Archive for the ‘Judiciary’ Category

Patel Scolds Lawyers With Sharply Titled Order

November 1, 2006

Seyfarth Shaw lawyers couldn’t have thought it a good sign when their motion to clarify — filed in defense of client Costco in an employment discrimination action — provoked a reply from Judge Marilyn Patel entitled “Order Clarifying That Which Need Not Be Clarified.”

Indeed, the San Francisco federal judge smacked down the defense’s entreaties last week in language usually reserved for petulant children.

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Bybee Takes Aim at Fan of Metal, Meth

October 24, 2006

Could there be a greater temperamental — and ideological — canyon than the one between Ninth Circuit Judges Stephen Reinhardt and Jay Bybee? The former was being called a liberal activist judge before Bybee was done with law school — and, one would hope, years before Bybee even considered signing the now-infamous 2002 Bush administration torture memo.

Combine those differences with some methamphetamine, heavy metal and murder, and you’ve got the makings of a good case (court .pdf).

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Angelides a Man of Few Words on Judge Picks

September 1, 2006

It doesn’t look like Phil Angelides is going to make Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s judicial selections a major campaign issue. Speaking Friday to about the friendliest audience imaginable — the Hispanic National Bar Association’s annual convention — Angelides did criticize Schwarzenegger’s diversity record on judicial selections as “shameful.”

But if you’d coughed, you might have missed it. After no more than 20 seconds on the issue, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee returned to more tried-and-true Dem campaign themes: health care, education and bashing oil companies, mostly.

The biggest applause line came when Angelides called for moderation on immigration reform. “Unlike Gov. Schwarzenegger, I will never praise the Minutemen,” Angelides promised.

Angelides’ address drew a standing ovation from about half of the 600 or so attendees. By contrast, not a soul remained seated when Mario Obledo, the founding president of the bar association, was introduced.

The HNBA convention, being held mostly at the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco, concludes Saturday. Some 1,000 members are attending, including 135 law students from all over the country.

Scott Graham

Push to Add Appellate Seats Fizzles

September 1, 2006

California won’t be adding four new appellate justices this year. A last-minute push to create the new bench positions fizzled Thursday night in the final hours of the 2005-06 legislative session.

As reported today at Cal Law, the Judicial Council, the Assembly speaker’s office and other legislative sources confirmed at press time that Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata was contemplating a procedural maneuver — known as a gut and amend — to create the posts. Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez balked at the proposal, however, and an authorization bill never materialized for a vote.

After the article went to print Thursday night, Perata spokeswoman Alicia Trost said a gut and amend was “absolutely not happening.” Asked if the Senate leader had contemplated such a move earlier Thursday Trost said she did not know.

— Cheryl Miller

Put-Up-or-Shut-Up Deal Struck On Judge Picks

August 29, 2006

The feuding Assembly speaker and governor have reached a “conceptual” agreement to release aggregate data about the judicial applicant pool.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has said he’d appoint more minorities to the bench if more applied. With today’s deal, Speaker Fabian Nuñez has essentially said, “prove it.” The details haven’t been printed yet but apparently the governor’s office would publicly tally the ethnic makeup of the applicant pool and detail how long ago the would-be judges have been waiting for a final decision.

No word yet on when lawmakers might actually vote on the bill authorizing 50 new judgeships, but this agreement — if it lasts — should help speed up the process.

Cheryl Miller

Judicial Diversity Becomes Campaign Issue

August 28, 2006

The debate over judicial diversity has officially become an issue in the race for governor. Standing in front of a Glendale courthouse last Saturday, Democrat Phil Angelides chided Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for “cut(ting) off the contributions of our diverse communities” with appointments that critics say don’t accurately reflect the numbers of California’s African-Americans, Latinos and Asian-Americans.

A press release by the Schwarzenegger campaign dismissed the criticism as “only pessimistic attacks.”

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50 Judgeships Less Likely by the Day

August 24, 2006

The odds that lawmakers will create 50 new judgeships just got a little longer. The Assembly missed a procedural deadline today for voting on the judge-creating bill, which means it now needs approval from two-thirds of the house — always a dicey proposition in the highly partisan Legislature.

The problem? Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger are still squabbling over judicial picks. Nuñez, as you’ll recall, says the governor isn’t appointing enough minorities, and he won’t authorize more than 25 new bench positions until Schwarzenegger makes some changes.

What those changes might be is the $64 million question. Random thoughts from conversations around the Capitol: It’s no secret that Nuñez is not a big fan of judicial appointments adviser John Davies. But it’s unlikely the governor would give Davies the boot over the current dust-up. We might see Democrats shine a more critical light on the handful of secretive panels around the state that screen potential judges for Schwarzenegger. Or we could see changes in the application process that encourage more women and ethnic minorities to apply.

Or nothing may change in the Legislature’s last week of session. Nuñez’s greatest power right now might be his authority to say “no” to the governor.

 UPDATE: The Assembly took a procedural vote Thursday night that will allow the new-judges bill to pass with a simple majority vote. A deal on 50 judges appears in sight — again. Look for changes to the application that would-be judges complete. A new form may put less emphasis on trial experience in an attempt to attract a broader range of candidates.

Cheryl Miller

Redistricting Bill Draws Digs at Bench Makeup

August 17, 2006

Lawmakers unexpectedly resurrected redistricting reform Wednesday afternoon, but not before taking a few more shots at judges’ potential role in drawing California’s political boundaries.

The state Senate eked out the bare-minimum 27 votes needed to pass SCA 3, which would strip politicians’ redistricting power and give it to an “independent commission.” Commission members would be selected from a pool of 55 candidates compiled by 10 retired superior and/or appellate court judges.

Now, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has said publicly that the public doesn’t want judges in the reapportionment process. Senate Pro Tem Don Perata said two weeks ago that women and ethnic minorities complain that the ranks of retired judges include too many white men. And SCA 3 critics piled on to those sentiments today:

According to one press account, Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, argued that a judiciary that’s “about 89 percent white male” doesn’t adequately represent Californians’ interests. Sen. Bill Morrow, R-Oceanside, warned his colleagues not to think that judges are any less political than, well, politicians.

Digs aside, it’s probably too late to get SCA 3 on the November ballot. And the bill faces a tough road in the Assembly where Speaker Fabian Nunez has been highly critical of you guessed it lack of diversity in the judiciary.

Cheryl Miller

Perata Tweaks Retired Judges, Redistricting

August 3, 2006

Pity the retired judge. A few weeks ago, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said voters shot down his redistricting initiative because they just don’t want former jurists drawing political boundaries. Today state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata basically agreed (before taking colorful shots at Southern California immigration foes and “sucky” prisons).

“Women say, ‘Great, how many retired women judges are there? Damn few,’” the Oakland Democrat said at a Capitol press gaggle. Minorities complain, too, that the ranks of retirees are way too white, Perata said. “Why not go to a pool of retired academicians or burned-out reporters?” he suggested half-jokingly.

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Appointed Judge Bails Out of Santa Clara Runoff

August 2, 2006

Shawna Schwarz has finally broken her silence.

Schwarz, appointed to finish a two-year term on the Santa Clara County Superior Court bench just two months after she filled papers to run for a full six-year ride in one of the two open seats, announced Wednesday that she is dropping out of the November election.

“Though there are no legal or ethical barriers to my remaining on the ballot for Superior Court Office No. 13, the time and effort I would expend running a campaign would be better spent preparing for my change in assignment from dependency court to criminal court, beginning Sept. 1,” Schwarz said in a statement.

Schwarz came in first in the June primary. She would have faced Michele McKay McCoy, a retired Santa Clara prosecutor, in a November runoff. Schwarz grabbed the frontrunner spot in the primary with a lead of just 1,213 votes, giving each judge about 34 percent of the turnout. (Edited Aug. 9: We originally had McCoy winning by a 31-vote margin, but final numbers have Schwarz up by the higher spread …).

However, since Schwarz dropped out, McCoy will now face Santa Clara prosecutor Timothy Pitsker on Nov. 7. Pitsker came in third in the June 6 primary.

— Julie O’Shea