Wednesday, January 23, 2013
CJA President Says Group May Seek Legislation Over CJP’s Rejection of its Early Discovery Proposal
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The California Judges Association may seek legislation allowing judges access to complaints at an early stage of the disciplinary process, the group’s president said yesterday.
Sonoma Superior Court Judge Alan Hardcastle told the MetNews that while his group would prefer to work through the Commission on Judicial Performance, it is also cognizant of next month’s deadline for the introduction of bills to be considered this year.
The commission last week asked for comment on several proposed amendments to its rules, including one that would codify current procedures regarding staff inquiries and preliminary investigations, which take place before the commission decides whether to charge a judge with misconduct.
In doing so, the CJP rejected a CJA proposal, made late last year, that would have required the commission to provide judges with the names of witnesses and copies of investigative materials before the judge responds.
The commission said the early discovery—current rules require that such disclosure be made only after formal proceeds are commenced—would have a chilling effect on complainants. It noted that the only state that allows such early discovery is Alabama, and that the number of complaints filed in that state dropped significantly after the rule was introduced a decade ago.
Hardcastle and other CJA leaders met by telephone last week to consider their response. The CJA president noted yesterday that the CJP’s comment period will not expire until March 18, which is about a month after the date by which most bills must be introduced if they are to be considered this year, according to legislative rules.
“We’re probably going to have to move forward with legislation,” he said. “That doesn’t mean we’re going to stop talking [to the CJP], but [the deadline] is like the statute of limitations, we’ve got to get our legislation filed.”
In the meantime, he said, the CJA is looking forward to seeing what comments are submitted to the commission.
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