Thursday, January 12, 2012
Large Majority of Presiding Judges Oppose AB1208, Council Member Says
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Presiding judges from 42 of California’s 58 trial courts have joined the chairman of the Trial Court Presiding Judge Advisory Committee in signing a letter in opposition to AB1208, which is being supported by the Los Angeles Superior Court.
The bill, which was introduced last year, must pass the Assembly by Jan. 31 or else it dies for this year under legislative rules.
Yolo Superior Court Presiding Judge David Rosenberg announced the “remarkable” response yesterday in a newsletter he sends to presiding judges across the state every week. The responses, however, primarily hale from the smaller counties across the state.
Opposition to the measure—which proposes increasing administrative and financial autonomy for trial courts and was introduced last February by Assemblyman Charles Calderon, D-Industry—has generally come from outside Los Angeles.
Rosenberg said the fact that so many of his fellow presiding judges have voiced their opposition to AB1208 is “particularly telling because proponents of the bill have suggested that the bill is meant to benefit trial courts and is meant to give trial courts more authority and power in the governance structure of the Branch.”
He also insisted that the presiding judges who did not sign onto his letter are not necessarily in support of the bill. “For example, the San Francisco Superior Court Bench met recently and unanimously voted to take a ‘no position’ on the bill,” Rosenberg said.
The jurist predicted that the proponents of AB1208 “will now employ their typical ad hominem tactic which is to attack the messengers and try to belittle the opponents of the bill, rather than talk about the ‘merits’ or ‘deficiencies’ of [it],” but “it won’t work.”
Rosenberg opined that judges “are, frankly, fed up with the constant drumbeat of criticism and vituperation,” and queried “what more need be said” when three-quarters of the state’s presiding judges oppose the measure.
The presiding judges who joined Rosenberg’s letter represent the Alpine, Amador, Butte, Colusa, Contra Costa, Del Norte, El Dorado, Humboldt, Glenn, Imperial, nyo, Lake, Lassen, Marin, Madera, Mendocino, Merced, Modoc, Monterey, Napa, Nevada, Plumas, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Tuolumne, Ventura, Yolo, and Yuba superior courts.
After Rosenberg sent out his solicitation to his brethren to join him in opposing AB 1208, the Alliance of California Judges sent out an email to their members and supporters asking them to contact lawmakers to urge passage of the bill.
The alliance, which sponsored the bill, noted that the Los Angeles, Kern, Sacramento, San Mateo, and Mariposa courts have officially endorsed the legislation, and that “a plurality of members of the California Judges Association by plebiscite have indicated support for AB 1208,” in their responses to a survey sent out by that organization last year.
Alliance leaders contended that the group “has asked more than once to meet to discuss and compromise on the language and to meet in good faith to see if some agreement could be reached” with the Judicial Council, but these efforts “have been met with silence.”
“Instead the Council has relied upon their large governmental affairs staff and willing Council members and associates to kill this important measure that simply assures funding to the trial courts,” the directors claimed.
Former Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge Robert Dukes also sent out an email on Monday to his bench colleagues, voicing his support for the alliance’s efforts to secure passage of AB1208.
He opined that the bill does not make significant changes to the governance of the branch, and “leaves the Judicial Council with all the authority it is granted under the Constitution, Art. VI, sec. 6.”
Dukes explained that “[w]hat it does do is give to the local courts the ability to work cooperatively with the Judicial Council in making fiscal decisions which continue what our core value should be—the preserving of trial courts.”
He insisted that the changes proposed are “nothing personal about our Chief Justice,” but rather intended to stop the “bleeding of the trial courts” caused by budget cuts to the branch.
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company