Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, May 13, 2011


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Judges in Smaller Counties Support AOC, CJA Board Member Says

Santa Barbara Judge Herman Says Survey Totals Mask Diverse Views


By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer


A member of the California Judges Association’s Executive Board has sent a letter to the chief justice suggesting that the results of a March survey conducted by the organization—which indicated a majority of the state’s bench officers are dissatisfied with the Judicial Council and Administrative Office of the Courts—do not reflect the diversity of opinions held by all its members.

Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge James Herman—a former State Bar president who represents CJA members from his court as well as those in Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Cruz and Ventura counties—said yesterday that his colleagues in the central California coastal areas “have differing views from what is suggested by the total numbers in the survey” which he wanted to call to the chief justice’s attention.

“My counties are smaller counties,” he said, and “I think its important for our views, which are different from other counties’ views, to be sorted out” since they “don’t necessarily come out of looking at the raw numbers of the survey.”

Survey Results

The CJA said last month that 877 members—34 percent of a total of 2,564—responded to the survey, and that 53 percent of them were generally or somewhat dissatisfied with the current governance of the branch.

With respect to AB 1208, the Trial Court Rights Act of 2011, 48 percent of respondents indicated they were generally or somewhat supportive while 45 percent were generally or somewhat opposed to the bill.

In his letter, sent Wednesday, Herman claimed that “the results are much more nuanced” when broken down by geographic region, and that the survey responses by his constituents offer a “completely different picture than the total results.”

He reported that over 83 percent of respondents from his district are satisfied with the Judicial Council and its oversight of the AOC. Herman added that only five percent said they “somewhat support” AB 1208.

Contrast With Los Angeles

The judge contrasted these numbers to figures from Los Angeles, where he said 88.55 percent of respondents backed the measure. These 201 members represented 48 percent of the votes in favor of AB 1208, Herman wrote. “What these figures show is much less support for [the bill] outside of Los Angeles County,” he opined.

Herman advised the chief justice, however, that “the most significant take away in this survey is the overwhelming desire of the branch to address issues of governance within the branch.”

He noted that 84 percent of respondents agreed in some measure “that judicial branch governance should remain within the judicial branch itself, and not become a function of external political processes,” and said 100 percent of his constituents who responded to the survey agreed with this proposition.

Speaking with the MetNews yesterday, Herman said “what the survey shows as far as different counties are concerned is that some counties have different views on the effectiveness of current branch governance,” but “at the end of the day we really need to work together to address the branch’s governance issues.”


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