Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Assembly Judiciary Committee’s Vote Advances AB 1208
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Legislation to assure administrative and financial autonomy to trial courts advanced yesterday in the state Assembly’s Judiciary Committee.
AB 1208, by Assembly Majority Leader Charles Calderon, D-Montebello, was approved with amendments proposed by the author following a hearing in Sacramento.
But the bill received only the minimum six votes needed, with one member opposed and three not voting, and members’ comments suggested that the bill is a long way from becoming law. The hearing was broadcast over cable television and the Internet via the California Channel.
Several members voiced concern that infighting between the Judicial Council and local trial courts would impair the courts’ effectiveness and urged the parties to work together toward an amicable solution.
Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, said he was encouraged by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye’s willingness to work with local judges and was hopeful that supporters and opponents would “get out from behind the barricades.”
He also said he had spoken with a number of his county’s judges, and that while the presiding judge is an outspoken supporter and the court officially favors the bill, “the bench here is deeply split.”
Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, voted against the bill, saying it was unclear and ambiguous in a number of respects. An analysis prepared for the committee by its longtime chief counsel, Drew Liebert, and published on the Legislature’s website, pointed to interpretive difficulties with a number of provisions.
Liebert reported that many individual judges had weighed in on the bill in letters to the committee, on both sides. He also noted that many groups had joined the Judicial Council in opposition, including the California Commission on Access to Justice, the Civil Justice Association of California, te Consumer Attorneys of California, the California Defense Counsel, and the California Chamber of Commerce.
The Alliance of California Judges, which supports the bill, issued a statement praising the committee action:
“The Alliance of California Judges is pleased that the Assembly Judiciary Committee agrees that the AOC is not to be trusted with public funds without a real check or balance. We approve of the amendment that requires the AOC/JC to obtain approval from 66% of trial courts or the legislature before embarking on costly statewide programs that compromise our ability to serve the public through open courthouses. We are hopeful that the AOC/JC will support this common sense measure. Now is the time to begin the democratic reform that judges all over this state have demonstrated they favor. This legislation is an important step in that direction.”
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company