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Supreme Court Committee Provides Guidance on Appearing at Public Hearings

Posted By Administration, Friday, October 3, 2014

Supreme Court Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinions advises judges on commenting at 
public hearings and consulting with the Legislature


SAN FRANCISCO—The California Supreme Court Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinions (CJEO) has issued an advisory opinion providing guidance to judges about appearing at public hearings and consulting with the other branches of government. The opinion clarifies what comments the California Code of Judicial Ethics authorizes judges to make concerning the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice. The opinion cautions, however, that even when making permitted statements, judges still must take care not to violate any other provisions of the Code of Judicial Ethics, for example, by commenting on pending or future proceedings in any court, or by taking a position with respect to the outcome of cases. 

Judges are prohibited from appearing at public hearings as a general matter, but an exception permits them to appear and consult on “matters concerning the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice.” (Cal. Code Jud. Ethics, canon 4C(1).) The opinion:

  • examines this exception and points out how robust participation by judges benefits the public and the members of executive and legislative branches of government;
  • advises that the exception broadly permits judges to comment and consult on the court system or matters of judicial administration, which are inherently within judicial experience and perspective; and
  • concludes that the exception also permits judges to speak about legal matters when their experience and perspective as judges uniquely qualifies them to assist the other branches of the government in fulfilling their responsibilities to the public.


The committee previously invited the public to comment on this advisory opinion in draft form. Those comments submitted with a waiver of confidentiality are posted for public view on the CJEO website. All of the comments the committee received were carefully considered by the CJEO members when finalizing and approving CJEO Formal Opinion No. 2014-006.

CJEO is an independent committee appointed by the Supreme Court to help inform the judiciary and the public concerning judicial ethics topics. CJEO was established as part of the court’s constitutional responsibility to guide the conduct of judges and judicial candidates (Cal. Const., art. VI, § 18, subd. (m)). In making appointments to serve on CJEO, the court selects members of the bench with a strong background in judicial ethics and diverse courtroom experience. The current twelve CJEO members are justices, judges, a commissioner, and a retired bench officer who have served in courts of various sizes throughout the state.

CJEO publishes formal opinions, issues confidential informal opinions, and provides oral advice on proper judicial conduct pursuant to the California Code of Judicial Ethics and other authorities (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 9.80(e)(1)). CJEO acts independently of the Supreme Court, the Commission on Judicial Performance, the Judicial Council, and all other entities (rule 9.80(b)).

For more information about CJEO, visit the CJEO website and view the members’ page, call toll-free at 1-855-854-5366, or email

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Board seeks input on plan for new bar admissions requirements

Posted By Administration, Thursday, October 2, 2014

By Laura Ernde
California Bar Journal Staff Writer

The Board of Trustees is seeking public comment on a draft plan to implement new competency skills training requirements aimed at better preparing lawyers for the profession.

The proposal calls for:

  • 15 units of practice-based experiential training during law school/apprenticeship option
  • 50 hours of pro bono/reduced fee legal services
  • 10 hours of additional competency training MCLE (minimum continuing legal education) in the first year of admission

The plan was developed by the Task Force on Admissions Regulation Reform Phase II, a 30-member panel chaired by former State Bar President Jon B. Streeter and comprised of attorneys, judges, academics and pro bono directors. Since December, the group has held eight public hearings and sought input from interested parties.

“This is a major milestone for this task force,” State Bar President Craig Holden said after the board’s executive committee authorized the public comment Sept. 29. “I look forward to getting the public’s input on this.”

Comments are due Nov. 3 and may be submitted via email or mailed to Teri Greenman, Executive Offices, The State Bar of California, 845 S. Figueroa St., 5th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90017.

The board is expected to take up the issue at its next meeting, Nov. 6-7 in San Francisco.

The bar first began moving toward requiring more practical skills training for admission to the bar in February 2012, when the board created the Task Force on Admissions Regulation Reform Phase I, also chaired by Streeter.  

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SF court clerks authorize strike as negotiations stumble over pay

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, October 1, 2014

San Francisco Superior Court clerks have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike during contract negotiations, saying court officials have $16 million in their reserve fund but refuse to offer them a raise.

Out of 186 clerks who cast ballots over the last week, 169, or more than 90 percent, voted to authorize their negotiating team to call a strike at their discretion, Steve Stallone, spokesman for Service Employees International Union Local 1021, said Tuesday. He said the union represents 251 clerks, “the lowest-paid workers in the court.”

Trial courts statewide have been reeling from $1 billion in state funding cutbacks over six years. The San Francisco Superior Court laid off 69 employees in October 2011, closed 11 of its 63 courtrooms at 400 McAllister St. and reduced operating hours at the clerks’ offices.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget for the fiscal year that started July 1 included a $129 million increase for the trial courts, about half of what court officials said they needed to maintain services. But Ann Donlan, spokeswoman for the San Francisco courts, said last month that they expect to avoid further reductions through next June. She said San Francisco courts have earmarked their remaining reserves to cover retired employees’ health care.


Read more from SFGate:

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Judge dismisses charges against two brothers in 1989 cold case murder

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A judge in Santa Clara County Superior Court on Tuesday dismissed murder charges against two brothers in a 1989 cold case murder at the request of the district attorney's office due to an affair by a prosecutor with a lab technician.

Judge Thang Barrett granted a motion by prosecutors to toss their case against David Zimmer, 67, and Robert Zimmer, 70, in the strangulation death of Cathy Zimmer, whose body was found wrapped in a quilt in her car parked at San Jose International Airport on March 10, 1989.

Robert Zimmer, who had been in the county's Main Jail since his arraignment last February, arrived in court in jail clothing, a long gray beard and gray hair and sat next to Nicole Alvarado, a lawyer filling in for his defense attorney Stephen Defilippis.

Barrett ordered Robert Zimmer released from jail and all pending court hearings for the case vacated. David Zimmer, Cathy's ex-husband who was in jail from March to May, was not at the brief hearing at the Hall of Justice but was represented by his defense counsel Michael Cardoza.


Read more from San Jose Mercury News:

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Gov. Brown approves legal help for minors in the country illegally

Posted By Administration, Monday, September 29, 2014

Concerned about unaccompanied children from Central America who have surged into the U.S. illegally this year, Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday approved legislation providing $3 million in legal aid for them.


More than 60,000 unaccompanied children from poverty-stricken and violence-torn areas of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have been detained so far this year by U.S. Border Patrol agents, and California officials worry they will be deported to unsafe places without getting legal due process.


"With the stroke of a pen, Governor Brown reaffirmed California's commitment to doing its part to address the unprecedented humanitarian crisis at border involving Central American youth," said Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) in a statement Saturday. "Deportation for some of these kids is tantamount to a virtual death sentence so it's important that they have access to the adequate legal representation." 


Many of the children came to the U.S. to find adult relatives based on false rumors that once they get here the U.S. government would let them stay. 


Read more via LA Times:


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Law school dean to the Supreme Court: This love affair is over

Posted By Administration, Monday, September 29, 2014

After nearly four decades as a lawyer and 30 years teaching would-be lawyers, and after writing a leading textbook on constitutional law and helping establish a law school, and after standing before the justices five times on behalf of his clients, Erwin Chemerinsky has fallen out of love with the Supreme Court.


His break-up note runs for 342 pages and is called “The Case Against the Supreme Court.” The book makes its regretful message clear at the very beginning:

“We should realize that this is an emperor that truly has no clothes. For too long, we have treated the Court is if they are the high priests of the law, or at least as if they are the smartest and best lawyers in society.”

His conclusion? “The court has frequently failed, throughout American history, at its most important tasks, at its most important moments. This is not easy for me to conclude or to say.”

Read more via the Washington Post:

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San Francisco Court Workers Picket

Posted By Administration, Thursday, September 25, 2014

(CN) - San Francisco Superior Court workers picketed at the Civic Center Courthouse on Tuesday as union members held a vote on whether to walk off their jobs if talks with court managers don't bring a pay raise.     

The scene outside the main entrance to the civil courthouse across from City Hall was celebratory and confrontational, with a large gray rat on display and union leaders exhorting the crowd of workers. During the course of labor negotiations, the court workers have often donned purple clothing on Wednesdays to show support for the Service Employees International Union Local 1021 which has a purple logo.     

Signalling a high level of commitment to his cause, one court worker picketing on Wednesday wore a purple bow tie with a purple shirt. A bus had brought additional demonstrators from the criminal courthouse.     

"I don't like getting disrespected," union chapter president Diane Williams said over a loudspeaker. "We want the money!"     Court spokeswoman Ann Donlan said it would not be appropriate to discuss labor issues with the media while negotiations between court and union representatives are under way.     

In addition to picketing, the court workers were also filling out ballots at tables set up on the sidewalk, deciding whether to walk off the job if they do not win a raise.     

The clerks, who marched during their lunch breaks, were pressing for a raise just two years after a long and largely successful battle in 2012 to reverse a 5% pay cut that came along with draconian cuts to the statewide court budget. That 2012 showdown included a brief strike, before the two sides came to agreement.

Read more via Courthouse News Service:

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Santa Clara County reduces court hours for public

Posted By Administration, Thursday, September 25, 2014

Santa Clara County is closing its courthouses for public business an hour earlier daily, the latest fallout from statewide budgets cuts for the judiciary.

The change announced Wednesday will result in clerk's offices closing at 3 p.m. each day, reducing the time county residents can file documents such as divorce papers and lawsuits. The court last month closed small claims and traffic courts in its Palo Alto and Morgan Hill branches to ease budget troubles. 

The trend has hit courts across California, which has slashed more than $1 billion in funding for the state's 58 trial courts and other parts of the judiciary in recent years. While the governor did restore some money in this year's budget, court officials say they still do not have enough to keep the same level of services.

More than half of the state's trial courts, including most in the Bay Area, have taken similar steps, reducing hours that courts are open and in some instances closing down satellite courts.


Read via San Jose Mercury News:


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PUBLIC NOTICE: Reduced Business Hours

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, September 24, 2014



The Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara operates courthouses in Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, San Jose and Morgan Hill.  This is to inform the public of the Superior Court’s decision to reduce business office and telephone hours by one hour.  Beginning Monday, November 24, 2014, the daily office and telephone hours will be 8:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.


The Court finds this action is necessary due to the significant and continuing cuts to the State Judicial Branch Budget.  Since 2009, state funding for the judicial branch has been significantly reduced, with those reductions impacting the budgets of individual superior courts.  The limited amount of funding restored in FY 2014-15 does not make it fiscally feasible to keep the same business hours. 


The Court apologizes for the inconvenience this may cause.  If you would like to submit comments about the proposed reductions, please send them to David H. Yamasaki, Court Executive Officer, 191 North First Street, San Jose, California 95113 by November 24, 2014.


For further information, please check the Superior Court website at


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Governor signs bill meant to curb frivolous behavior in court

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law a bill that authorizes trial courts to award legal expenses to a party if the lawyer on the other side is acting like a jerk.

Assembly Bill 2494 by Democratic Assemblyman Ken Cooley from Rancho Cordova seeks to curb tactics that are frivolous or solely intended to cause unnecessary delay.

Sponsored by the Civil Justice Association of California, the bill restores a tool to reduce bad-faith behavior in litigation. It plugs a gap in a 1995 law that allows sanctions for filing frivolous lawsuits, but limits the tool to filings -- and only after 21 days had passed. This aligned California law with federal law in treatment of frivolous filings.

Read more via Sacramento Business Journal:

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