Tuesday, December 24, 2002
Assigned Judges Asked to Reapply to Assure Compliance With Conflict Rule
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Retired judges sitting on assignment in California courts must reapply for the Assignment Judges Program by Jan. 31, the Administrative Office of the Courts said yesterday.
As part of the reapplication process, the AOC explained in a release, assigned judges must certify compliance with Chief Justice Ronald M. George’s new policy that bars them from doing paid, private dispute resolution work. The chief justice has sole responsibility for assigning retired judges, according to the state Constitution.
The AOC clarified that the policy does not prohibit assigned judges from also performing other types of compensated work for the courts, such as serving as discovery referees, or from engaging in unpaid dispute resolution on behalf of a court or a nonprofit organization.
The policy provides that any judge who engages in paid, private dispute resolution work after Jan. 1 of next year will be removed from the program and barred from reapplying until one year after he or she ceases doing such work. Judges will be asked to recertify their willingness to sit on assignment and compliance with the policy prior to Dec. 31 each year.
Judges with questions about the policy were asked by the AOC to contact the managing attorney of the Assigned Judges Program, Marcia M. Taylor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
George announced the policy in July, saying it was necessary to end an appearance of conflict of interest and to assure that assigned judges are paying full attention to their court duties.
Speaking to the California Judges Association at its annual meeting in October, the chief justice cited claims that assigned judges were soliciting business in the courthouse, as well as an instance in which out-of-town counsel were forced to put their Los Angeles Superior Court case on hold and pay for hotel accommodations while the assigned retired judge took a two-day recess to attend to private business.
George said an exception might be made if, for example, a private judge wishes to sit on assignment but needs to complete a lengthy matter after the beginning of the year. The chief justice also said he would consider limited exceptions, such as for a private judge who sits for a few hours each week as a juvenile court bench officer.
Judges with such “[i]ndividual transitional issues” may submit written requests to the Judicial Assignments Unit, the AOC said yesterday.
“We’ll lose some good people” as a result of the new rule, George acknowledged in his remarks to the CJA. But he said he was pleased that several retired judges had offered to give up private judging in favor of year-round court assignments.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company