Council Clarifies Rule on Public Disclosure of Settlement Agreements Involving Judicial Officers
SAN FRANCISCO—The Judicial Council at its business meeting today revised the rules of court to clarify that any settlement agreements involving judicial officers for which public funds were spent in payment of the settlement must be disclosed if requested, including agreements related to complaints of sexual harassment and discrimination.
In April, Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye convened a workgroup to study and recommend changes to the rules of court to ensure that all levels of the state court system respond to these types of public records requests.
“I’m grateful that we’re having this conversation… and that we sought public comment,” said the Chief Justice. “Clarification of this rule was so important for the public’s confidence in the judiciary.”
The revised rule also states that the names of judicial officers may not be redacted from those agreements; however, the names of complainants and witnesses, and any other information that would identify them, may be redacted.
The rule does not apply to records maintained by the Commission on Judicial Performance, the independent state agency responsible for investigating complaints of judicial misconduct and disciplining judges.
“We recognize that the issue is one of national interest, and frankly, should be one of personal interest to all of us,” added Justice Marsha Slough, who led the workgroup tasked with clarifying the rule. “The California judicial branch, whose special responsibility is to articulate and uphold the law, must be particularly vigilant and must exercise leadership.” Watch (best viewed in Internet Explorer)
Other items on the council meeting agenda included:
Trial Court Financial Policies and Procedures Manual: The council approved an update to the guide that helps ensure fiscal responsibility within the judicial branch. The manual provides a system of internal controls that enable trial courts to monitor their use of public funds, provide consistent and comparable financial statements, and demonstrate accountability.
Updates From Council Liaison Visits to Local Courts: The council received reports on the superior courts in Mariposa, Merced, and Monterey (videos best viewed in Internet Explorer). Liaison reports highlight courts’ operations and challenges, as well as their solutions to increase efficiency and effectiveness. Today’s reports touched on case management systems, collaborative courts, and technological upgrades, such as juror check-in kiosks, videoconferencing court hearings, and mobile apps for payments of fines, case searches, and text reminders to help defendants show up for court dates.
An archived videocast of the entire meeting broken out by topic will be available on the council’s meeting information webpage.