SAN FRANCISCO—The Judicial Council at its business meeting today heard a report on how the judicial branch will help implement Senate Bill 10, recently signed legislation that will eliminate money bail for criminal defendants. Effective Oct. 1, 2019, the law changes California’s pretrial release procedures from a money-based system to a risk-based release and detention system that considers defendants’ risk to public safety and their likelihood to return to court.

“This is much more than bail reform,” said Martin Hoshino, Administrative Director for the council. “By eliminating money completely, it is a justice reform that corrects social, economic, and financial inequality in the state. What the new law does, in fact, is correct known inequity by treating people equally in a safe and fair manner. No matter how much money you have, rich or poor, if you're arrested for a crime in the state of California you will be treated the same.”

The presentation reviewed the details of SB 10 and highlighted specific requirements placed on the council. Among other duties, the council will maintain a list of risk assessment tools for use by the courts, provide training on the use of those assessment tools, adopt new rules of court and forms, and submit annual reports on the new pretrial process to the Legislature.

At the conclusion of the presentation, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye announced she will create a new pretrial reform implementation workgroup. The workgroup will provide guidance and expertise to Judicial Council staff assigned to work on SB 10 implementation requirements. It will serve as a clearinghouse where stakeholders can discuss issues and propose ideas on improving the pretrial process. Watch

Council Allocates Funding to Trial Courts
The council also voted to allocate $75 million in funding to the trial courts from the 2018-19 state budget. The money will help courts improve their services to the public, increase funding for court security, and provide court reporters in family law cases pursuant to the legislative intent included in this year’s state budget. In addition, the council voted to survey the courts to identify how this funding—as well as $66.9 million in new funding in the state budget previously allocated to courts back in July—is spent to increase services for court users. The money at issue was only a small part of the Judicial Branch’s $3.9 billion for operational funding in 2018-19, which included $284.4 million in new funding.

In its vote, the council accepted two unanimous recommendations by its Trial Court Budget Advisory Committee and modified another in order to address the Legislature’s concern that $10 million of the funding be set aside to provide court reporter funding in family court matters. “We are making explicit the intent of the Legislature when they entrusted us with this money,” said the Chief Justice. “I think that it shows how careful we have become, and how important it is follow our money, report back, and be responsible with public funds.” Watch

Other items on the council meeting agenda include:

Handling Traffic Cases Online: The council approved a process to add more trial courts to the Online Traffic Adjudication Pilot Project. The project is testing ways to take traffic court online, including looking up traffic citations, making ability-to-pay determinations for traffic fines and fees, and adjudicating cases. By the end of November, the council expects to approve the addition of three to four new courts to the five already participating in the pilot project.

Remote Access to Electronic Records: The council approved a new set of court rules to govern remote access to electronic records by parties, parties’ attorneys, court-appointed persons, legal organizations, qualified legal services projects, and government entities. The action advances a major initiative of the judicial branch’s Tactical Plan for Technology by developing rules and providing clear authority for the trial courts to provide online access to court records for parties and justice partners. Watch

Court Adoption and Permanency Month: As it has since 1999, the council proclaimed November to be “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 adoptive parents Heather and Roy on their transformative experience with the adoption process for their daughter Helen, who had been removed from her biological parents due to abuse and neglect. Watch

An archived videocast of the entire meeting broken out by topic will be available on the council’s meeting information webpage.