Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Judicial Council Votes to Push for New Judgeships
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Judicial Council of California will seek funding to maintain operations and increase the number of judgeships, based on a set of priorities approved at a meeting held yesterday.
The meeting in San Francisco was the last scheduled for Chief Justice Ronald M. George’s tenure as chairman. Tani Cantil-Sakauye takes over as chief justice and council chair on Jan. 3.
In a release, the council’s administrative arm, the Administrative Office of the Courts, said it would sponsor legislation to create a third set of 50 new judgeships, allocated according to the most recent judgeship needs study and secure funding for the second set of 50 judgeships authorized in 2007 but not yet funded. One of the new positions would go to Los Angeles Superior Court.
The council also said it would seek sufficient funding to avoid court closures, reduced hours, and staff layoffs without deferring or delaying long-term branch infrastructure projects; to adequately fund counsel in juvenile dependency cases, probate conservatorship programs, and court interpreters; and to etxtend the court security fee increase recently adopted by the Legislature to prevent further reductions in the court security budget.
The council also endorsed two recommendations to improve the judicial appointment process that were proposed by the Implementation Committee of the Commission for Impartial Courts.
One would mandate disclosure of a Superior Court appointee’s “not qualified” rating from the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation at the time of appointment. The other would make permanent and mandatory the present practice of announcing an appellate court nominee’s JNE Commission rating prior to a confirmation vote.
In other actions, the council:
•Approved allocations of $198.6 million in statewide special funds for projects and programs that support the trial courts, including statewide court technology programs and projects, such as the California Court Case Management System; human resources and accounting services; judicial and court staff education and training; complex civil litigation departments; alternative dispute resolution; self-help centers; and other programs to improve court services for the public.
•Reinstated local responsibility for fiscal management of the superior courts of Placer and Glenn counties, which were placed under state oversight while implementing improved operating and auditing procedures.
•Approved the distribution of $2 million in partnership grants for the Equal Access Fund.
•Heard an interim progress report from the Elkins Family Law Implementation Task Force, presented by Court of Appeal Justice Laurie D. Zelon of this district’s Div. Seven, the task force chair. George appointed the task force two years ago to study rules changes for the family courts.
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