Friday, December 13, 2002
County Bar Joins Call to Remove Boy Scout Exception From Canons
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Los Angeles County Bar Association has joined other bar groups in asking the state Supreme Court to overhaul a canon of judicial conduct that permits California judges to participate in organizations that discriminate against gays, including the Boy Scouts of America.
The Dec. 11 letter from County Bar President Miriam Krinsky to Chief Justice Ronald George was sent a day after George told reporters he planned to meet with Bar Association of San Francisco President Angela Bradstreet about her group’s stance against the so-called Boy Scout exception to the Code of Judicial Conduct.
Krinsky said the Judicial Council’s 2001 report on sexual orientation fairness in California courts showed that most gays and lesbians responding to a survey believed the courts demonstrate bias, and that more than half of all court employees believe that it is better that gays and lesbians are not open about their sexual orientation.
“These findings among others made in the report, demonstrate at a minimum a perception of bias in the court system that is one of the basic goals of the canons to eliminate,” Krinsky said. “The continued existence of this perceived, as well as any actual, bias requires a response. The Association believes that the need exists for a strong and appropriate response to continued sexual orientation bias in the California court system.”
Krinsky also cited resolutions by BASF and the Santa Clara County Bar Association, and the agreement by judges of the San Francisco Superior Court not to participate in groups that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
Canon 2C of the code bars membership by a judge in any organization that practices invidious discrimination, to avoid, in the Advisory Committee’s comment, the “perception that the judge’s impartiality is impaired.”
But the canon also includes an exception that, although it does not mention the Boy Scouts by name, was meant to allow judges to continue their activities with that organization in the wake of its policy that gays may not be members.
The exception notes that the canon “does not bar membership in a nonprofit youth organization.”
That policy was upheld by the 2000 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale.
In noting that he planned to meet with Bradstreet, George said it was up to the entire court whether to amend the canons to eliminate the Boy Scout exception.
State Bar of California officials initially planned to meet with Bradstreet to discuss the issue but canceled the session, saying George was the proper audience.
BASF asked the Los Angeles County Bar Association to join in its call for amending the canon. County Bar leaders opted instead to study the issue and draft their own request.
Activists and bar groups have asked Los Angeles Superior Court leaders to follow the example of their San Francisco counterparts and agree to dissociate from the Boy Scouts without waiting for a change in the canons.
Superior Court Deputy Public Information Officer Kyle Christopherson said yesterday that the matter was in the hands of the state Administrative Office of the Courts.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company