By a MetNews Staff Writer / Metropolitan News-Enterprise
A Fourth District Court of Appeal justice who heads a major committee in the judicial branch expressed disappointment yesterday with Gov. Jerry Brown’s veto of a bill to fund additional judgeships, but said work on the issue would continue.
Justice Douglas Miller of Div. Two, the chair of the Judicial Council’s Executive and Planning Committee, reacted in a statement to the governor’s rejection Thursday of SB 229, which had passed both houses of the Legislature unanimously.
“We are disappointed that the Governor didn’t sign the bill, but we’re encouraged that he recognizes that the need for judges is indeed ‘acute,’” Miller said. “He asked that the Judicial Council work with him to look at a ‘systemwide approach’ as to how we can balance judicial workload throughout the state. I’m hopeful that we can work with the Governor to find a practical solution to meet an urgent need.”
The bill, by Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, would have funded 12 previously authorized judgeships, including one in the Los Angeles Superior Court.
Brown acknowledged in his veto message that “many counties” need more judges, and cited Riverside and San Bernardino as “clear examples.”
The new judgeships would have been the first to be funded in over a decade. Lawmakers previously authorized 50 additional judgeships, but never funded them as revenue collections fell and the state’s resources were directed toward what officials said were more pressing needs.
A spokesman for Roth said the senator was “obviously extremely disappointed” with the veto.
Increasing the number of sitting judges is a “fundamental access to justice issue,” Shrujal Joseph told the MetNews. Requiring people to travel “hours to get to court,” especially if they have to find child care or leave work is “no way to go,” he said.
He said he was unaware as to what the “more systemwide approach” to funding new judgeships, advocated by the governor, would look like. He emphasized that the selection of where to fund the previously authorized positions—including three in Riverside and three in San Bernardino—was not “something we created arbitrarily,” but was based on the Judicial Council’s need-based standards.
“It’s likely the cost was the driver” of the veto, Joseph said, even though the amount of the appropriation was reduced from $14 million to $5 million during the course of the legislative process, although the number of positions was not reduced. While judicial salaries are uniform statewide, the cost of funding a position will vary according to the level of staff and other resources attached to it.
Roth said at the time of passage that he would continue to work to fund the remaining 38 positions. He called his bill “the first step in ensuring justice is delivered in a timely and equitable manner.”
As introduced, the bill would have also added one justice to the division on which Miller serves, for a total of eight. That provision was eliminated as the bill worked its way through the Legislature.