Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Trial Court Funding Control Battle Heating Up

The next phase in the battle over control of trial court funding in California is starting to take shape.

AB 1208 by Assembly Majority Leader Charles Calederon (D-Montebello), introduced as the Trial Court Rights Act of 2011, has been amended per the hearing-day agreement in the Assembly Judiciary Committee (see earlier blog post) to have the Legislature, as part of the court budgeting process, to identify the amount allocated "for programs of statewide concern" from the total funds appropriated for trial court operations, and would prohibit the withholding or expending any portion of the total funds appropriated for trial court operations by the Legislature for any statewide information technology or administrative infrastructure program that was not identified in the annual Budget Act, unless the Judicial Council, or its designee, first obtains the written approval of 66 2/3% of a proportional representation of all local trial courts.

AB 1208 is currently in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, where it is expected to be heard some time next week (no specific hearing has yet been set).  The legislative deadline for bills to be reported out of the Appropriations Committee is next Friday, May 27.

The Hon. James Herman
In a related development, Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge James Herma - a former State Bar president and member of the California Judges Association’s Executive Board - has come under fire from several Los Angeles judges over a letter questioning the implications of a poll of CJA membership over AB 1208 and the underlying issue of AOC oversight of the state's courts. 

The Los Angeles Metropolitan News-Enterprise legal newspaper reported last week that Herman had sent a letter to Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye that a poll of CJA's membership showing that a strong plurality supported the original version of AB 1208 and a substantial majority was dissatisfied with the Administrative Office of the Court's oversight of the judicial branch was skewed in favor a large Los Angeles County, and did not adequately represent the views of the members Herman represents in several coastal counties (Santa Barbara, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Cruz and Ventura), which Herman contends overwhelmingly support the AOC.Los Angeles members of the CJA Executive Committee objected not only to the letter, but also to the fact that it came on letterhead pulled together from the CJA website. 

Herman's letter appears to have been in response to a letter from CJA President Keith Davis, a member of the San Bernardino Superior Court bench, which accompanied the transmittal of the survey results to the Chief Justice.

1 comment:

  1. Despite some complaints that the amended version of AB 1208 isn't what the Judges Alliance wants, I think that the amendments do more for the administration of justice than the original version of the bill. Moreover, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye needs and deserves a bit more time to show true leadership of ours, the third co-equal branch of government. Rather than allowing some members of our community to destroy us from within, and in definite opposition to political attempts to control us from without, maybe if we govern ourselves properly and lead as if the people of California depended on it, we will succeed in showing them the significance and benefits of a united judiciary.