Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Schwarzenegger Signs Bill Creating 50 New Judgeships
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed Assembly Bill 159, creating 50 new judgeships around the state.
The governor signed the bill, sponsored by Assembly Judiciary Committee Chair Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, on Sunday, the last day for action on bills enacted during regular session this year. Schwarzenegger reported that after signing 78 bills and vetoing 72 on Sunday, he had signed 750 and vetoed 214 in 2007.
Funding for the new judgeships was provided in the 2007-08 budget, effective next June. The positions are in addition to 50 that were created last year, and the Judicial Council plans to seek another 50 next year.
The positions will be distributed according to a judicial needs assessment that was updated by the Judicial Council in February. The bulk of the positions will go to fast-growing Riverside, San Bernardino, and Sacramento counties, while Los Angeles County—which received two new judgeships this year—will get one of the positions created by the bill.
AB 159 also authorizes the conversion of 162 subordinate judicial officer positions—78 of them in Los Angeles County—to judgeships. The conversions will take place as the positions become vacant, subject to a maximum of 16 positions being converted annually.
The governor said in his signing statement:
“California continues to suffer from a severe shortage of trial court judgeships and the ramifications are serious and far-reaching. Ultimately, this shortage results in decreased access to the courts, compromised public safety, an unstable business climate, and, in some courts, enormous backlogs that inhibit fair, timely and equitable justice.”
Chief Justice Ronald M. George also issued a statement:
“I applaud the Governor for signing this important legislation that will improve access to justice for all Californians. I also thank the leaders of the Senate and Assembly for their bipartisan support of the Assembly Bill 159.
“Due to dramatic increases in population and new case filings, California trial courts have faced severe judicial shortages for many years. The 50 new judgeships created in this bill, coupled with the 50 new positions established last year, will go a long way toward providing Californians with fair, timely, and accessible justice.
“I look forward to our continued partnership with the legislative and executive branches to meet the state’s urgent need for judicial resources.”
Also among the bills signed Sunday were:
•SB 241, by Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Encino, which will allow a court, where the parents of a ward or minor conservatee, or the estate, lack the ability to pay the fees of appointed counsel, to order payment of all or part of those fees by the county;
•AB 1248, by Assemblywoman Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, which will make various changes with regard to civil procedure, court fees, and funding; and
•AB 1484, by Assemblyman Paul Krekorian, D-Burbank, enacting the Model State Trademark Law; and
•AB 1539, by Krekorian; which will extend procedures applicable to the humanitarian release of terminally ill prisoners to those who are permanently medically incapacitated and whose release is deemed not to threaten public safety.
The governor vetoed SB 396, by Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas, D-Los Angeles, which would have required the establishment of a committee to study civil court filing fees. The bill was unnecessary because the Judicial Council already has the authority to conduct such a study, the governor said.
He also vetoed:
•AB 467, by Assemblyman Michael Feuer, D-Los Angeles, which would have made several changes with regard to fee waivers, including a provision allowing a fee waiver to be granted at any stage of the litigation or appellate process. The governor said the bill would place an undue burden on the courts.
•AB 502, by Assemblyman Charles Calderon, D-Montebello, which would have created a program to assist undocumented immigrants who are victims of domestic violence. The governor said that such services should be available to all victims, and that undocumented immigrants may obtain such assistance under current law.
Sunday’s actions follow the signing of a number of bills of interest to the bench and bar late last week, including AB 403, by Assemblyman Van Tran, R-Costa Mesa, which will require the California Law Revision Commission to study whether, and when, the attorney-client privilege should survive the death of the holder and report by 2009; and AB 1090, by Assemblyman Todd Spitzer, R-Costa Mesa, which will require that candidates, including judicial candidates, seeking to use a ballot designation support that designation by filling out a worksheet prescribed by the secretary of state.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company