Author: California Constitution Center

What Does California’s Experience with Recall of Judges Teach Us?

What Does California’s Experience with Recall of Judges Teach Us?

Recently there has been much public discussion about whether Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky should be recalled. We thought it would be useful to provide an overview of the facts about judicial recalls in California, their history, and the issues involved. This article takes no position on the merits question of whether Judge Persky should be recalled. The Issues Involved In general, the design of California’s judiciary is influenced by some competing policy alternatives, known as “value sets.” In a value set, favoring one alternative over another reflects a decision to advance a particular policy goal, and one...

Event announcement: SCOCA Historical Society book launch

Event announcement: SCOCA Historical Society book launch

The California Supreme Court Historical Society is hosting an event to celebrate the publication of Constitutional Governance and Judicial Power: The History of the California Supreme Court. The event is Tuesday 15 November, 5:00 to 7:30 p.m. in the Milton Marks Auditorium at 455 Golden Gate Avenue in San Francisco. 5:00 – 6:00 panel discussion with Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye and former Chief Justice George 6:00 – 7:30 reception with drinks and snacks Click here to register!

SCOCA Conference 2017: Save The Date

SCOCA Conference 2017: Save The Date

Mark your calendar! On Friday 13 Jan 2017 the California Constitution Center will present its conference on the California Supreme Court, in partnership with the center’s friends at Hastings Law Journal, the Bar Association of San Francisco, and the Institute of Governmental Studies. This year the conference is at Hastings. Registration opens in October.

Postcard From The Ninth Circuit: “Please Help”

Postcard From The Ninth Circuit: “Please Help”

This week an LA Times article described a recurring problem in the relationship between SCOCA and the Ninth Circuit. The issue concerns the brevity of SCOCA orders denying state habeas petitions. When those cases reach the Ninth Circuit, that court must determine the basis for the SCOCA ruling: specifically, whether the petition was denied as untimely. According to the article, SCOCA decides most such petitions “with one-paragraph summary rulings that frustrate federal judges who later are asked to review them.” The issue stems from the SCOTUS decision in Harrington v. Richter (2011) 562 U.S. 86, holding that the prohibition in...

Vergara: Teacher Tenure Is Not Necessarily an Equal Protection Issue

Vergara: Teacher Tenure Is Not Necessarily an Equal Protection Issue

This week a petition for review was filed in Vergara v. State of California (S234741), potentially setting the stage for SCOCA to settle the great matter pending in education law today. The issue in that case is framed as whether teacher tenure violates students’ right to an effective education. As we explain below, that is not the real question, and teacher tenure is only one factor in evaluating an education right claim based on equal protection. The California constitution protects an individual right to an education. As our colleague Anne Gordon explained in her article, California Constitutional Law: The Right...

What if SCOCA Decided to Fund the State Bar with Judicial Branch Fees?

What if SCOCA Decided to Fund the State Bar with Judicial Branch Fees?

In this article we consider a simple separation of powers issue with serious implications: Can the California judicial branch fund the State Bar of California by imposing fees on practitioners?[1] We think this is a problem in two stages. The first question (whether the judiciary can impose such fees) raises one sort of separation of powers issue, and the second (the likely consequences) requires a different analysis. Background The state bar was created by statute in 1927. It received constitutional entity status in 1966, when article 6, section 9 of the California constitution was added: “The State Bar of California is...

U.S. Senate: Be Afraid of State Supreme Courts

U.S. Senate: Be Afraid of State Supreme Courts

President Obama has nominated Merrick Garland, chief judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, for appointment as a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Senators who are at all familiar with the system of dual sovereignty created by the U.S. Constitution will move quickly to act on that nomination, because without a full bench the nation’s high court is severely limited in its ability to prevent state supreme court decisions from being the final word. So to all the Federalists in the chamber: fear the state supreme courts. Because unless you act on this...

Advisory Measures and the Legislature’s Power to Investigate

Advisory Measures and the Legislature’s Power to Investigate

In a recent decision, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. v. Padilla, the California Supreme Court considered the validity of Proposition 49, which would have asked the electorate whether Congress should propose, and the legislature ratify, a federal constitutional amendment overturning the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Comm. (2010). The court held that the legislature’s investigative power permits it to place advisory measures on the ballot for the electorate’s consideration. For what it’s worth, we concur. The court’s order that the measure be taken off the ballot seemed dramatic enough, as the general rule is that the...

California Gets an “F” Grade in Judicial Accountability, and We Have Questions

California Gets an “F” Grade in Judicial Accountability, and We Have Questions

The Center for Public Integrity (“CPI”) conducts periodic evaluations of all three branches of government in each state.[1] In the CPI’s just-published report on California, the state judiciary received an F grade. This is a significant drop from the C-minus California received in 2012, the last time the CPI evaluated the state. But the last three years have seen significant advancements in judicial transparency, as the state judiciary has broadened public access to the branch’s records and the state’s counties have continued to expand online access to court records.[2] So how have things gone from “not great” to “failing” in...