Saturday, December 12, 2015

Judges and Their Watchdog in a Calm Patch

Victoria Henley, Commission on Judicial Performance
SACRAMENTO ­— In 2012, California's judges were poised to wage political war on the agency responsible for disciplining them, the Commission on Judicial Performance.

Inflamed by what they saw as instances of overdiscipline and the harsh tone of some private advisory letters, judges were talking to legislators about measures to curb the commission's power. One justice called his colleagues' anger "palpable."

The legislation never materialized. Lawmakers, it seems, were wary of doing anything that might be portrayed as easing up on bad judges. Some judges, too, feared that initiating a review of disciplinary statutes might open the process to those seeking even more rules and sanctions.

Three years after state judges appeared ready to take on their disciplinarians in a public battle, the anger has ebbed. To be sure, there's still plenty of discontent. But whether it's a sense that the commission is now listening to judges' long-standing concerns or resignation that the system isn't going to change, the open calls for intervention have stopped—for now at least.

"The grumbling continues," said Thomas Hollenhorst, an associate justice on the Fourth District Court of Appeal and a veteran judicial ethics instructor. "The next time you see some really, truly outlandish discipline handed down, it will all come back."


Erica Yew, the chairwoman of the Commission on Judicial Performance and a judge on the Santa Clara County Superior Court, is trying to make sure that doesn't happen. Based on what she's heard from many conversations, Yew said she believes that tensions between the CJP and judges have eased, and she hopes that's at least a partial result of efforts to demystify what it is the agency does.

"I think part of the angst comes from not understanding the process," Yew said. "We now go to courts that invite us. We're doing outreach to groups that we've never talked to before, the public defenders association, district attorneys, ethnic bars."

Yew said she's reinstituted meetings between the CJP and presiding judges to answer their questions. She also meets with judicial leaders at training sessions for presiding judges, court executive officers and supervising judges.  (Continue)

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Judges and Their Watchdog in a Calm Patch

1 comment:

Annette said...

Wow! This is a great article. Judges fear discipline. Filing complaints is the only recourse we citizens have most of the time.