BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                  AB 2116
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          CONCURRENCE IN SENATE AMENDMENTS
          AB 2116 (Evans)
          As Amended June 29, 2010
          Majority vote
           
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          |ASSEMBLY:  |74-0 |(May 6, 2010)   |SENATE: |33-0 |(August 5,     |
          |           |     |                |        |     |2010)          |
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           Original Committee Reference:    JUD.  

           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.  

           The Senate amendments  clarify that the court employing the  
          subordinate judicial officer shall exercise initial jurisdiction  
          and the Commission on Judicial Performance shall exercise  
          discretionary jurisdiction to enforce those prohibitions.
           
          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.  

          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  








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            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.

           AS PASSED BY THE ASSEMBLY  , this bill was substantially similar  
          to the version approved by the Senate.
           
          FISCAL EFFECT  :  According to the Senate Appropriations  
          Committee, pursuant to Senate Rule 28.8, negligible state costs.
           
          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  
          judicial system.  

          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  








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


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