Judge Quits CJA Over Education Stance

A prominent Los Angeles judge says he’s bailing out of the California Judges Association because its leaders are too chummy with the Judicial Council. Superior Court Judge Philip Gutierrez, nominated in April to the federal bench, announced his resignation in an e-mail circulated among members Thursday.

“During the past few months, CJA’s ‘voice’ on mandatory education and failure to act decisively does not align with my personal views and therefore I find it necessary to resign effective immediately,” Gutierrez wrote.

Gutierrez and others want CJA to take a harder stance against a Judicial Council proposal (.pdf) that would force judges to complete 30 hours of continuing education classes every three years. Gutierrez’ announcement followed the CJA’s release of a legal opinion (.pdf) that suggested the group probably wouldn’t have much of a case if it challenged a Judicial Council continuing-education order.

“I agree with the sentiments expressed and will likely take the same action,” Justice Thomas Hollenhorst of the Fourth District Court of Appeal wrote in a response to Gutierrez’s e-mail. Hollenhorst hasn’t returned recent phone calls from Callaw.com. Contacted Thursday, Gutierrez wouldn’t confirm his resignation or talk about the CJA, saying he didn’t want to irritate “close friends.”

It’s hard to say whether Gutierrez and Hollenhorst are part of a vocal minority or whether their frustration reflects larger-scale unhappiness with CJA’s leaders and the council’s proposal. The Judicial Council says it’s the former. Leaders say 75 percent of 160 responses it received to a model plan last summer were supportive. A June 2005 voice vote of an advisory committee comprised of presiding judges and court executive officers also indicated majority support for continuing education, says Karen Thorson, the Administrative Office of the Courts’ director of education.

But one judge says the discontent is real and warned that a dissident group may form to challenge the CJA’s authority. “Keep in touch,” he advises.

Cheryl Miller

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