Bill Text

Bill Information


PDF |Add To My Favorites |Track Bill | print page

AB-1577 Commission on Judicial Performance.(2021-2022)

SHARE THIS:share this bill in Facebookshare this bill in Twitter
Date Published: 03/08/2021 09:00 PM
AB1577:v99#DOCUMENT


CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2021–2022 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Bill
No. 1577


Introduced by Committee on Judiciary (Assembly Members Stone (Chair), Chiu, Davies, Lorena Gonzalez, Holden, Kalra, Maienschein, and Reyes)

March 08, 2021


An act to amend Sections 68701.5, 68703, 68704, 68752, 68754, and 68756 of, to add Section 68701.1 to, and to add Article 4 (commencing with Section 68770) to Chapter 2.5 of Title 8 of, the Government Code, relating to courts, and declaring the urgency thereof, to take effect immediately.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 1577, as introduced, Committee on Judiciary. Commission on Judicial Performance.
The California Constitution establishes the Commission on Judicial Performance and authorizes the commission to disqualify, suspend, retire, or censure a judge for specified acts of misconduct or for disability that seriously interferes with the performance of the judge’s duties or that is, or is likely to become, permanent. The California Constitution requires the commission to make rules for the investigation of judges and authorizes the commission to provide for the confidentiality of complaints to, and investigations by, the commission. Existing statutory law also governs procedures for the conduct of these investigations.
This bill would specifically require the commission to take all reasonable steps to determine the existence or extent of alleged judicial misconduct in order to protect the public, enforce rigorous standards of judicial conduct, and maintain public confidence in the integrity and independence of the judicial system. The bill would also make technical, nonsubstantive changes to use gender-neutral language.
The bill would also create in state government the Committee to Review the Operations and Structure of the Commission on Judicial Performance to study and make recommendations for changes in the operations and structure of the commission, as specified. The bill would set forth the membership of the committee and require the committee to hold at least 2 hearings to accept comments from the public about possible changes in the operations and structure of the commission. The bill would require the committee to complete its study and provide a written report about its findings and recommendations no later than March 30, 2023, to the Governor, the commission, and the California Supreme Court, among other entities, and to make the report public.
This bill would declare that it is to take effect immediately as an urgency statute.
Vote: 2/3   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: NO  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 Section 68701.1 is added to the Government Code, to read:

68701.1.
 In order to protect the public, enforce rigorous standards of judicial conduct, and maintain public confidence in the integrity and independence of the judicial system, the commission shall take all reasonable steps to determine the existence or extent of alleged judicial misconduct.

SEC. 2.

 Section 68701.5 of the Government Code is amended to read:

68701.5.
 Notwithstanding Section 68701, the Commission on Judicial Performance may investigate the conduct or performance of any retired judge serving on senior judge status pursuant to rules adopted by the Judicial Council. The commission also shall have the power to order a retired judge’s senior judge status terminated for incapacity or any failure to carry out the duties of the office, but in no instance shall the salary together with any Judges’ Retirement Law allowance paid for service or disability in any year exceed 100 percent of the current salary of the judge’s office from which he or she the retired judge retired.

SEC. 3.

 Section 68703 of the Government Code is amended to read:

68703.
 Each member of the commission and each master shall be allowed his their necessary expenses for travel, board, and lodging incurred in the performance of his their duties.

SEC. 4.

 Section 68704 of the Government Code is amended to read:

68704.
 No act of the commission shall be valid unless concurred in by a majority of its members. The commission shall select one of its members to serve as chairman. chairperson.

SEC. 5.

 Section 68752 of the Government Code is amended to read:

68752.
 If any person refuses to attend or testify or produce any writings or things required by any such subpoena, the commission or the masters may petition the superior court for the county in which the hearing is pending for an order compelling such the person to attend and testify or produce the writings or things required by the subpoena before the commission or the masters. The court shall order such the person to appear before it at a specified time and place and then and there show cause why he the person has not attended or testified or produced the writings or things as required. A copy of the order shall be served upon him. the person. If it appears to the court that the subpoena was regularly issued, the court shall order such the person to appear before the commission or the masters at the time and place fixed in the order and testify or produce the required writings or things. Upon failure to obey the order, such the person shall be dealt with as for contempt of court.

SEC. 6.

 Section 68754 of the Government Code is amended to read:

68754.
 Each witness, other than an officer or employee of the State state or a political subdivision or an officer or employee of a court of this State, the state, shall receive for his their attendance the same fees and all witnesses shall receive the same mileage allowed by law to a witness in civil cases. The amounts shall be paid by the commission from funds appropriated for the use of the commission.

SEC. 7.

 Section 68756 of the Government Code is amended to read:

68756.
 (a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the commission shall be given access, on an ex parte basis, to all nonpublic records of court proceedings, including confidential sealed records and transcripts, relevant to the performance of any judge, former judge, or subordinate judicial officer (hereafter, collectively, judicial officer) within the commission’s jurisdiction under Sections 18 and 18.1 of Article VI of the Constitution. The commission shall make a written request to the court in which the proceedings occurred. The court shall file the request under seal. Access to the requested records shall be provided within 15 days of the written request.
(b) (1) If the commission or the judicial officer who is the subject of the commission’s investigation or proceeding intends to publicly disclose any nonpublic records or information obtained pursuant to subdivision (a), the commission or judicial officer shall petition the court that granted access to the records or another court that has jurisdiction, for authorization to disclose. The petition, filed under seal, shall identify the records or information to be disclosed and the reason for disclosure. To the extent that it does not unduly lessen the evidentiary value of the records or otherwise defeat the purpose of disclosure, the petitioner shall redact from the records names and other identifying information.
(2) The court shall grant the petition if it determines that there is good cause for disclosure. The court may issue protective orders, including further redaction of names or other identifying information, to the extent that they do not unduly lessen the evidentiary value of the records or otherwise defeat the purpose of disclosure. Within 15 days after the filing of a petition, the court may order the petitioner to give notice of the intended disclosure to any person who may be adversely affected by the disclosure. Any person who has been provided notice pursuant to this section may, within 20 days of service of the notice, file an objection to the intended disclosure with the court and serve the objection on the petitioner.
(3) The court shall grant or deny the petition in whole or in part, stating its reasons therefore, within 15 days of a timely objection, or the expiration of time for filing an objection if no objection is filed, or within 15 days of the filing of the petition for which no notice is required.
(c) Access to, and disclosure of, records under this section shall not be limited by any court order sealing those records.
(d) Persons entitled to file an objection to the intended disclosure shall not include the judge, former judge, or subordinate judicial officer who is the subject of the commission’s investigation or disciplinary proceedings, unless he the judge, former judge, or she subordinate judicial officer was a party or parent, guardian, or conservator of a party in the underlying action. A request or petition filed under this section shall not be considered or ruled on by a judicial officer who is the subject of the commission’s investigation or disciplinary proceedings related to the requested information.

SEC. 8.

 Article 4 (commencing with Section 68770) is added to Chapter 2.5 of Title 8 of the Government Code, to read:
Article  4. Committee to Review the Operations and Structure of the Commission on Judicial Performance

68770.
 The Committee to Review the Operations and Structure of the Commission on Judicial Performance is hereby created in state government.

68771.
 (a) The committee shall consist of 15 members who are the following:
(1) The director of the commission.
(2) The chair of the commission.
(3) A current or former public member of the commission.
(4) The legal adviser to the commission.
(5) Two public members appointed by the Senate Committee on Rules.
(6) Two public members appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly.
(7) Seven members appointed by the Governor.
(A) Two active judges, one of whom shall be a justice of a court of appeal.
(B) Three members of the public.
(C) One director of a judicial conduct commission from another state that is similar in size to the State of California.
(D) One law professor or other person who is recognized as an expert in judicial ethics, who may be an active or retired attorney or judge.
(b) The committee shall appoint a chairperson and establish any subcommittees and operating rules it deems appropriate.
(c) For purposes of this section, the following terms have the following meaning:
(1) “Attorney” means a person who is an active licensee and has been admitted to the State Bar of California for at least 10 years.
(2) “Member of the public” means a person who is not a judicial officer or former judicial officer, has never been a licensee of the State Bar or admitted to practice before any court in the United States, and who complies with the provisions of Section 450 of the Business and Professions Code.

68772.
 The committee shall study and make recommendations for changes in the operations and structure of the commission that would improve the commission’s ability to carry out its mission to protect the public, enforce rigorous standards of judicial conduct, and maintain public confidence in the integrity and independence of the judiciary.
(a) As part of its study pursuant to this section, the committee shall, at a minimum, do all of the following:
(1) Review and consider the following:
(A) All findings and recommendations of the California State Auditor in Audit 2016-137.
(B) The existing structure and operations of the commission.
(C) The existing structures and operations of judicial discipline commissions of other states that are similar in size to the State of California.
(2) Hold at least two hearings to accept comments from the public about possible changes in the operations and structure of the commission that would improve the commission’s ability to carry out its mission to protect the public, enforce rigorous standards of judicial conduct, and maintain public confidence in the integrity and independence of the judiciary.
(A) At least one hearing, prior to the committee completing its study or formulating its tentative recommendations pursuant to this section, to allow the committee to accept the public’s suggestions for possible changes in the operations and structure of the commission.
(B) At least one hearing, after completing its study and formulating its tentative recommendations for possible changes in the operations and structure of the commission but prior to completing its study pursuant to subdivision (b), to allow the committee to accept the public’s comments about its tentative recommendations. The committee shall provide the public with notice of its tentative recommendations in advance of the hearing by, among other methods, providing a copy of the tentative recommendations to any person who provides contact information to the committee and either requests to be notified of the committee’s tentative recommendations, or provides written suggestions for possible changes in the operations and structure of the commission pursuant to subparagraph (A), and transmitting the tentative recommendations to the commission in a time period that allows the commission to post the tentative recommendations on its internet website at least 10 calendar days prior to the hearing.
(C) The public meetings described in this subparagraph shall comply with the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act (Article 9 (commencing with Section 11120) of Chapter 1 of Part 1 of Division 3 of Title 2 of the Government Code).
(3) Study and make recommendations whether any of the following should be changed in order to improve the commission’s ability to carry out its mission to protect the public, enforce rigorous standards of judicial conduct, and maintain public confidence in the integrity and independence of the judiciary:
(A) The number of commission members.
(B) The allocation of appointments to the commission among the appointing authorities.
(C) The structure of the commission.
(D) The appropriate discipline and remedies available to the commission when it imposes discipline.
(E) The policies and procedures governing the commission’s operations.
(F) Whether the commission currently has adequate financial and personnel resources.
(G) What, if any, specific funding is necessary to support any recommended improvements to the commission.
(H) Whether changes to the Constitution and statutes of the State of California, Rules of Court, and rules of the commission are needed.
(4) Seek input on its study from all of the following:
(A) All three branches of government.
(B) Judges.
(C) Attorneys admitted to the State Bar of California.
(D) Members of the commission.
(E) The public.
(b) All members of the committee shall serve without compensation. Members of the committee shall be reimbursed for their necessary expenses, including expenses for travel, food, and lodging, incurred in connection with their committee duties.
(c) Support for the committee shall be provided by staff of the commission.
(d) The committee shall complete its study and provide a written report about its findings and recommendations no later than March 30, 2023, to the following:
(1) The Governor.
(2) The commission.
(3) The Supreme Court.
(4) The President pro Tempore of the Senate and the Chair of the Senate Committee on Judiciary.
(5) The Speaker of the Assembly and the Chair of the Assembly Committee on Judiciary.
(6) The public, including by providing the report to the commission, so that the commission may make the report available on the commission’s internet website.

SEC. 9.

 This act is an urgency statute necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety within the meaning of Article IV of the California Constitution and shall go into immediate effect. The facts constituting the necessity are:
It is crucial, in order to maintain public trust in the integrity of the judicial branch, that the public have faith in the oversight of judges and justices who allegedly have engaged in misconduct by the Commission on Judicial Performance. Changes to the structure and function of the Commission on Judicial Performance should be considered in a deliberate, comprehensive, and transparent manner so they can be recommended to the Legislature, the Governor’s office, the Chief Justice, and the Commission on Judicial Performance, and ultimately implemented. Until and unless this measure is signed into law, there would be no requirement for preliminary steps, such as the appointing authorities appointing committee members, to begin that process. Therefore, it is important that the provisions of this measure take effect immediately so the process can begin as soon as possible.