In August 2016, the California Legislature’s Joint Legislative Audit Committee (JLAC) ordered the first-ever audit of the California Commission on Judicial Performance (CJP), the state’s only judicial oversight agency, due to a growing public outcry that the agency was not fulfilling its mission to protect the public from unethical judges. The CJP responded to the Legislature’s move two months later by suing the California State Auditor in an attempt to delay and thwart the first-ever audit of the agency in more than 56 years.
The CJP lawsuit has effectively stopped the State Auditor in her tracks, keeping her from doing the critical oversight work that the Legislature asked her to do to safeguard the public. The Center for Judicial Excellence co-led the successful statewide effort to convince the JLAC to audit the CJP in August 2016, and we have been monitoring this situation ever since.
Fast forward more than a year. Both sides “lawyered up,” hearings were held at the San Francisco Superior Court, and a sitting judge (not surprisingly) ruled that the CJP’s judicial discipline records can remain “confidential” and tucked away from the Auditor’s team. The wheels of justice and accountability have practically ground to a halt, while the Auditor’s legal team prepares to appeal the trial court decision (which is posted at the top of this article).
Californians in every court in the state will remain unprotected from biased, unethical and problematic judges for many months or years, as the legal appeals process gradually unfolds at a snail’s pace. Meanwhile, California taxpayers are paying for all of it- we are on the hook to pay for the inept CJP, for the State Auditor, and for the legal teams for both agencies. The Judicial Branch of California is wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars in a brazen attempt to avoid scrutiny and oversight.
2017- 2018 California Legislative Agenda
SB-170 Child custody: preferences of the child.
Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino) introduced Senate Bill 170, the Giving Children A Voice Act, which lowers the age that California children can speak directly with a family court judge about custody and visitation with their parents. Current law (FC Section 3042, which our organization sponsored and got signed into law in 2010) allows youth 14 and older to weigh in directly with the court during a contested custody case, if they wish to. This bill states that children 10 and older should be given this same right to address the court if they want to. Find Your California Representative Here. SB 170 is now a two-year bill, just like the original bill (AB 1050) that gave kids 14 and older the right to speak with the judge.
Read more about SB-170 and find your California representative here.
NOTE: Join us for a hearing on this bill on Tues. Jan. 9th at 1:30pm in the Senate Judiciary Committee in Room 112 of the State Capitol, in downtown Sacramento, California.
Press Release: Senator Leyva Introduces “Giving Children a Voice Act” (January 23, 2017)
2018 U.S. Congressional Agenda
H. CON. RES. 72 ~ Child Safety in Family Courts
After years of collaborative national work to bring this to fruition, and because of the dogged persistence of our close allies Connie Valentine and Joan Meier, we now have a Child Safety Resolution in the United States Congress. Check out the press release about H. Con. Res. 72, our bipartisan Child Safety Resolution from Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA) and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). CJE’s child murder data has been a huge driver in generating bipartisan support for this resolution.
Now is the time to act. 2018.
Please contact your Member of Congress, schedule an in-person meeting with their District staff, and urge them to add their name to the growing list of Democratic and Republican co-sponsors. Contact the Center for Judicial Excellence for talking points.