu said it was inspired by the governor’s recent appointment of Elia Pirozzi to the San Bernardino Superior Court.
Legislation was unnecessary in that particular instance, because the State Bar Board of Governors exercised its discretionary authority to disclose that Pirozzi, a Republican activist and real estate broker with limited legal experience, had been rated not qualified by the JNE commission.
But Lieu said the disclosure in such instances should be mandatory.
“I personally believe that the public has the right to know when the governor appoints a judge who has been rated unqualified by the bar,” he said. But because the amendment merely states legislative intent, additional issues and approaches may be aired before any legislative votes are taken.
One issue that might be addressed, he said, is whether the commission should be allowed to disclose the reasons for the “not qualified” rating, which it cannot do at present, even when the Board of Governors allows disclosure of the rating itself.
Yesterday was the last full day of legislative session, so the bill will not become law this year. Lieu said he expects an interim hearing on the legislation to take place sometime this winter.
Lieu is one of a number of Democratic lawmakers who have been critical of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for not appointing a more racially diverse judiciary, which he said makes the appointment of an inexperienced and low-rated candidate like Pirozzi all the more irksome.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company