2013 State of the Judiciary Address
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2013 State of the Judiciary Address

November 24, 2019


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Good afternoon, Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg Assembly Speaker John P’e9rezemdash
thank you for inviting me to address the State of the Judiciary.par
Itrquote s an honor to be in this venerable chamber with members of the Senate, and the
Assembly, my colleagues from the California Supreme Court, Courts of Appeal, Superior
Courts, and the Judicial Council.par It is a pleasure to see attorneys from the
State Bar, Bench Bar Coalition, Open Courts Coalition, and the executives from the Administrative
Office of the Courtsemdash the AOCemdash including our relatively new Administrative
Director of the Courts, retired Judge Steven Jahr.par
Itrquote s an exceptional pleasure for me to have my family here on this happy occasion.par
In the next few minutes, I would like to spend with you and talk to you a little about the
judiciary, our challenge, and how we endeavor to fulfill our fiscal and public responsibilities.par
Let me start by saying that the judicial branch is as old as statehood, but we were structurally
reborn 16 years ago.par Sixteen years ago, we transitioned from disparate
and unreliable county funding to state court trial funding. We transitioned from over 220
courts to 58 superior courts. We also assumed responsibility for the repair, construction,
and maintenance of over 500 facilities.par With your help, and with the executive branch,
the judicial branch became a fully functioning branch of state government.par
Thus, as California grew, became more populated and more diverse, the branch was institutionally
prepared to look at statewide access to justice and equal access to justice.par
Today, we are 2,000 judicial officers, 18,000 court employees, the largest judicial branch
in the nation. The largest law-trained judiciary in the world. lineline I think werquote
re best understood as having four components parts: the firstemdash the 58 trial courtsemdash
one in each county; secondemdash the six Courts of Appeal; thirdemdash the California
Supreme Court. We are a confederation of courts, but because we endeavor to provide justice
to 38 million Californians, the most populous [and] diverse state in the country, we have
help with a fourth componentemdash and that is our Judicial Council, the statewide policymaking
body of the judicial branch. In 1927, article VI, section 6 was added to the Constitution.
It established the Judicial Council and said the purpose of council was to improve the
statewide administration of justice. Council consists of legislators, lawyers, judges,
justices, and court executive officers. The AOC is our staff arm. We serve the public
and the courts.par And the key aspect to understanding the Judicial
Council is that in all of the decision we make, we seek to balance local court control
with the need for statewide administration.par Here in the legislature, with the executive
branch you make statutory law.par In the judicial branch, we make case law.
That is, with statutes, prior case law, and the Constitution, we write decisions called
case law.par Some case law in the United States is so well-known,
itrquote s in the DNA of our country. For example, in education, i Brown v. Board of
Educationi0 , the United States Supreme Court held that separate but equal could never be
equal.par I would like to call your attention to another
important case that celebrates its 50th anniversary. next week:i Gideon v. Wainwrighti0 .par
In 1963, some of you may recall, the United States Supreme Court held that indigent criminal
defendants have a fundamental right to be represented by an attorney in court.par
Now Gideon is not some old, dusty piece of historyemdash it has continuing relevance
today because it speaks to us about fairness, and about the importance of the courts, and
what is necessary for meaningful access to the courts.par
Clarence Gideon was a 50-year-old man in Florida. He was arrested for breaking and entering
a pool hall and stealing cash. When he went to court, he asked for an attorney. He had
an 8th grade educationemdash he was denied. The jury convicted him and he was sentenced
to state prison for five years.par From state prison he wrote to the United States
Supreme Court, asking them to hear his case. The United States Supreme Court heard him,
granted his case. At his retrial, this time with an attorney, the jury deliberated one
hour, and Mr. Gideon walked out of that courtroom a free man.par
The Gideon case has many lessons.par Irquote d like to highlight two key players:
the high court that heard his request, and the local court that provided the forum for
justice for Mr. Gideonpar Gideon teaches many lessons, including the
importance of attorneys to our justice system.par But Gideon also teaches something as fundamental
as how necessary a courtroom is as a forum for justice. To have your day in court, you
need a courtroom.par And I will say, that what we once counted
onemdash that courts would be open, and ready, and available to deliver prompt justice–is
no longer true in California. Because although California has the distinction of being the
largest judiciary in the country, we also have the dubious distinction that our state
judicial branch budget has been cut greater and deeper than any other in the United States.par
The National Center for State Courts tells us that judicial branches funded by state
general fund generally receive about two percent of the staterquote s general fund. Not so
in California. In California the judicial branch receives about one percent of the General
Fund. Irquote m told that is about one penny for every dollar of General Fund. I submit
to youemdash in the most diverse state in the union, that a penny on the dollar is insufficient
to provide justice.par In the last five fiscal years, the judicial
branch budget has been cut one billion dollars: A half billion in one-time cuts, [and a] half-billion-plus
in ongoing cuts. Werquote re told that General Fund support for the judicial branch–at one
time 56 percent–has dropped to 20 percent.par What werquote ve done in order to stave off
catastrophic court closures is two things. Werquote ve taken court construction money
for our critically needed courts and itrquote s been used to blunt trial court cuts. But
this means that courts that are in need of repair–and downright need replacementemdash
remain unsafe.par Werquote ve also relied on higher fines and
fees out of need. And werquote re grateful to the attorneys who have helped us in that
regard. But all of us worry that the judicial branch may be becoming a user-fee institution.
An all of us are concerned that the high fines and higher penalties are falling on those
least able to afford it.par I worry that California is on the wrong side
of history in funding justice. And I believe that if we do not reinvest in justice, you
will see–or continue to see–services to the public from the courts cut or be eliminated
or deeply restricted.par Yourquote ll see courthouses and courtrooms
closed.par In San Bernardino alone, a litigant now has
to travel two hours one way to have his or her day in court. That means she a) has to
have transportation; b) a job that will permit her to be free for the day; c) child care;
and d) has to hope that the court, with the other press of business, will be able to resolve
her case in one day.par Werquote re also seeing and will continue
to see unconscionable delays in civil cases, cases that have to do with wrongful termination,
unlawful discrimination and family law matters. Werquote re seeing that California, once
a leader in civil rights in social justice, is facing a crisis in civil rights.par
Now without re-investment, what you are seeing is our numbers. Numbers never tell the true
story but our numbers tell a tale of woe.par Since January 2010 30 courts have reduced
their hours of operations to the public; 22 courthouses have closed; 114 courtrooms have
closed; 2,600 people have left the branch employment, either through layoffs or attrition.par
This year alone we will see Fresno close 7 courthouses San Bernardino will close 3 courthouses
Los Angeles will close 67 courtrooms, eliminate 500 positions, and close the largest alternative
dispute resolution department in the nation.par In Kingrquote s County, the court employees
there are on 27 days of furlough, and sadly this year they conducted a ldblquote garage
salerdblquote to raise money for the court.par I could stand in this chamber and unfortunately
tell you and use all day to chronicle how the branch is looking at cutting itself in
order to live within its budget.par But the point is, the laws that you pass to
protect the same public that goes to courtemdash when they go to have their day in court–
the courtroom doors are locked, closed, or moved.par
And what about the gains werquote ve made in delivering justice? California was once
a beacon for restorative justice, and collaborative justice, and problem-solving courts.par
These courts cater to the very specialized needs of the most vulnerable in our community.
You know these courts as Veterans Courts, and Elder Courts, and Domestic Violence Courts
and the like.par I know how hard trial courts and communities
work to establish these special courts. Theyrquote re resource- and labor-intensive, but they
heal a community, and they prevent recidivism. Well, those courts are closing.par
And I worry about the population we serve that we will no longer serve.lineline We
could never know how many people due to closures and delays, will not believe justice is for
them. We donrquote t know how many people will give up, we donrquote t know how many
people will go to court and find a lack of services, find under-staffed self-help centers,
find the law incomprehensible and walk away from their right to justice.par
I come back to Mr. Gideon, who stands for many things, including the duty to provide
meaningful access to justice for all.par As I stand before you as Chief Justice of
California, it would be unsuitable for me to advocate for branch funding if I didnrquote
t looking within our own house and find out ways that we could improve and be better.
And I have. But before I preface my remarks in this regard, I want to say that no amount
of efficiencies we can implement will ever make up for a billion dollars [in] cuts. We
will never have a fully functioning judiciary when we are receiving one penny on every dollar
of General Fund.par However, like I said earlier, the judicial
branch structurally is only 16 years old, and like any adolescent, it needs a check-in.
And so self assessment and oversight and action are core values that I believe are important
to public service.par Like I said last year delivering my State
of the Judiciary, I talked about the Strategic Evaluation Committee. I appointed that committee
to tell us and assess the AOC and to recommend improvements. The SEC came back with a report,
delivered it to the council, the council accepted the report and the council turned it into
directives. At every Judicial Council meeting, we hear an update on directives being implemented.
If you care about a particular directive, you can go to our California Courts website
and track its progresspar At the same time the SEC was performing its
important work, we were still in the process of assessing many things, including our computer
system. It was a multi-[year] long project that came to fruition in my tenure with exposed
problems of mismanagement, fiscal issues, and problems.par
The issue for the Council was to publicly assess whether we could go forward with the
computer system. We believed it would work, believed it would save us money in the long
run but ultimately decided that we could not go forward with it.par
The takeaway of that project is that we have created a working group to make a business
plan to bring the judicial branch into [the] technology of today.par
Thank you Judge Herman, thank you Judge Moss, thank you Justice Bruiniers, thank you Justice
Chin, post-haste please.par I also want to point out that the Judicial
Council itself is assessing and always evaluating.par The Judicial Council has worked and continues
to work more transparently in its duties. The duties of council are enumerated in the
Constitution, in the ballot measure, and in statute. It includes ldblquote the duty to
insure that justice is being properly administered.rdblquote It includes ldblquote the duty to propose
a remedyrdblquote whenever thererquote s a ldblquote complaint.rdblquotepar
The ballot measure said the purpose of Judicial Council ldblquote to organize the courts
of the state on a business basis.rdblquotepar The council takes its duties very, very seriously.
When I was elected Chief Justice in 2010 and under the Constitution, became the chair of
the Judicial Council in 2011, the Judicial Council changed. It opened up the opportunity
for public comment. It found ways to outreach to courts and to the public about the work
werquote re doing and the work we need to do. It opened up previously closed meetings.
In fact, werquote ve had more open meetings in this council than in our history of 90
years. Council has many, many good ideas and they are all organized under Justice Doug
Miller.par I also want to point out, that one of our
most active working groupsemdash that is the Court Facilities Working Groupemdash
a group of attorneys, architects, planners, judges and justices, that I appointed to oversee
our construction program–they have conducted almost all of their meetings in public. Chaired
by Justice Brad Hill, the first thing this group did, was hire an expert to audit our
construction program. All audit recommendations have been implemented. Also, the second thing
this group did was create a cost reduction subcommittee, chaired by Justice Jeffrey Johnson,
and they are looking at ways we can cut the cost of our projects because of the problems
we face with our budget.par So yourquote ve seen that self assessment,
oversight, and action have permeated the AOC, the construction program, the computer program,
and now we focus on trial court funding allocation formulas.par
If you were to look at the judicial branch pie, you would see that 80 percent of the
pie appropriately goes to the trial courts. The Courts of Appeal receive approximately
seven percent of the budget pie, the Supreme Court two percent, and the AOC/Judicial Council
receives five percent of the judicial branch pie. That 80 percent has never been changed
from its original formula from 16 years ago, not withstanding the demographics of California
that have changed so greatly. Last year, Governor Brown and I appointed a workgroup to study
the progress we are making in state trial court funding. Co-chaired by Justice Harry
Hull and former Assemblymember Phil Isenberg, we expect the committee to have a report in
April that we believe will aid the council in formulating a more equitable formula for
distributing that 80 percent to the trial courts.par
Self-assessment is an ongoing principal. And soon I hope to be in a position to appoint
a Blue Ribbon Commission that will look at how we can proceed in California to provide
more efficient justice to California. If the last five years have taught us anything in
the judicial branch, itrquote s taught us of our needs to safeguard the justice system
at the same time moving it forward with greater efficiencies for the next generation.par
I believe we owe the next generation something else also, something all of us here embrace.
And that is a belief that fairness, justice, and change comes from the strength of our
Constitution and the power of our democratic institutions.par
I believe as government leaders we have a responsibility to engage the next generation
of government leaders–theyrquote re in the schools of today.lineline I think this takes
a two-prong approach. First, we have to work on keeping our kids in school and out of court.
To that end, I am proud to announce a summit in December in partnership with California
Department of Education to focus on that issue. That action plan is being heading up by Justice
Richard Huffman and Judge Stacy Boulware Eurie. The second prong, I believe, is to stimulate
the students of today with knowledge of the world around them, that they understand change
comes about through constitutional principles and our democracy. Armed with that information,
they can begin change their world and our world.par
The first step for us formally, was two weeks ago, our Civic Learning Summit called ldblquote
Making Democracy Work.rdblquote Headed by Justice Judith McConnell and retired Federal
Judge Frank Damrell. We brought together a broad array of leaders in California to talk
about civic engagement with students and how best to achieve it. We were fortunate to have
retired Justice Sandra Day Orquote Connor from the United States Supreme Court share
her words of wisdom on the importance of civics education. That was the beginning. Over the
years, Irquote ve had a great opportunity to meet students and teachers engaged in civic
learning. Irquote m impressed and inspired by them both.par
When students learn about our process and the ability for change, they become inspired
and their aspirations should be our aspirations.par Let me finish by telling you the rest of the
story of Mr. Gideon. Mr. Gideon walked out of that courtroom a free man. He went on to
live nine more years as a law-abiding citizen. However he died at the age of 61 of cancer.
On his gravestone is a quote from a letter he wrote to his attorney. It says,ldblquote
Each era finds an improvement in law for the benefit of mankind.rdblquote Thatrquote
s the faith Mr. Gideon had in government to provide an improvement for the benefit of
mankind.par And so as you the decision makers sort through
all the pressing needs of the state, I urge you to re-invest in justice, I urge you to
think about the judicial branch and the forum for justice that it provides to interpret
and enforce the laws you pass. Think of Mr. Gideon; justice for all.par
Thank you for listening.par pardsa200sl276slmult1lang9f1fs22par
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