Under the leadership of Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and the Judicial Council, and working with the courts and justice partners, the state judicial branch was instrumental in ushering in major changes to the court system and ensuring equal access to justice for all Californians. The following are highlights of those efforts:
|Replacing Money Bail With Risk Assessment
Tracking most of the recommendations made by the Chief Justice’s workgroup, Senate Bill 10 will replace the current system of money bail with one based on a defendant’s risk to the public and their likelihood to return to court. The workgroup called money bail “unsafe and unfair” because it bases a person’s liberty on financial resources rather than the likelihood of future criminal behavior. The Chief Justice also announced the creation of a new workgroup that will provide guidance on the law’s requirements and improving the pretrial process. See more.
Courts Expand Language Access for the Public
The council continued its work to help courts serve limited-English speakers who use the courts. In addition to all criminal cases, 51 of California’s 58 trial courts now provide interpreters for critical civil cases, which include domestic violence, child custody, elder abuse and evictions. Courts also provide multilingual signage, complaint/comment forms on the language services available, and language help at clerk’s counters and court self-help centers. See more.
On August 28, Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye and Administrative Director Martin Hoshino join Governor Brown for his signing of Senate Bill 10. The legislation reforms the state's money bail system and contains recommendations presented by the Pretrial Detention Reform Workgroup appointed by the chief justice in 2017. See timeline.
More than a quarter of a million court interpreter service days were coordinated on behalf of courts statewide in 2018. See Dec 2018 Language Access Summary
July 2018: Courts in Shasta, Lake and Trinity counties report closing down courthouses or branches in the wake of wildfires burning in Northern California. The northern and southern regions of the state battled weeks-long natural disasters again in November.
In April, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye completes her visits to three Civic Learning Award of Excellence schools. In 2018, 74 schools received recognition for their great achievements in civic learning.
By year's end, the Commission on Judicial Appointments will host hearings for 28 appointments to the court of appeal, including the state Supreme Court.
Branch’s Budget Prudence and Advocacy Pay Off for Court Users
The fiscal year 2018–19 state budget included a $284 million boost in new funding to improve and modernize trial court operations and increase access for court users. The budget includes money for expanding self-help services for those without an attorney, eight online traffic court pilot projects, and 10 new courthouses. The budget represents years of advocacy by the Chief Justice and other judicial officers, court leaders, council staff, attorneys, and justice system partners who stressed the need to adequately fund the court system. See more.
Supporting Court Innovation
The judicial branch continued to support court innovations and efficiencies replicable statewide. Grant funding for 50 local court projects are testing new approaches to make court more accessible and setting up new collaborative “problem-solving” courts that promote recovery and decrease repeat offenses. Those projects include a mobile app for conducting court business online, remote video conferencing, and a juvenile human trafficking court. See more.
Collaborating with Native American Communities
The council hosted the first annual statewide symposium for judges, attorneys, social workers, educators, and students to learn about the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and its impact on Native American communities. The council’s Tribal Court-State Court Forum develops and shares local rules of court, protocols, standing orders, and other agreements that promote tribal court–state court coordination and cooperation. See more.
Judicial and Attorney Ethics
The courts and the council collaborated on an update to the Judicial Conduct Handbook, which provides guidance on proper judicial behavior both on and off the bench. The California Supreme Court released dozens of opinions and advice on judicial ethics and approved a comprehensive revision to the attorney rules of professional conduct. See more.
Responding to Workplace Discrimination and Harassment
At the request of the Chief Justice, the council revised the rules of court to require settlement agreements involving complaints against judicial officers—including those involving sexual harassment or discrimination—be disclosed to the public. The Chief Justice also created a new council work group to study and make recommendations for how the judicial branch can better prevent and address inappropriate workplace conduct. See more.
Justice Endures Despite Wildfires
The council worked with trial courts in fire-ravaged areas on emergency order requests to extend filing deadlines in jurisdictions with courthouse closures. The council also provided smoke-affected courts with air scrubbers and indoor air quality tests to ensure the safety of courthouse occupants. Further, coordinating cases helped avoid delays and the possibility of conflicting rulings in the nearly 100 civil lawsuits filed against PG&E for its role in the fires. "In the aftermath of a disaster, the courts often become a third or fourth responder," said the Chief Justice. See more.
Students Learn About the Court System
The judicial branch continued work on increasing civics education in California schools and promoting lessons about the courts’ crucial role in our democracy. These efforts included the state’s new History-Social Science Framework and its greater emphasis on civics, promoting partnerships between local courts and school boards, and creating the Civic Learning Awards and Judges in the Classroom programs. This year judges met directly with educators to offer them tools for teaching their students about the judicial system. See more.
New Judicial Appointments
After years of highlighting the need for more judges, the courts this year welcomed more than 100 qualified and diverse appointments to the bench. The most recent judicial demographics survey of California judicial officers showed a steady increase in women and non-white justices and judges over the last 12 years. See more.
Honoring Extraordinary Contributions to the Branch
The council’s Distinguished Service Awards recognize extraordinary leadership and contributions to the justice system. Marking the 25th anniversary of the awards, the council honored a judicial leader in decriminalizing school discipline, a court executive who dedicated nearly three decades to public service, and a retired public defender who founded the nation’s first homeless court, which provides services and a way to clear criminal records. See more.