BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                  AB 2116
                                                                  Page  1

          Date of Hearing:  April 20, 2010   

                           ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON JUDICIARY
                                  Mike Feuer, Chair
                     AB 2116 (Evans) - As Amended:  April 5, 2010
           
                                   PROPOSED CONSENT
           
          SUBJECT  :  subordinate judicial officers: GIFTS AND HONORARIA 

           KEY ISSUE  :  Should the gift limitations that seek to eliminate  
          actual BIAS and the appearance of bias in the courtroom, but are  
          currently only applicable to specified judicial officers, be  
          extended to subordinate judicial officers?  

           FISCAL EFFECT  :  As currently in print this bill is keyed fiscal.
                                          
                                      SYNOPSIS

          This non-controversial bill seeks to extend the gift limitations  
          that currently affect judges of the superior courts, as well as  
          justices of the courts of appeal and the Supreme Court, to  
          subordinate judicial officers (SJOs).  Historically, SJO  
          positions were created and funded at the county level to address  
          courts' needs for judicial-like resources when new judgeships  
          were pending or not yet authorized by the Legislature.  SJOs  
          currently perform some of the most complex and sensitive  
          judicial duties that all judges conduct.  According to the  
          author, the goal of the measure is to help eliminate actual  
          bias, and the appearance of bias, in all state courtrooms by  
          extending the gift limitations to all those with adjudicative  
          power within the California courts including SJOs, in an effort  
          to promote justice and the integrity of the judicial system.   
          The bill is laudably sponsored by the California Judges  
          Association and there is no known opposition to the measure.

          SUMMARY  :  Seeks to extend the gift limitations that are  
          applicable to judges of the superior courts, as well as to  
          justices of the courts of appeal and the Supreme Court, to  
          subordinate judicial officers (SJOs).  Specifically,  this bill   
          simply expands the definition of "judge" in the pertinent  
          section of the Code of Civil Procedure regulating gifts and  
          honoraria to judges to include "subordinate judicial officers"  
          (SJOs) so that such gift and honoraria limits apply to SJOs as  
          well as all other judicial officers.  








                                                                  AB 2116
                                                                  Page  2


           EXISTING LAW  :  Generally treats judges in the same manner as  
          other elected state officials with respect to gift limits and  
          prohibitions on acceptance of honoraria.  The following  
          distinctions apply to judges:

          1)No judge shall accept gifts from any single source in any  
            calendar year with a total value of more than $250, excluding  
            wedding gifts, and gifts exchanged between individuals on  
            birthdays and holidays.  (Code of Civil Procedure 170.9.)

          2)No judge shall accept an "honorarium" but the term honorarium  
            does not include earned income for personal services which are  
            customarily provided in connection with the practice of a bona  
            fide business, trade, or profession, such as teaching or  
            writing for a legal publisher, and does not include fees or  
            other things of value received for performance of a marriage. 

          3)The Commission on Judicial Performance, rather than the Fair  
            Political Practices Commission (FPPC), has oversight and the  
            authority to enforce the prohibitions on gifts and honorarium,  
            and the Code of Judicial Ethics.  The State Bar also has  
            authority to disbar judges removed from the bench. 

          4)The Canons in the Code of Judicial Conduct have had an  
            indirect effect.  While not having the force of law or  
            regulation, they reflect a judicial consensus regarding  
            appropriate behavior; failure of judges to comply with these  
            Canons suggests performance below the standard necessary to  
            maintain public confidence.

           COMMENTS :  This non-controversial bill seeks to extend the gift  
          limitations that currently affect judges of the superior courts,  
          as well as justices of the courts of appeal and the Supreme  
          Court, to subordinate judicial officers (SJOs).  Historically,  
          SJO positions were created and funded at the county level to  
          address courts' needs for judicial-like resources when new  
          judgeships were pending or not yet authorized by the  
          Legislature.  SJOs currently perform some of the most complex  
          and sensitive judicial duties that all judges conduct.   
          According to the author, the goal of the measure is to help  
          eliminate actual bias, and the appearance of bias, in all state  
          courtrooms by extending the gift limitations to all those with  
          adjudicative power within the California courts including SJOs,  
          in an effort to promote justice and the integrity of the  








                                                                  AB 2116
                                                                  Page  3

          judicial system.  

          Background  :  The Canons in the Code of Judicial Ethics, issued  
          by the California Supreme Court, provides mandatory rules and  
          guidance on appropriate behavior by judicial officers.  In  
          addition, the Code of Civil Procedure imposes specific statutory  
          limits on the amount of gifts that a judge of the superior court  
          or a justice of the courts of appeal or Supreme Court may  
          receive.  The law provides limited exemptions - for certain  
          travel and lodging, wedding gifts, gifts of similar value, gifts  
          exchanged on special occasion, and gifts from persons with whom  
          the judge is prohibited under the Code of Judicial Ethics from  
          hearing a case.  These judicial officers are also prohibited  
          from accepting any honorarium.  

          The Commission on Judicial Performance is charged with enforcing  
          the provisions of this law.  
          The purpose of this law is to eliminate both actual and the  
          appearance of bias when a person appears before the court.  This  
          law also assists a judge in determining what gifts the judge may  
          or should be able to receive; and, provides clear guidance on  
          what he or she may not receive or accept.  Recognizing the need  
          to prevent actual bias and the appearance of improper influence  
          or bias in the courts when it comes to subordinate judicial  
          officers, this measure extends the scope of existing judicial  
          gift limits to SJOs, including court commissioners, probate  
          commissioners, referees, traffic referees, and juvenile  
          referees.
           
          Prior Legislation  :  SB 1589 (Chapter 557, Statutes of 1996) -  
          Clarified the law regarding judicial honoraria and exempted  
          gifts from any person whose preexisting relationship with a  
          judge would prevent a judge from hearing a case involving that  
          person.

          SB 353 (Chapter 378, Statutes of 1995) - Provided clarification  
          to the law with regard to certain events and seminars,  
          informational material, and payments from publishers for  
          materials written by judges. 

          AB 3638 (Chapter 1238, Statues of 1994) - Added the gift and  
          honoraria limitations to the Code of Civil Procedure and applied  
          them to judges of the justice courts, judges of the municipal  
          court, judges of the superior court, justices of the courts of  
          appeal, and justices of the Supreme Court.  








                                                                  AB 2116
                                                                  Page  4


           REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION  :   

           Support

           California Judges Association (sponsor)

           Opposition 

           None on file

           Analysis Prepared by  :    Drew Liebert and Barry Jardini / JUD. /  
          (916) 319-2334