Pro Bono News
Chief Justice Urges Lawyers To Protect Impartiality of the Courts
Monday, October 01, 2007
- Judicial Council of California
- Source: California
Chief Justice Urges Lawyers
To Protect Impartiality of the Courts
'Our tradition of impartial courts cannot be taken for granted,'
Top jurist declares in annual State of the Judiciary Address
Anaheim-In his 12th annual "State of the Judiciary" Address to the State Bar of California, Chief Justice Ronald M. George urged the state's lawyers to help maintain an impartial and independent judicial branch of government for future generations of Californians.
"I strongly believe that an impartial judiciary - and its corollary, adherence to the rule of law - are the cornerstones of our democratic form of government," the Chief Justice declared in his remarks on Saturday.
"Ironically, at a time when our national government is proposing to export those concepts to other parts of the world, here at home some trends in popular culture and political discourse have undermined the public's understanding of the role of the judicial branch in the checks and balances that govern the relationships among the three branches of government."
According to a recent poll, two of three adult Americans cannot name the three branches of government, and one of three is incapable of identifying even a single branch, Chief Justice George noted.
"More and more reactions to court decisions are based on the bottom line of who won and who lost, with no focus on the basis for the court's decision and no mention of whether it was compelled by applicable law," he continued.
Chief Justice George recently created the Commission for Impartial Courts in response to the pressures that costly and partisan judicial election campaigns have placed on courts in other states. he commission ill study judicial selection and retention, judicial campaign conduct and financing, and public information and education.
"Our tradition of an impartial and independent judicial branch cannot be taken for granted by any generation," he said. "It is incumbent upon all of us to do all we can to preserve this principle and the rule of law."
More Judgeships for State Courts
The state's top jurist reported that the judicial branch is "well on track" with its proposal to add 150 new judicial positions to a court system that has urgently needed more resources to cope with increases in population and caseloads.
The Governor has filled most of the 50 new judgeships created during the 2006 legislative session and another 50 judgeships were created last month in the final hours of the latest legislative session, the Chief Justice said. The branch will seek the remaining positions in 2008.
"Nowhere is the impact of having too few judgeships more apparent than in Riverside County," the Chief Justice noted. In response to an overwhelming increase in filings and an unmet need for new judgeships, the superior court has closed its civil courts for weeks at a time on more than one occasion.
As a result, Chief Justice George this year assigned a special team of judges to help the superior court deal effectively with its increasing backlog of criminal cases. "Each of these judges has a strong background in criminal law, and they already are making a substantial dent in the workload," he stated.
"I am also very pleased that the three branches of government, working together with various bar associations, have made great strides in improving the judicial appointment process so as to attract a more diverse pool of qualified applicants to the bench, better reflecting California's diverse population," Chief Justice George noted.
Dramatic Increase in Courthouse Transfers
In other positive developments, Chief Justice George reported that the transfer of state court facilities from county to state governance "increased dramatically" over the past year.
By June 30, 2007, 113 of California's 451 court facilities had been transferred to state governance, under a state law designed to ensure that Californians have equal access to safe, secure, and adequate court facilities.
The Legislature has approved funding for 12 new courthouse construction projects at various stages, and granted a total of almost $6 million to be used for the initial stages of the creation of a 31-courtroom facility in Long Beach, the Chief Justice said.
"The judicial branch is committed to ensuring that the facilities in which justice is dispensed are safe and secure for all those who visit or work in them," the jurist noted.
The complete text of the Chief Justice's "State of the Judiciary Address" will available on the California Courts Web site at http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/reference/soj092907.htm.
The news release is posted online at http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/presscenter/newsreleases/NR62-07.PDF.