Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Monday, November 4, 2002


Page 4


Judicial Council Adopts Standard on Death Penalty Appointments


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The Judicial Council on Friday for the first time adopted statewide minimum standards for attorneys appointed to represent death penalty defendants at trial.

Under the new rules, an applicant for a lead death penalty defense appointment must show at least 10 years criminal law litigation experience, prior service as lead counsel in other matters, and at least 15 hours of special capital case defense MCLE training.

Trial judges may make exceptions on a showing of acceptable alternative training and experience.

If a Public Defender’s Office is appointed, the individual attorney to be lead counsel from the office must meet the qualifications.

“With today’s action, the Judicial Council recognizes the importance of having statewide rules to guide the trial courts in this critically important function,” Chief Justice Ronald M. George said. “The minimum standards parallel the efforts of the Supreme Court in providing guidelines for the appointment of counsel in capital appeals and habeas corpus proceedings.” 

The rule originated with the council’s Advisory Committee on Criminal Law, and becomes rule 4.117 of the California Rules of Court. It is to take effect Jan. 1.

The action is part of the council’s effort to standardize rules in courts around the state. A number of California’s 58 superior courts have their own death penalty appointment rules, but they do not apply uniformly.

Rules for appointed death penalty appeals and habeas corpus counsel—-governing how they are paid, and thus how much time and resources they can devote to their clients—-were amended in March.

The council on Friday also adopted rules governing appellate court procedures and practice and the transfer of cases from superior court appellate divisions to the Courts of Appeal.

Also adopted was a rule establishing standards requiring court commissioners, referees and other subordinate judicial officers to have at least 10 years State Bar membership—-the same as that required of judges. A lesser five-year requirement may be substituted on a showing of good cause by the court’s presiding judge.

Rules were also adopted to standardize electronic filing in trial courts.

George opened the day-long session in San Francisco with a moment of silence in memory of Court of Appeal Presiding Justice Mildred Lillie, who died Oct. 27. Lillie, who led this district’s Div. Seven, served as a trial and appellate jurist in California for 55 years.


Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company