Friday, April 1, 2011
Calderon Refutes Reports of Willingness to ‘Shelve’ AB 1208
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
Assembly Majority Leader Charles Calderon, D-Montebello, said he has no intention of backing away from his support for trial court autonomy from the Administrative Office of the Courts.
In an open letter dated Tuesday, a copy of which was obtained yesterday by the MetNews, he refuted a Northern California newspaper’s report of Monday that he was willing to “shelve” the Trial Court Rights Act of 2011 if there was no organized opposition to the legislation.
“I have never [emphasis in original] represented or even suggested to anyone that I was willing to ‘shelve’ AB 1208, and it is cavalier and simplistic to represent my conversations with the Chief Justice in that manner,” Calderon said.
‘A Big If’
He explained that he has spoken with Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye “about putting the bill on a two year track” if the judicial leadership agrees not to oppose the bill through the committee process.
“Of course, this is a big ‘if,’” he commented.
Should such an agreement be reached, Calderon said, he would be amenable to holding the bill on the Assembly floor “while the Chief Justice works with trial court Judges, in good faith, to address their issues.” Cantil-Sakauye “should have the opportunity to demonstrate her vision for the administration of justice and whether it is possible to control the massive AOC bureaucracy,” he said.
He remarked that Cantil-Sakauye “appears sincere in her desire to find a solution that will protect the independence and autonomy of the trial courts” and open to “making the Judicial Council more democratic in its composition.”
Calderon insisted, however, “if there is little progress towards a final solution” and no agreement regarding opposition to AB 1208 in committee, “I will continue the course I started when I introduced this bill and agreed to advance the cause of trial courts.”
The lawmaker added that he was undeterred from pursuing reform even though “I know, that the AOC, under the leadership of Chief Justice Ronald George, may have attempted to emasculate its critics, particularly Alliance judges, through news ‘spins,’ whisper campaigns, and threats.”
“I am committed to this issue. I have no intention of ‘shelving’ this bill (more accurately this issue) under any circumstances other than those where the bill becomes law or a resolution born from cooperation and mutual respect between the Judicial Council and the trial courts has been memorialized in some permanent document.”
Calderon introduced AB 1208, which is backed by the Alliance of California Judges, in February. It would grant the trial courts more authority over their administration and funding, based on the Legislature’s 1997 directive in the Lockyer-Isenberg Trial Court Funding Act for the judiciary to “adopt a Trial Court Bill of Financial Management Rights.”
A total of 107 current and former bench officers across the state have signed on to a “Dear Colleague” letter against the measure, asserting the bill “would transform the judiciary from a cohesive and co-equal branch of government into 58 fragments.”
The Santa Clara and Santa Cruz superior courts have also opposed AB 1208 but the Sacramento, Amador, Mariposa, and Kern superior courts are backing it.
Former Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judges Charles W. “Tim” McCoy, James Bascue, Robert Parkin Victor E. Chavez, J. Stephen Czuleger, Robert A. Dukes and William A. MacLaughlin have expressed their support for Calderon’s proposal, but no official position has yet been taken by the court.
Both the court and the California Judges Association are currently polling members for their opinions. A spokesperson previously said the Los Angeles court’s executive committee is slated to deliberate the issue at a meeting April 20.
A legislative committee hearing date for the bill has not yet been set.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company