At its September 14–15 business meeting, the Judicial Council reallocated two vacant judgeships each from the Superior Courts of Alameda and Santa Clara Counties and transferred them to the Superior Courts of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.
Assembly Bill 103 required the council to identify which judicial vacancies to transfer between the specified counties and to take all steps necessary to carry out each transfer. The council voted to transfer the positions that had been vacant the longest. Now that the vacancies have been approved for transfer, the Governor will be able to appoint new judges into those positions.
“Our court is grateful for the increased positions,” said Judge Kyle Brodie, a Judicial Council member and judge from the Superior Court of San Bernardino County. “But I want to acknowledge that our gain comes at a loss to other counties and that should not be understated. This doesn't represent anything like a real solution to the funding and resource challenges the branch faces and is a small part of a solution to a very big problem.”
According to the council’s most recent judicial needs study, additional judges are required in 31 counties and a total of 189 new judgeships are needed to manage workload in the superior courts across California. The study also found both the superior courts in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties should have approximately 60% more judicial positions, making those courts the neediest by percentage in the state.
Other items on the council meeting agenda included:
Final Report on Traffic Amnesty Program: The council received the final report on the 18-month Statewide Infraction Amnesty Program. Offered from October 2015–March 2017, the program enabled people to resolve their delinquent court-ordered debt at a significant reduction and to request their driver’s licenses back. The program resolved 255,306 cases, allowed 246,000 people to qualify to have their driver’s licenses restored, and resulted in net revenue of $31,562,136. However, coinciding with the start of the amnesty program in October 2015, the report estimates that criminal revenue collections in recent years would have been $131,800,000 higher without the amnesty program in place.
Collaborative Justice Courts - Substance Abuse Focus Grants: The council approved a recommendation to fund programs in 49 courts for fiscal year 2017-2018 with annual grants that help expand or enhance promising collaborative justice programs around the state. Collaborative justice programs include DUI courts, homeless courts, peer/youth courts, truancy courts, veterans courts, and other collaborative justice court programs that combine rigorous judicial supervision with rehabilitation services to reduce recidivism and improve offender outcomes.
Request for Entry of Default: The council approved a recommendation to adopt a new mandatory form to request entry of default and default judgment in certain collections cases brought by debt buyers. The new form will assist litigants and courts by including the statutory requirements for a default judgment under the Fair Debt Buying Practices Act.
Court Adoption and Permanency Month: As it has since 1999, the council proclaimed November “Court Adoption and Permanency Month.” The designation recognizes the efforts of California courts and justice partners to provide children and families with fair, understandable judicial proceedings and just permanency outcomes. As part of the presentation, the council heard from the adoptive parents, Michael Cohen and Kelli Rockafellow, on their transformative experience with the adoption process for their son Drew.
An archived videocast of the entire meeting broken out by topic will be available on the council’s meeting information webpage.