Commission for Impartial Courts Meeting
Feb. 23, 2009
When the Chief Justice formed the Commission for Impartial Courts, he knew the task was going to be difficult.
California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald M. George: “The proper balance of free speech, fair elections and impartial courts is not easy to achieve.”
The 87 commission members went right to work, starting in September of ’07. The goal was to safeguard the quality, impartiality, and accountability of the judiciary for the benefit of all Californians. They tackled 4 areas of concern: judicial candidate campaign conduct, campaign finance, selection and retention, and public information and education.
California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald M. George: “The focus is not on saving judges from defeat at the polls but on preserving and enhancing the administration of justice and the rule of law.”
On February 23rd, the working groups all got together to share, and to refine the fruits of their work.
Appellate Justice Judith D. McConnell: “Our job was to be aspirational and we wanted to set strong objectives for the judicial council.”
Justice Douglas Miller: “We didn’t want to just talk about things judges and candidates couldn’t do. We wanted to also look at what they could do and what they could do to promote the integrity and the independence and the impartiality of the courts.”
The plenary was also an opportunity for questions and comments.
Hon. Karen Robinson “Let me tell you getting100 signatures is not that easy.”
A continuing theme in their analysis was public perception.
Hon. William MacLaughlin: “We can’t ask the public to have confidence in our impartiality if there’s anything about this picture they’re seeing that doesn’t pass the smell test.”
They recommend that some practices stay just the way they are, like the current system of elections for judges and appellate justices.
Appellate Justice Ronald Robie: “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it; and we don’t think it’s broken.”
There are more than a hundred recommendations in all.
California Supreme Court Justice Ming Chin: “These areas are difficult, they’re complex, they’re controversial. But I think they’ve come up with some sound recommendations.”
You can read the full report here on our website. The public comment period is open for 60 days. The Commission for Impartial Courts will make their final recommendations in August. I’m Leanne Kozak reporting.