The Commission on Judicial Performance was established by Constitutional Amendment in 1960 with a mandate to protect the public from judicial misconduct. Under the California Constitution, the agency is given the authority to make its own rules. The CJP wrote confidentiality rules that are contrary to the public interest and has left them virtually unchanged for its 56-year history. The agency has inconsistent criteria for investigating complaints and it operates in near complete secrecy. The public, lawyers, and judges allege that the CJP selectively investigates and disciplines judges.
In March 2016, my organization, Court Reform LLC, published a report documenting the CJP's questionable practices and discipline statistics. I then testified at an Assembly hearing about the findings and concluded my testimony by stating that the agency required an audit. Thereafter, I worked with colleagues and legislators to push for the first ever audit of the CJP in its 56-year history, which passed by unanimous Senate and Assembly joint committee vote in August 2016.
But on October 20, the CJP filed a lawsuit against the State Auditor attempting to block access to records necessary for the Auditor to evaluate its performance. Effectively, one government agency has hired an expensive, private law firm, using taxpayer money, to sue another government agency in order to prevent the public from obtaining information about how it operates. The lawsuit is unprecedented and unconscionable. The Commission on Judicial Performance has become a rogue agency that operates contrary to the public interest, threatens public safety, and erodes public confidence in the courts. No government agency is immune from accountability to the taxpayers who created it.
Because the CJP makes its own rules, the only way the agency will change is through the appointment of members who are willing to fight for increased transparency, accountability, and the publication of information that will help Californians address problems in the courts. As one of the eleven members on the commission, I will work hard to enact these changes, which have standing precedence in other states and are supported by open records laws.
Commission Rule Changes
In September 2016, my organization submitted 10 proposed rule changes in advance of the CJP's biennial rule review meeting. We received no response from the CJP about whether any of our proposals below were considered. View the full proposal here. I also wrote a Medium article about why the CJP's policies need to be reformed.
1. Amendment to Rule 102. Eliminate confidentiality of complaints.
2. Addition to Rule 102. Public reporting of complaint data by judge and county.
3. Addition to Rule 102. Publish Orders of Dismissal.
4. Repeal of Rules 110 (d), 111 (d), 111.5, 113, 114, 116(b)(2), 116(b)(3). Eliminate private disciplines. Three levels of discipline only: Public Admonishment, Public Censure, and Removal.
5. Addition to Rule 116. Live broadcast of public disciplines.
6. New Rule. Judicial retaliation aggravating factor, may be separately disciplined even if initial complaint dismissed.
7. Amendment of Rule 117. Permanently maintain all complaints and investigative records.
8. Addition to Rule 109. Description and establishment of specific criteria for “Preliminary Check”
9. Amendment to Rule 109. Definition and establishment of specific criteria for “Staff Inquiry” or “Preliminary Inquiry”
10. Amendment to Rule 111. Definition and establishment of specific criteria for “Preliminary Investigation”
Public Outreach and Technology
The CJP operates in secret and does not hold open meetings to hear grievances or consider proposed rule changes. The CJP is mandated to protect the public, but instead it shuts them out. I will work hard to change the agency's closed-door practices by advocating for quarterly, open meetings that are live-streamed to allow for interaction from residents across California.
The CJP does not allow the electronic submission of complaints, and does not have a friendly, searchable database of complaints, disciplines, or statistics that would help the public address problems in the courts. The CJP's practices to restrict information and access do not serve the public. I will work to improve electronic access and publish information to which Californians are entitled.