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AGCJ2 11 Ltr5-23-11

AGCJ2 11 Ltr5-23-11

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Categories:Types, Letters
Published by: CalCoastNews on Sep 26, 2011
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09/26/2011

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$1,,1.
of
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CllommissiouonIDubicittlJ~rforuumce
455
elcUrenelateJ'_&ettue.fouite
14400
~ttnJlfrattcisco-,
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94102-3560
(415)557·1200
FAX(415)557-1266WebSite:http://cjp.ca,gov
May23,2011
PERSONALANDCONFIDENTIAL
HandDeliveredAttorneyGeneralKamalaD.HarrisAttorneyGeneral'sOfficeCaliforniaDepartmentofJustice455GoldenGateAvenue,Suite
lIOOO
SanFrancisco,CA94I02DearAttorneyGeneralHarris:AtitsMay18,2011meeting,theCommissiononJudicialPerformancebyavoteofninemembersandoneopposedresolvedtorequestalegalopinionfromyourofficepursuanttoGovernmentCodesection12519astothetwoissuessetoutbelowarisingfromtheLegislature'senactmentofSenateBillX211(SBX211)(enclosed).Onecommissionmemberwasabsentanddidnotvote.SBX211wasenactedinresponseto
Sturgeon
v.
County
0/
LosAngeles
(2008)167CaLAppAth630;reviewden.,December23,2008
(Sturgeon
l)
(enclosed).(See,e.g.,SenateBillAnalysis,February14,2009,enclosed.)Thecommissiontooknopartinthelegislativeprocess.TherewerenopublichearingsonSBX2
11.
ItwasinsertedintotheBudgetActof2008atthelastminuteonFebruary14,2008,andpassedthesameday.
SturgeonI
hadheldthatsupplementalcompensationprovidedbyLosAngelesCountytothesuperiorcourtjudgesinthatcounty,inadditiontothecompensationalreadyprescribedforthejudgesbytheLegislature,wasnotauthorizedbylawandwasunconstitutional.ThedisputewassubjecttofurtherlitigationaftertheenactmentofSBX2
II,
whichauthorizedthecompensation.
Sturgeon
wasrecentlyreso1vedinfavorofthedefendants,basedonSBX211.
Sturgeonv.CountyofLosAngeles
(2010)191Ca1.AppAth344;reviewden.,March16,2011
(SturgeonII)
(copyenclosed).Thecommissionwasnotinvolvedinthe
Sturgeon
case.AlthoughthesupplementalcompensationinLosAngeleswasauthorizedbythecounty,judgesinothercountieshaveauthorizedsupplementalcompensationforthemselvesfromcourtfundswithoutanyaction
by
alegislativebody.
 
ConfidentiallettertoAttorneyGeneralKamala
D.Hams
May23,2011Page2of9
SturgeonII
didnotaddressthetwoissuesraisedinthisletter,whicharisefromthefollowing
two
provisionsin
the
bill:Section2ofSBX211statesinpartthat"Judgesofacourtwhosejudgesreceivedsupplementaljudicialbenefitsprovidedbythe
county
orcourt,orboth,asofJulyI,2008,shallcontinuetoreceivesupplementalbenefitsfromthecountyorcourtthenpayingthebenefitsonthesametenusandconditionsaswereineffectonthatdate."Section5ofSBX211purportstoretroactivelyimmunizeallstatecourtjudgesastotheirauthorizingorreceivingsuchcompensation.Itprovidesthat,"[njotwithstandinganyotherlaw,nogovernmentalentity,orofficeroremployeeofagovernmentalentity,shallincuranyliabilityorbesubjecttoprosecutionordisciplinaryactionbecauseofbenefitsprovidedtoajudgeundertheofficialactionofagovernmentalentitypriortotheeffectivedateoftheactonthegroundthatthosebenefitswerenotauthorizedunderlaw."
IssuesPresented
1.
DoestheLegislaturehavetheauthoritytoenactlegislationthatpurportstoprecludethecommissionfromdiscipliningCaliforniasuperiorcourtjudgesforauthorizingsupplementalcompensationtobepaidtothemselvesfrompublicfunds,and/orreceivingtbatsupplementalcompensation,onthegroundthatsuchbenefitswereorarenotauthorized
by
law?
ThecommissionconcludesthattheLegislaturedoesnothavethisauthority,andthatsection5ofSBX211isinvalidandunconstitutionalasaviolationoftheseparationofpowersprinciple.Cal.Const.,art.III,
§
3.UnderarticleVI,section18oftheConstitution,thecommissionandtheCaliforniaSupremeCourthaveexclusiveauthorityoverjudicialdiscipline.
Analysis
Thecommissionistheindependentstateagencychargedwithinvestigatingcomplaintsofjudicialmisconductandjudicialincapacityandfordiscipliningjudges.Thecommission'sjurisdictionincludesalljudgesofCalifomia'ssuperiorcourtsandthejusticesoftheCourtof
 
ConfidentiallettertoAttorneyGeneralKamalaD.HarrisMay23,2011Page
3of9
AppealandSupremeCourt.Cal.Const.
art.
VI,
§
18,subd.(d).
1
TheSupremeCourtmayinitsdiscretion
grant
reviewofadisciplinarydetermination
by
thecommission.
Ibid.
"Nocourt,excepttheSupremeCourt,shallhavejurisdictionin
a
civilactionorotherlegalproceeding
of
anysortbroughtagainstthecommission
by
ajudge."CaL
Canst
art.VI,
§
18,
subd,
(g).Further,"TheSupremeCourtshallmakerulesfortheconductofjudges.bothonandoffthebench...referredtoastheCodeofJudicialEthics."Cal.Canst.art.
VI,
§
18,
subd.(m).Thereis
a
conflictbetweenthegrantofimmunityinsection5ofSBX2IIandthecommission'sconstitutionalauthoritytodisciplinejudges.BecausetheauthoritytodetermineandadministerdisciplineformisconductisexpresslyandexclusivelyinthecommissionunderarticleVIsection18,theLegislaturecannotdirectlyorindirectlyremovethatauthority,orauthorizeittobeperformedby
any
otherauthority.
StateBoardofEducation
v.
Levit
(1959)52Ca1.2d
441,461-62;
CarmelValleyFireProtectionDistrict
v,
StateofCalifornia
(2001)25
CaL4th287,304."Powers,obligations,andrightsbestowedordeclared
by
theConstitutionmaynotbeamended,modified,orderogatedbystatute."
FairPoliticalPracticesCom.v.StatePersonnelRd.
(1978)77
Ca1.App.3d
52,56,
disapproved
on
anothergroundin
PacificLegalFoundation
v.
Brown
(1981)29Ca1.3d168,192.ThereisnothingintheConstitutionthatpermitstheLegislaturetorestricttheconstitutionalscopeofthecommission'sauthorityoverjudicialdiscipline.ConsistentwiththeseparationofpowersprincipleofarticleIII,section3,wherethejudicialbranchistosharepowerwiththeLegislature,theConstitutionsostates.Seee.g.,
CaliforniaCourtReportersAssn.v.JudicialCouncilofCalifornia
(1995)39Cal.App.4th15,18(rulesofcourtpromulgatedbytheJudicialCouncilheldinvalidunderarticleVIsection6oftheConstitution,
which
authorizestheJudicialCounciltomakesuchrules,butonlytotheextenttheyare"notinconsistentwithstatute").ThereisnosuchprovisionintheConstitutionforthejudicialbranchtosharepowerwiththeLegislatureformakingrulesofjudicialconduct,orfordeterminingandadministeringdiscipline.
L
ArticleVI,sectionIS,subd.(d)statesin
its
entirety:"Exceptasprovidedinsubdivision
(f),
theCommissiononJudicialPerformancemay(I)retireajudgefordisabilitythatseriouslyinterfereswiththeperformanceofthejudge'sdutiesandisorislikelytobecomepermanent,or(2)censureajudgeorformerjudgeorremoveajudgeforactionoccurringnotmorethan6yearspriortothecommencementofthejudge'scurrenttermoroftheformerjudge'slasttermthatconstituteswillfulmisconductinoffice,persistentfailureorinabilitytoperformthejudge'sduties,habitualintemperanceintheuseofintoxicantsordrugs,orconductprejudicialtotheadministrationofjusticethatbringsthejudicialofficeintodisrepute,or(3)publiclyorprivatelyadmonishajudgeorfonnerjudgefoundtonaveengagedinanimproperactionorderelictionofduty.
The
commissionmayalsobaraformerjudgewhohasbeencensuredfromreceivinganassignment,appointment,orreferenceofworkfromanyCaliforniastatecourt.Uponpetitionbythejudgeorformerjudge,theSupremeCourtmay,initsdiscretion,grantreviewofadeterminationbythecommissiontoretire,remove,censure,admonish,
Of
disqualifypursuanttosubdivision(b)ajudgeorformerjudge.WhentheSupremeCourtreviewsadeterminationofthecommission,itmaymakeanindependentreviewoftherecord.IftheSupremeCourthasnotactedwithin120daysaftergrantingthepetition,thedecisionofthecommissionshallbefinal."Thereferencedexceptioninsubdivision
(f)
doesnotlimitthecommission'sjurisdiction,
It
states"AdeterminationbytheCommissiononJudicialPerformance
to
admonishorcensureajudgeorformerjudgeoftheSupremeCourtorremoveorretireajudgeoftheSupremeCourtshallbereviewedbyatribunalof7courtofappealjudgesselectedbylot."

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