Archive for the ‘Sacramento’ Category

MWM Seeks Many, Many Admirers …

September 12, 2006

Chuck is a straight, married Taurus interested in networking and meeting friends. Jerry is an Aries, also married, and while he doesn’t say what he’s looking for, he’s posted a quote making it pretty clear: “Support my campaign for attorney general.”

That’s right, Chuck (Poochigian) and Jerry (Brown) are candidates for California’s top-cop office. And while it may seem a little creepy, the two middle-aged politicians are trolling for votes with their own pages on the youth-oriented Web site myspace.com. (more…)

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

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.”

(more…)

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

Gov Kills Bills — And Big Potential Lawsuits

August 21, 2006

With one signature Monday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger killed two bills and a potential bevy of civil suits.

Schwarzenegger vetoed SB 1765, which would have allowed Mexican-Americans who were forcibly repatriated in the 1930s to sue for damages. Bill supporters say that Depression-era anti-immigrant anger led government agencies to force or coerce an estimated 400,000 Californians of Mexican descent to flee to Mexico. The move was also a loss — perhaps inadvertent — to victims of the Armenian Genocide.

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Dunn is Done — Termed-Out Senator Honored

August 21, 2006

The ranks of lawyers in the Legislature may be dwindling, but there were plenty in the Senate chambers Monday to honor outgoing Sen. Joe Dunn, D-Santa Ana. Term limits are forcing the Judiciary Committee chairman and trial lawyer to leave the Senate eight years after he upset then-Republican Minority Leader Robert Hurtt.

“A trial lawyer in Orange County took on the minority leader — and won,” state Sen. Debra Bowen, D-Marina del Rey, said Monday. “Sorry, guys,” Bowen said in a nod to Senate Republicans, “But how fun is that?”

(more…)

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

CAOC Backs Away From Capitol Feud

May 16, 2006

Don’t blame the Consumer Attorneys. That’s what an odd letter circulated recently among Capitol politicos says.

It seems the Consumer Attorneys of California got caught up in a simmering feud between state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, and Assemblyman Tom Umberg, D-Santa Ana. The CAOC supports Umberg, a litigation partner at Morrison & Foerster, in his bid for state Senate. The trial lawyers are also tight with most Senate Democrats, led by Perata.

But a nebulous independent expenditure committee called Californians United recently attacked Umberg in two campaign mailers. Umberg complained to the Fair Political Practices Commission that his primary opponent, Lou Correa, and Perata improperly plotted with Californians United on the mailers. Umberg says Perata encouraged Correa to run against him; representatives of Perata and Correa have said the politicians weren’t involved with the mailers.

Apparently Perata then asked the CAOC brass to disavow Umberg’s complaint — even though the group’s ranks don’t include a whole lot of election-law wonks. But to some, a lawyer is a lawyer and on Friday, excerpts of a letter from CAOC appeared in the Capitol Morning Report, a daily newsletter read widely by the legislative community. “We wish to make clear that CAOC was not consulted about nor was involved in the filing of the complaint,” said the letter reportedly signed by CAOC President Frank Pitre, President Elect Ray Boucher and John Montevideo, head of the group’s political action committee.

No one’s talking publicly about the PR maneuvering, so it’s hard to say what its impact is. But the ultimate result comes June 6 with the primary election.

Cheryl Miller

Bond Stiffs Courts, But George Hangs Tough

May 5, 2006

Lawmakers may have officially iced the courts out of a $37 billion bond deal sealed early Friday, but fear not, says Chief Justice Ronald George. Plans are in the works to find the billions needed to rehab California’s courthouses.

“We haven’t given up,” George said Friday afternoon. “I’m not discouraged.”

Court leaders may offer their own bonds. Or a hike in filing fees. Or “something else,” George said.

A separate bond issue seems like a dicey proposal. A Field Poll showed minimal public support for courthouses fixes. And if voters approve the bond measures OK’d by legislators on Friday, the annual debt service for all of California’s outstanding notes could reach a whopping $7.5 billion in the next decade. Expect fiscal conservatives to turn blue with budgetary horror if the courts try to increase that yearly price tag.

If George is fazed, it doesn’t show. Trial court unification took a few tries before it happened, he said. So why should finding money for courthouse construction be any easier?

“The public has a definite need for safe and secure courthouses,” he said, “which we will pursue.”

Cheryl Miller

That’s Right, Snub the Media (and the Public)

April 21, 2006

A key state lawmaker is blocking the courts’ request for more computer techies, but you won’t hear about the ensuing debate, at least not publicly.

At a budget mark-up hearing this week, Assemblyman Rudy Bermudez, D-Norwalk, told Administrative Office of the Courts officials that they hadn’t made their case for 17 new information technology jobs to support the AOC, the Supreme Court and the appellate courts. The division already has 137 positions, he noted, and “there’s a feeling that there needs to be greater clarity” if managers want more.

Ironically, Bermudez then called for a future closed-door “stakeholders” meeting “where we’re not going to be in a public hearing on tape.” Those on the invited list: budget subcommittee staff, the AOC and, presumably, the largest court workers’ unions. Those snubbed: the media and the general public.

The new jobs would cost $3.3 million, a pittance compared to the billions that comprise the overall state budget. But the hang-up points to some legislative leaders’ resistance to scaling back oversight of the courts. And it suggests the coming debates over bigger budget items will be more heated. Just don’t expect to see them take place in public.

— Cheryl Miller