Monday, December 10, 2001
Legislators Learn About Court System in ‘Day on the Bench’ Program
By NICK YULICO, Staff Writer
A local state senator will observe court proceedings, talk to judges and learn more about the judicial branch of government today as part of the California Judicial Council’s statewide “Day on the Bench” program.
The program, which places legislators inside courthouses, began in 1995 but is new to the Los Angeles Superior Court, court spokesman Kyle Christopherson said.
As a guest of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert M. Martinez, supervising judge of the East District, state Sen. Robert Margett, R-Arcadia, will be the second legislator to spend a half-day in the Pomona South Courthouse.
Assemblywoman Gloria Negrete McCleod, D-Montclair, raved about her experience last week with Martinez.
“This is an eye-opener for legislators,” McCleod said. “I told the judge that this should be mandatory for every legislator, so they see how crowded it is but also realize that the system still works.”
The idea for the program came out of the Judicial Council’s interest in helping legislators to have better first-hand information of the court system and its general day-to-day work, Kate Howard, assistant director of the Judicial Council’s Office of Governmental Affairs, said.
Each year, the Administrative Office of the Court, the public affairs division of the Judicial Council, sends invitations to all members of the legislature to tell them about the program and then telephones the members individually to get information about their particular concerns, Howard said.
Howard said they have gotten overwhelmingly positive reviews from the 10 to 15 legislators participating in the program annually.
McCleod’s “day on the bench” started at 8:30 a.m. and ended four hours later after sitting at trials in the family, juvenile, and criminal courts in Pomona.
She said she was very impressed by the work of the courts she saw, but spoke of an “overwhelming darkness that falls over you” when you step inside the court.
“I think there is a sadness when you go into a courthouse because you know that some people will be incarcerated,” McCleod said. “My initial feeling was right. Nobody should want to do anything bad to end up in court.”
Besides gaining insight of the plight of the average plaintiff and being very impressed with the work of the family and juvenile courts, McCleod said she came to another important conclusion.
“Not to criticize Governor Davis, but open judicial seats must be filled right away to benefit democracy and those working in the courts,” McCleod said.
Howard said that these were the types of conclusions legislators would make after finishing the program and noted the program’s timing is very important.
“Especially because of term limits, legislators need to learn quickly,” said Howard. “This provides opportunities for members to meet with courts in their district to find out about the important work of the judicial branch.”
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company